Is Mariners first base platoon working?

The long ball heroics of Dae-Ho Lee and the early season struggles of Adam Lind have left some Seattle Mariners fans clamoring for change. These frustrated faithful want manager Scott Servais to give Lee more playing time at first base and exile Lind to the bench. Some would prefer that the team would go a step further and jettison Lind from Seattle altogether.

Is the Mariners first base situation so lopsided that a change needs to be made at the position? If that’s the case, the club’s platoon would have to be classified a failure. Is that really the case though?

Lee’s proponents contend that their man has been far more successful at the plate and that he’d continue to be productive, if given the opportunity to play every day. They point to the 34-year-old’s offensive success during two seasons in Japan — 50 home runs and .292/.365/.487 triple-slash — as proof that he can be productive as a full-time player.

Lind/LeeĀ  Stats (2016 Season)
Name Age G PA H HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Adam Lind 32 47 165 38 7 9 35 .245 .285 .406 .691
Dae-ho Lee 34 41 109 31 10 5 21 .301 .339 .592 .932
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2016.

Lind backers counter that the left-handed hitter has a .273/.330/.463 triple-slash during his 11-year major league career and that he’s likely to bounce back to his career norms. As far as they’re concerned, Lee’s success is a small sample size, while their man is a proven major league hitter.

Each player’s supporters make a compelling case. Should Servais change his approach or stay the course? Look at the production of his two first baseman during the last month of play before you decide.

Lind/Lee Stats (Last 28 games)
Name G GS PA H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Dae-ho Lee 19 11 56 18 5 15 2 11 .333 .357 .611 .968
Adam Lind 18 17 65 16 5 15 6 9 .271 .338 .542 .881
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/11/2016.

Both players have been producing at the plate since May 11 and have combined for a .303/.346/.590 slash, which ranks near the top of the American League for first base offensive production. These numbers strengthen the case for Servais to remain faithful to his current setup.

There may come a time when making a change at first base will make sense. If Lind can’t sustain his recent upsurge in production, the team may opt to go in another direction. Especially, if they remain in contention. For now though, the first base platoon is working and the Mariners would be best served to stick with mixing and matching Lee and Lind — a job that Servais has done masterfully.

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Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he decided to make Seattle his home. In 2014, Luke joined the Prospect Insider team and is now a contributor at HERO Sports also. During baseball season, he can be often found observing the local team at Safeco Field. You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins

3 Comments

  1. Completely agreed that Cruz is a major liability in the field. It was simply an idea posed to get Lind some at bats here and there. By no means do I suggest he become the full time right fielder (perhaps only here and there and only against righties). I also agree with you that Lee is not a long term answer in that I would only expect 2 or at most 3 years out of him at full value, but those years could be quite useful to the Mariners as they really have no 1st base prospect primed to take over anytime soon, so he could be a useful stopgap for a couple seasons at a manageable salary. My only point in bringing that up is that while Lee has only marginal long term viability, Lind has none. I can’t fathom any circumstance where he is back next season, at least at his current price tag. Thanks for your response.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read the post and comment.

    I believe my last paragraph leaves the door open to making a change at 1B. However, I suggest waiting for a larger sample size before deciding what kind of major leaguer Lee can be. For example, he went 2-3 today and his batting average jumped 10 points.

    Lee isn’t necessarily the long term answer at 1B for Seattle. He’ll be a free agent, who can sign anywhere. Plus, he’ll be 34 next season.

    Also, Cruz is a liability in the field. Gutierrez/Smith may be fringe average, but Cruz is worse. In 2015, Cruz had -8 Defensive Runs Saved while Smith was at 1 (avg) and Gutierrez was at 3 (almost above avg, but not quite). Big difference.

    If you’re not into defensive metrics, ask a Rangers fan about Cruz’s defense. Most will tell you it cost them a World Series.

  3. I am not seeing any case being made in this article to keep the platoon going. Perhaps I am overlooking something but I am fairly confident that I haven’t. The numbers presented don’t strengthen the case for keeping the platoon; in fact, they are further evidence against it. As shown here, not only is Lee continuing to outperform Lind, as he has gotten more playing time he is continuing to improve. The fact is simply that there is only one reason to keep the platoon and that is that the Mariners are winning and the old adage is if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. However, taking a more long-term view of it, the value of the platoon diminishes greatly. The simple fact is Lind won’t be back next year (he’s an unrestricted free agent) and there is no way the Mariners will pay him what he will be asking for to be a part-time player. Lee, on the other hand, could certainly be brought back, possibly for multiple years, and likely at a fraction of Lind’s cost. Therefore, it makes sense to see if he can be that man now and not have to find out after he has already signed. Also, Lee’s stats this season are superior to Lind’s as even this article points out. Even recently where Lind has begun to hit like himself of old, Lee has remained superior. Lee offers a hitter without any platoon issues (he maintains a .574 slugging pct. against both as of this writing) whereas Lind has historically been a very poor same side hitter.
    Simply put, there is no reason not to give Lee the majority of AB’s and see what he can do other than management doesn’t want to look bad trading for Lind and then relegating him to the bench and/or thinking it may affect team chemistry/mojo/etc… Lind can still get some ABs out of the DH spot here and there with Cruz getting some time out in right field to keep him fresh defensively and there’s really no reason not to do that because the Gutierrez/Smith platoon hasn’t been all that imposing this year and frankly Cruz is hardly any worse in the outfield than is Seth Smith. He could also play some games in left field (not sure how fresh he is on the position but he came up as a left fielder once upon a time).

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