Run Mariners Run: The 2017 Mariners Are Built Around Speed
The Mariners have made a handful of deals over the past two off-seasons to acquire a certain kind of player to establish an identity: speedy. The Mariners are now poised to be near the top of the league in stolen bases.
I live near Portland, Oregon and if you’re not aware, we just had a major snowstorm by our standards. I woke up on Wednesday with no power and found that we weren’t going to get it restored anytime soon, meaning days, not hours.
For our house, no power also meant no heat and I have two daughters. This meant I was on the clock to provide warmth.
We have wood and a fireplace, so I certainly had the tools. This wasn’t an insurmountable task, but I was having a heck of a time getting the fire started. I tried all of my tricks, I cut kindling and crumpled newspaper. I even built an upside down fire.
I must’ve tried to start a fire four or five different times in the span of a couple of hours. Finally, I found success, but not necessarily in a new way, it just…worked.
The same could be said about building a winning baseball team. Once you get the right tools in place, it could still take a few tries and variances to get it right. But it doesn’t mean that the first attempt was wrong, it just didn’t work that time.
The Mariners are a team that have a lot of the proper tools, including a true core to their team. They have players still at, or near, the top of their primes in Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz.
Felix Hernandez isn’t far removed from being a top-five pitcher in the American League and could certainly approach that level again and Hisashi Iwakuma is only two years removed from a top three finish in the Cy Young.
The problem with this iteration of the Mariners has been how to build around them properly. They’ve gotten close to the playoffs each of the last two years, but haven’t done enough in either season. Though, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Jerry Dipoto was active in his first off-season with the Mariners, doing his best to make this team in his image.
He traded for a speedy center-fielder, Leonys Martin, to roam the expansive Safeco field. He trusted young, but athletic shortstop Ketel Marte. He made a point to sign Nori Aoki, another energetic outfielder that also moved well around the bases.
Yet, this off-season Dipoto evolved from calmly placing kindling and crumpled newspaper into the fire, to instead, dousing the fireplace with gasoline and throwing in a box of lit matches. And his tactics line up with a philosophy built around speed.
On Friday, Riley Baker covered the athleticism that will traverse the outfield in 2017. An added benefit to having three center fielders at once is the fact that they all are active on the base paths.
Last year, the Mariners were one of the worst teams in the league in the way of base stealing. Martin and Aoki certainly helped, but the Mariners still finished with just 56 stolen bases, only good enough to finish 24th in the league.
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Enter Jarrod Dyson and another new addition, shortstop, Jean Segura.
There will certainly be other players on the team that will steal bases, but Dyson and Segura will make the biggest impact. Between their last two combined years, they totaled more stolen bases than the entire Mariners roster with 66.
If you consider only a net rating based upon who they replaced (Marte and Aoki) and add in Martin’s count of 24, the Mariners could have over 100 stolen bases in a season for the first time since 2012.
These aren’t empty numbers, however, Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB) measures a player’s runs created as a result of their base stealing. So instead of racking up stolen base attempts at the expense of their team, these three players are near the top of the league in runs created by virtue of their base stealing (minimum 300 plate appearances).
Dyson is the most impressive of this bunch as he has the lowest amount of plate appearances of all but one man in the top 100 of the league in wSB. Yet, he still managed to add nearly three runs of value on his base stealing alone.
But, base running extends beyond just simply stealing bags, there is also the element of moving from station to station in an effective way while avoiding outs and increasing runs. Martin, Dyson, and Segura all add value at other facets of the run game as well.
FanGraphs has a metric known simply as Base Running (BsR) that measures all that a player does on the bases. This includes the ability to take extra bases on base hits, tagging up, scoring on a groundball and avoiding double plays.
Think of BsR as the WAR of base running. Since 2013 (when all of Dyson, Segura, and Martin became big league regulars) all three are in the top 20 in BsR:
This stat, like wSB, is weighted runs, so every 10 runs are equal to one win.
Once again Dyson is the most impressive of the three proportionate to his plate appearances. As such, Dyson’s plate appearances during this time have been equal to about two full seasons, in which he’s earned about one win per season on his base running alone. Safe to say that’s pretty spectacular.
As the season approaches, Segura has already been announced as the Opening Day lead-off hitter.
Dyson and Martin will surely be regulars that will see time scattered throughout the lineup. But, regardless of their position in the batting order, they will all wreak havoc on opposing pitchers.
So, now that the 2017 Mariners team have an offensive identity of being quick on the base paths, they will surely aggravate the pitchers and professional hitters will bring them around to score.
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Add in the value that all these players bring defensively and Dipoto has his fire burning now, the hard part is to keep it that way.