1. In-Season Management Decisions
Finally, we reach the biggest problem with the 2018 Seattle Mariners. They were improperly managed during the 2018 season. And no, this is not going to be a rip job on Scott Servais. Jerry Dipoto must share in the blame here as well. But let’s start with Servais.
When he was hired, Scott Servais made some waves at his introductory press conference with his stance that he wanted to be a cutting-edge manager. He didn’t want to bunt. He wanted to be creative in his use of the bullpen. And he wanted to be tough to play against.
Well, our general disdain for Servais’ bullpen management is well documented. Instead of the creative bullpen usage we were promised, we instead got a service manual of early 2000’s bullpen usage. Innings based usage in the bullpen is a ridiculously flawed idea and as unimaginative as possible.
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Servais constantly didn’t use Edwin Diaz in tight but winnable games only to see his team get blown out the next few nights. However, Servais will run Edwin Diaz out there to get 3 outs against the bottom of a teams order with a 3 run lead just to get him a save. Idiot.
And when Jerry Dipoto went out and got him another closer in Alex Colome, Servais stubbornly refused to use him earlier than the 8th inning. He never flipped Diaz and Colome to play matchup this season. How can you not take advantage of that?
As for the bunting, Servais does it all the time. What’s worse, he has no issue asking guys like Jean Segura and Ben Gamel to do it, despite them being 2 of the best 5 bats currently in the lineup. The Mariners have the second most bunts in the AL, trailing only the last place Rangers. Epic failure.
Now let’s shift focus to Jerry Dipoto for a moment. We already touched on his obsession with making Ichiro work, but that is nothing in comparison to his stubbornness to keep Andrew Romine around despite him providing absolutely no value to the team. None. It isn’t like there wasn’t a better option out there.
In addition, Dipoto’s trade deadline acquisitions have been a disaster. Zach Duke, Adam Warren, Sam Tuivailala, and Cameron Maybin have been worth a combined -0.6 fWAR. It is tough to blame a GM for trade deadline mistakes. After all, you are buying lottery tickets, and you are going to lose more than you win. This is especially true when you are asking a player to perform at a high level for 2 months after getting traded. It’s a tough task.
I can handle swinging and missing at the deadline. It is a part of the game. However, the utter lack of anything happening in August is indefensible. Yes, the Mariners tried to get somethings done. But at the end of the day, they epically failed. Hard. They didn’t make a single noteworthy transaction.
On top of that, the Mariners management actively chose to be worse in August with their decision to send down Ben Gamel over Guillermo Heredia. Gamel, who owns a .352 OBP and a 0.9 fWAR was sent down for almost all of August for a guy who cannot hit and provides nothing that Maybin didn’t.
All that being said, I am not advocating for sweeping changes at the top of the baseball ops department. By all accounts, Servais is an above-average manager or better at everything that happens before and after the 9 innings he is on TV that day.
Dipoto is smart, aggressive, and has done a nice job of raising the floor of the franchise and finding good talent where others have overlooked IE Mitch Haniger, Marco Gonzales and Ben Gamel. I think he needs to be more aggressive in free agency, but nobody knows how much he is limited by ownership.
Overall, I am okay with the current management duo of Dipoto and Servais, but that does not excuse the simple fact: they played massive roles in the decline of the 2018 Mariners.