With the World Series concluding last night, the Hot Stove season is officially underway. For Seattle Mariners fans, an uncertain offseason awaits after a disappointing 2018 campaign.
As late as mid-June, the Mariners had a firm grip on an American League Wild Card berth. Then, as quickly as the club built its lead in the standings, the bottom fell out. Lackluster execution replaced crisp and energetic play just as the division-rival Oakland A’s morphed into baseball’s the hottest team.
By season’s end, the Mariners finished with the fifth-most wins (89) in franchise history, but had nothing to show for it. The team trailed Oakland by eight games for the second Wild Card spot and finished a distant third place behind the Houston Astros in the AL West standings.
Seattle’s baseball postseason drought has reached 17 years.
Counting Wins Instead Of Titles
Shortly after the regular season ended, Seattle Times columnist Larry Stone quoted general manager Jerry Dipoto saying the Mariners have the “fifth-best record in the American League” since 2016. Not so coincidentally, that’s when the 50-year-old GM assumed control of baseball operations in Seattle.
Dipoto’s statement is accurate; the Mariners do have the fifth-most wins in the Junior Circuit since the beginning of the 2016 season.
Sorry if that comes across as crass, but baseball isn’t soccer where teams aggregate scores to determine a winner in a playoff series.
Once a baseball season is over, win totals are irrelevant. Teams wipe the slate clean and move on. Postseason appearances and championships are the only results that matter. The Mariners have run-up significant deficits in both categories.
And about that three-year total win Dipoto mentioned — at least eight American League teams have been in some form of rebuild during the last three seasons. Being top-5 in this group doesn’t any provide insight into the team’s progress under Dipoto’s stewardship.
Rather than contrasting the 2018 Mariners to other clubs, let’s put them side-by-side with the last squad guided by former general manager Jack Zduriencik in 2015. Perhaps, doing so will help us gauge where the team stands three years into the Dipoto era.
As you can see, most stats remained relatively unchanged or worsened. Runs scored and allowed remained relatively the same, while the average ages of position players and pitchers are slightly higher. Furthermore, advanced metrics suggest the defense took a big step backwards.
Now, it’s important to note comparing season stats without context can be misleading. We’ve seen in recent years that home runs and strikeouts are up, while there’s been increased usage of defensive shifts and “bullpening.” As the landscape of baseball changes, so do the meaning of statistics.
With that in mind, let’s look at the Mariners through a different lens by comparing Seattle’s MLB rankings for the previously illustrated categories.
The Mariners are better in some areas than when Dipoto took over three years ago, but not by much. This team still isn’t good enough to seriously compete on a consistent basis.
Not even close.
You Can’t Argue With Results
It’d be unreasonable to hold the entire 17-year drought against Dipoto. After all, he’s only been in Seattle for a relatively short period. Moreover, he inherited a barren farm system and the bloated long-term contracts of Robinson Canó, Félix Hernández, and Kyle Seager.
Still, the Mariners organization hasn’t demonstrated a greater commitment to winning since Dipoto took over in September 2015.
Yes, Dipoto has added some nice pieces, such as Jean Segura, Ben Gamel, Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, and Mitch Haniger. But ownership seems more focused on hyping Safeco Field as the main attraction for fans rather than building a championship-caliber ball club.
Prospect Insider founder Jason A. Churchill recently spoke directly to this issue noting the disparity between ownership’s stated desire to win and their apparent unwillingness to lean forward to bring a championship to Seattle.
Bottom line: If the team’s mindset doesn’t change, neither will the outcome.
In the coming weeks and months, Prospect Insider will address strategies management should consider to bring a World Series to Seattle.
We’ll also assess the Mariners’ strengths and weaknesses and potential roster moves the team might consider.
How can the team improve its unproductive offense?
Build upon its better-than-expected pitching staff?
Become more than a fringe contender?
Isn’t about time the Mariners delivered results in the form of postseason appearances rather than hollow win totals?
I vote yes.
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