Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking you through all 30 MLB teams, discussing their positives and negatives from the year that was. Regardless of how lopsided it may get, we will stay the course and ultimately determine whether or not their 2015 efforts resulted in a successful season.
The last year the Seattle Mariners were in the playoffs was 2001: Ichiro’s rookie (and MVP!) year, not to mention the miraculous 116-win season. There have been nine Mariners managers since then and not a single 90-win season has occurred since 2003.
2015 was GM Jack Zduriencik’s last stand: Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were big free agent acquisitions over the last two winters and expected to provide the offense to match the pitching of King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma. With the Astros expected to be a few years away, the Rangers losing ace Yu Darvish, and the Angels unable to get out of their own way in the Josh Hamilton drama, the Mariners just needed to figure out the Oakland A’s to ascend to the division crown, or at worst a wild card play-in.
So they thought.
Joe Sheehan has been banging the drum about the Mariners mismatched acquisitions for a few years: the front office continues to see the problem as lack of power while the real issue is on-base percentage. The Mariners were in the top half of MLB in slugging but seventh from the bottom in OBP. The Red Sox, who had a disastrous season that cost Ben Cherington his job were fourth in OBP. the Giants were third. The Mets finished at .312 compared to Seattle’s .311 and along with the Astros (.317) were the only two playoff teams to finish in the bottom half. Most of the time, OBP is life. Sluggers need someone to drive in.
What can you say about Nelson Cruz? Every time he looks like he’s headed for the cliff, he launches a barrage of homers. Of course, he’s now 35 years old now but coming off a great run since 2008 with just one down season in 2012. The last two years, he’s reached the 40-homer threshold and since his age-30 season has hit .273/.334/.514 with an average of 33 homers per year. He’s not perfect, but maybe he’s got three more good years in him.
Robinson Cano had his worst season since 2008 in the second year of his decade-long pact with the Mariners. However, illness and personal struggles may have contributed to his slow start. His first half was a .251/.290/.370 slog while he lit up pitchers with a .331/.387/.540 attack in the second half.
Kyle Seager had another good season—.266/.328/.451 with 26 homers—exactly in line with his career numbers: .263/.328/.434.
Mike Zunino, like Jeff Clement before him, hasn’t hit well enough to even stick behind the plate. .174/.230/.300 is brutal at any position. While spring stats may have meaning to a player, they are no guarantee that the the regular season will reflect gains made in March. Dustin Ackley, another disappointing prospect, hit .215/.270/.366 before getting shipped off to the New York Yankees.
— Peter Fries (@Peter_Fries) September 15, 2015
Felix Hernandez had another good season on the whole, although a 3.53 ERA and 3.72 FIP over 201 innings isn’t the typical result for an ace. Part of that problem: disastrous starts. Hernandez allowed seven or more runs four times in 2015, including 10 runs in 2.1 innings against Boston and eight runs while recording just a single out against the Astros. King Felix turns 30 at the start of next season and has been a full-time starter in the majors since he was 20 years old. He’s still their best guy, but it’s a shame he hasn’t been able to take the big stage during his prime. Iwakuma was injured at the start of the season but recovered to put up a 3.54 ERA in just under 130 innings with a 5.29 K:BB ratio. The two vets were joined by youngster Taijuan Walker who chipped in 170 innings of 4.56 ERA ball but with a WHIP of 1.1 and K:BB of nearly four. He also had a 4.07 FIP. At 22 years and making 29 starts in the majors, that’s a good start. Fernando Rodney tried to challenge Shawn Chacon for highest ERA for a closer with a 5.68 mark on his way to 16 saves but Carson Smith and Tom Wilhelmsen each chipped in 13 as the Mariners moved on.
Was it a successful season?
These Mariners expected to compete, and had a number of quality parts, but not a complete team. It was another season of Hernandez’s prime squandered, Robinson Cano was missing for a few months, and adding Mark Trumbo during the year didn’t fix their weaknesses. With Jerry Dipoto taking the helm and a trade with the Rays already in the books, the Mariners are rebuilding again. 2015 wasn’t successful, but a change in philosophy might be enough to fix the roster where it needs help. Hopefully in time to give their King a shot at the crown.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs