After getting a taste of postseason baseball for the first time in two decades, Seattle Mariners fans are eager for Opening Day 2023 to get here. But before looking forward to next season, let’s first reflect on 15 numbers Mariners fans should consider heading into offseason.

Hopefully, performing this exercise helps provide a measure of perspective on Seattle’s 2022 campaign and what might need to be addressed by the front office between now and Opening Day. For me, some of the numbers we’ll be discussing will be the basis for several Prospect Insider pieces over the winter.

First up, the most important number.

90

Games won by the Mariners, which matched the team’s win tally in 2021. The last two seasons mark the first time the franchise put together consecutive winning campaigns since the four-year stretch of 2000-03.

Winning M’s Seasons In 21st Century
2001 (116-46) – Postseason
2003 (93-69)
2004 (93-69)
2007 (88-74)
2009 (85-77)
2014 (87-75)
2016 (86-76)
2018 (89-73)
2021 (90-72)
2022 (90-72) – Postseason

67

Seattle’s run differential. Even though the team recorded identical win tallies in 2021 and 2022, there was a distinct difference between each season’s run differential. Last year, the Mariners had a -51 run differential. Yet, the team managed to become just the fourth club reach the 90-win mark with a negative run differential.

Best W-L Records With A Negative Run Differential
1997 Giants (90-72, -9 run differential)
2007 Diamondbacks (90-72, -20)
1985 Mets (90-72, -24)
2021 Mariners (90-72, -51)

The Pythagorean winning percentage formula developed by Bill James suggested last year’s Mariners were closer to a 76-86 club than the 90-win version that made us all BELIEVE. Conversely, this season’s 67 run differential projected to an 89-73 record. Just one win off from reality.

4.26

Average number of runs Seattle scored in games, which was league-average (4.28). May and June were particularly rough months for the team. But run production did ramp up late in the season.

M’s Runs Scored/Game In 2022
Apr – 4.5
May – 3.8
Jun – 3.9
Jul – 4.1
Aug – 4.6
Sep/Oct – 4.7

It’s worth noting Seattle’s runs scored/game was essentially the same as last year (4.30). When considering this similarity, it’s important to remember offense was down across the league this year (4.28) compared to 2021 when the MLB-average runs scored/game was 4.53.

As a whole, Mariner hitters were more productive than last year. That said, the team struggled to consistently plate runs during several long stretches of the 2022 season.

86

The league-leading number of home runs the Mariners clobbered from the beginning of August until the end of the regular season.

M’s HR Leaders Aug-Oct
Eugenio Suárez – 15
Cal Raleigh – 13
Carlos Santana  – 10
Julio Rodríguez  – 10
Mitch Haniger – 8
Ty France – 7

Dingers certainly helped propel the team’s uptick in runs production over the final two months of the season. Still, it’s somewhat concerning the Mariners ranked last in doubles (71) and singles (273) during this same span.

Something else to consider heading into the offseason – power hitters Mitch Haniger and Carlos Santana are pending free agents. But even if the Mariners retain or replace Haniger and Santana, adding extra-base power elsewhere on the roster is crucial to the team’s success in 2023.

37.5

The percentage of Julio Rodríguez plate appearances with a runner on base, which happened to be lowest on the Mariners.

% of PA’s With Men On Base
Sam Haggerty – 45.8%
Carlos Santana – 45.6%
Ty France – 43.7%
Luis Torrens – 43.4%
Dylan Moore – 43.1%
MLB average = 43.1%
Mitch Haniger – 42.9%
Eugenio Suárez – 42.9%
Cal Raleigh – 42.2%
Jesse Winker – 42%
Adam Frazier – 40.7%
Jarred Kelenic – 40.3%
Abraham Toro – 39.8%
J.P. Crawford – 38.5%
Julio Rodríguez – 37.5%

Hitting leadoff in 58 of the his 132 starts this season certainly factors into Rodríguez’s low ranking. The simplest way to afford the 21-year-old more opportunities to drive in more runs in 2023 and beyond would be moving him down in the batting order.

Dropping Rodríguez in the order is an easier decision to make, assuming the Mariners lengthen the lineup in the offseason. This means adding at least two above-average bats to the current 40-man roster.

23

MLB ranking of Seattle’s 36.7% hard-hit rate. Falling in the bottom-third of the league has become a recurring theme for the Mariners since the organization commenced a rebuild in 2019.

MLB Ranking of M’s Hard-Hit Rate
2015 – 1st
2016 – 6th
2017 – 7th
2018 – 13th
2019 – 30th
2020 – 21st
2021 – 22nd
2022 – 23rd

For anyone unaware or wanting a refresher, a “hard-hit” ball has an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater. Some of you may wonder why I constantly focus on this threshold in my writing and social media posts. The answer is simple; hitting the ball hard leads to significantly better outcomes.

Hard-Hit balls: 5119 home runs, .488 AVG, .954 SLG
Everything Else: 55 home runs, .219 AVG, .254 SLG

When we look at individual Mariner hitters, two of top three hard-hit rates belong to the departing Haniger and Santana. That said, the low end of the list is also merits scrutiny. Three regulars with 350-plus plate appearances in 2022 had a hard-hit rate under 30% – J.P. Crawford (603 plate appearances), Adam Frazier (602), and Abraham Toro (352).

Hard-Hit% of M’s
Mitch Haniger – 47.2%
Julio Rodríguez – 50.7%
Carlos Santana – 47.2%
Cal Raleigh – 43.5%
Eugenio Suárez – 43.5%
MLB average = 38.4%
Ty France – 36.7%
Jesse Winker – 34.3%
J.P. Crawford– 29.7%
Abraham Toro – 29.7%
Adam Frazier – 24.5%

To be clear, players can be productive hitters with a below-average hard-hit rate. But in Seattle’s case, Crawford, Frazier, and Toro accounted for 25% of the team’s plate appearances in 2022. In my mind, that number is too high. Especially for a team playing its home games in a ballpark with a reputation for depressing offense.

3.85

Average runs allowed by the Mariners in games. That’s a significant improvement over last year (4.62). It’s worth noting every club listed below appeared in the postseason this year.

Fewest Runs Allowed/Game
LAD – 3.17
HOU – 3.20
NYY – 3.50
NYM – 3.74
ATL – 3.76
TBR – 3.79
SEA – 3.85
CLE – 3.91
STL – 3.93
SDP – 4.07

Yes, offense was down in 2022. But the Mariners advancing from seventeenth place in runs allowed in 2021 to sixth-best this year is an impressive achievement regardless of the current offensive climate.

38

Defensive runs saved (DRS) by Seattle fielders. Last year, the Mariners ranked twentieth with -1 DRS compared to ninth in 2022. This turnaround can’t be overlooked when discussing the overall success of the team’s run prevention effort.

The most notable improvements were realized at the catcher and outfield positions.

Cal Raleigh (14 DRS) blossomed into a top defender behind the plate. Moreover, Statcast rates the 2022 Gold Glove finalist as a top-5 pitch framer. On the conventional side, Raleigh’s 25 caught base stealers was second only to Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto (30).

Rookie Julio Rodríguez (3 DRS) won’t win a Gold Glove for his glove work in center field. Still, Rodríguez proved to be slightly above-average at a premium defensive position he wasn’t projected to play in 2022. This is a good thing.

Similarly, Eugenio Suárez (-2 DRS) won’t take home the hardware for his third base defense. However, Suárez demonstrated he was a worthy successor to the now-retired Kyle Seager at the hot corner.

Others outfielders delivering positive value included Sam Haggerty (9 DRS), Haniger (3 DRS), Jarred Kelenic (3 DRS), Dylan Moore (2 DRS), Taylor Trammell (2 DRS), and Adam Frazier (2 DRS). It’s worth noting Frazier (1 DRS) also rated as essentially league-average at second base.

Just to be clear, not everything about Seattle’s defense was peachy.

Based on DRS, shortstop J.P. Crawford (-3) was below-average in the field. Even worse, Jesse Winker (-16 DRS) was the lowest ranked left fielder in MLB and bottom-five for all positions. Finally, the defense of backup catcher Luis Torrens (-3 DRS) was a stark difference to what Raleigh provided.

There’s room for improvement. But that doesn’t diminish the fact defense was central to Seattle’s success this year.

ZERO

Days Seattle starting pitchers spent on the IL. This run of good fortune permitted the Mariners to survive the season with just 10 starters – only the Astros and Rockies used fewer (8). The average number of starters used by clubs this year was 13 with the Rays leading the league (18).

Starts Made By M’s Pitchers
Robbie Ray – 32
Logan Gilbert – 32
Marco Gonzales – 32
George Kirby – 25
Chris Flexen – 22
Luis Castillo – 11
Matt Brash – 5
Penn Murfee – 1
Erik Swanson – 1
Justus Sheffield – 1

Availability was the superpower of Seattle’s starting staff in 2022. Having said that, it’s reasonable to wonder whether the rotation can repeat this level of readiness for a second consecutive season.

3,642

Sliders thrown by Mariner relievers, which led MLB. Not only that, the bullpen’s slider usage was significantly higher than most of the league.

Highest Bullpen Slider Usage Rate
SEA – 42.1%
MIA – 35.9%
OAK – 34.4%
KCR – 34.3%
CIN – 31.7%
SFG – 31.5%
NYM – 27.4%
BOS – 26.2%
TBR – 25.8%
LAA – 25.4%

MLB slider-usage average = 25%

The lethality of Seattle’s slider collection helped the bullpen produce outstanding results. 

M’s Bullpen Rankings
3.33 ERA (6th in MLB)
26.6 SO% (5th)
8.2 BB% (5th)
.207 AVG (2nd)
.273 OBP (2nd)
.345 SLG (7th)
.274 wOBA (T-2nd)
.279 xwOBA (2nd)

16

Number of games the Mariners finished behind the Astros in the AL West standings. Narrowing this wide margin in the offseason has to be a priority for Seattle’s front office. Otherwise, squeaking in as a Wild Card will be the best outcome the team and its fan base can hope for in 2023.

21

Much to the chagrin of many Mariners fans, the Spotrac ranking of the team’s 2022 payroll. This suggests to me Seattle has the payroll flexibility to augment key areas of need on the major-league roster.

Last offseason, the Mariners acquired Suárez and his $11 million annual salary from the Reds along with Winker. The club also inked 2021 Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray to a multi-year pact with a $21 million average annual value.

Despite those deals, the Mariners entered the 2022 campaign with a bottom-10 payroll for a third consecutive year. Hence, the chagrin of fans.

To be fair, the team recently made long-term commitments to Rodríguez and July acquisition Luis Castillo. This signals the Mariners *may* be willing to commit additional financial resources during the upcoming offseason. Still, the Rodríguez and Castillo extension deals didn’t create a seismic change to Seattle’s current payroll structure.

As of today, there’s a relatively low $18.4 million difference between what the Mariners obligated to its ten highest paid players in 2022 compared to next season’s top-10. The small uptick despite a pair of high-profile signings is partially attributable to the salaries of pending free agents Haniger and Frazier falling off the 2023 ledger.

10 Highest M's Salaries (2022 & 2023)
2022
2023
Robbie Ray
$21M
Robbie Ray
$21M
Eugenio Suárez
$11.3M
Luis Castillo
$11.4M
Adam Frazier*
$8M
Eugenio Suárez
$11.3M
Mitch Haniger*
$7.8M
J.P. Crawford
$11M
J.P. Crawford
$6M
Jesse Winker
$8.3M
Marco Gonzales
$5.8M
Chris Flexen
$8M
Chris Flexen
$3.1M
Marco Gonzales
$6.8M
Luis Castillo
$2.7M
Julio Rodríguez
$5.9M
Julio Rodríguez
$2.6M
Evan White
$3M
Total
$68.3M
$86.7M
* Pending Free Agent
Source: Spotrac

Spotrac currently projects the Mariners’ 2023 payroll at approximately $88 million once we factor in estimated salaries for arbitration and pre-arbitration players currently on the roster. This equates to seventeenth in the league. It’s important to recognize we haven’t even reached the end of the World Series, which marks the official beginning of the offseason.

Clearly, the Mariners have the wherewithal to add payroll via free agency and/or trade. Assuming the team continues spending, this offseason has the potential to be an exciting one for fans.

23.5

The average age of Rodríguez (21), Kelenic (22), Muñoz (23), Matt Brash (24), George Kirby (24), Trammell (24), Logan Gilbert (25), and Raleigh (25). The overall excellence this young group demonstrated this season is an encouraging development heading into 2023 and beyond.

Rodríguez is the prohibitive favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year, but Seattle’s center fielder wasn’t just great compared to freshman ballplayers. Based on the FanGraphs version of wins above replacement (fWAR), he delivered the fifteenth highest value (5.4) of any position player.

Following an early season demotion to Class-AAA Tacoma, Raleigh rebounded to accrue 4.2 fWAR – fourth most among catchers. Only Realmuto (6.5), Adley Rutschman (5.3), and Sean Murphy (5.1) delivered more value.

Injuries and roster restrictions limited Trammell to just 43 MLB games this season. Still, we did see marked improvements in the Georgia native’s strikeout and walk rates during his brief time with the Mariners. Obviously, more must be seen moving forward. But Trammell’s, talent, positive attitude, and positional versatility could potentially lead to a spot in Seattle’s 2023 outfield rotation.

Yes, Kelenic was sent to Tacoma several times during the season. But the second-youngest player in this group deserves to be defended. Even when he struggled to hit, Kelenic delivered plus-defense and was an excellent base runner. Furthermore, there’s still plenty of time for the kid to become a consistent offensive contributor.

On the mound, Gilbert’s 3.2 fWAR was ninth best among 25-and-under pitchers. Kirby (3.0) was right behind him at number-10. According to fWAR, Kirby was the second-most valuable rookie pitcher in the majors behind Atlanta’s Spencer Strider (4.9).

In the bullpen, only six relievers of any age had a higher fWAR than Muñoz (1.5). On top of that, Brash seamlessly transitioned from a starter with control problems in April-May to a lethal relief weapon in the second half of the season and in the playoffs.

2,287,267

Fans attending games at the ballpark located at the corner of Edgar & Dave in 2022, which was the highest tally achieved by the Mariners since the 2018 campaign (2,299,489). Seattle is finally becoming a baseball town again thanks its exciting ball club.

Could the Mariners eventually break the franchise’s attendance record (3,542,938) set in 2002?

Perhaps, but probably not in 2023.

Still, getting closer to three million fans at T-Mobile Park than two million seems like a doable do next year. All it’ll take is news of exciting roster upgrades, plus a strong start to the season. Hosting the All-Star game next July may help too.

2022

The last time the Mariners reached the postseason.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

Yes, it does.

My Oh My…

The following two tabs change content below.

Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up as 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. During baseball season, he can often be found observing the local team at T-Mobile Park. You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins