As we continue our push into the 2020s, today we crown our second to last offensive player on our Mariners All-Decade Team. Today, we decide between a legend at the end of his line and the up-and-comer who may not be around long.
But before we dive into the cases of our 2 candidates to be the Mariners starting RF on our All-Decade team, let’s get those pesky parameters out of the way.
First, it only takes one game in a Mariners uniform at the position between the years 2010-2019 to be eligible. But since our method involves heavy statistical analysis, the bigger the sample size, the more attributes to said players case.
Second, while our top priority goes to evaluating the stats, we do factor in things like fan favoritness and producing memorable moments. These factors can carry you quite a way, but today’s test case may be the biggest battle we face. With all that in mind, let’s meet the candidates.
First up is the one, the only, Ichiro Suzuki. One of the most popular players in Mariners history, Ichiro has the strongest hold on the fan favoritness factor of anybody on our list. He brought a whole new demographic of fans to the Mariners in the 2000’s and was most kids’ favorite player in that time.
But the 2010s were different for Ichiro. While he started the decade looking like the same player he always was, slashing .315/.359/.394 with 42 stolen bases and his usual 200+ hits, and stellar defense, it was the last time we would see him look anything like he did in his prime.
He struggled mightily in 2011 and after the same struggles carried over into 2012, the Mariners did the previously unthinkable, trading Ichiro to the New York Yankees. Of course, Ichiro made 2 celebrated returns to the Mariners, first in 2018 where he slashed just .205/.255/.205 in 15 games, and again in 2019 where he finished his career with the team in front of his home country.
Overall, Ichiro finished the decade with the same team he started it with. Along the way, Ichiro hit .283/.322/.357 in 435 games with Seattle in the 2010s, accumulating a 5.8 fWAR and an 89 wRC+.
Of course, the biggest case for Ichiro comes in the fan-favorite and memorable moments categories. In fact, one of the best moments of the entire decade was Ichiro’s farewell in a packed house in Japan.
On the other side of things lands our second candidate, Mitch Haniger. While nowhere near the global superstar of Ichiro, in 3 seasons with Seattle, Haniger has carved quite a little place in the team’s history already and still has 3-years to add to it, if he isn’t traded before then.
When comparing the two players statistically, there isn’t much of a contest. Haniger has appeared in 316 games with the Mariners, slashing .271/.351/.486 with 57 home runs, a 128 wRC+, and an 8.1 fWAR.
Haniger led all of the Mariners 2010 RF’s in home runs, RBI, wRC+, WAR, OBP, and doubles while finishing second to Ichiro in hits, runs, and PAs. Statistically speaking, this isn’t much of a debate. Mitch Haniger was clearly a superior player for Seattle in the previous decade and did so with about 550 fewer PAs.
While he may never generate the same number of highlights in his career as Ichiro did in his, it doesn’t mean that Haniger is without his memorable moments. Remember his walk-off against the Angels in the rain? Or perhaps this crazy play:
And while we could spend hours marveling at the career of Ichiro, we must remember what our mission is today: to name the best player at each position strictly for their contributions to the organization in the past decade. The Ichiro of 2001-2009 cannot be included in our discussion.
This is a tough decision, but in the end, I feel pretty good about the decision that has been reached.
Seattle Mariners All-Decade Team Right Field: Mitch Haniger
It is always tough to overlook a franchise icon who is indeed eligible for our considerations. But at the end of the day, Haniger was just a significantly better player than Ichiro in the 2010s and did so in far fewer opportunities.
It won’t be long before Ichiro’s name is forever etched in the halls of Cooperstown and his familiar number 51 hangs next to that of Ken Griffey Jr.‘s and Edgar Martinez‘s at T-Mobile Field. But today, at least for the 2010s, we will give the nod to one Mitchell Evan Haniger.