If you were to look up what a journeyman player is in Major League Baseball you would see a picture of Mike Ford there. In 2022, Ford was a part of 32 transactions and Benjamin Hill wrote a great piece about the lefty first baseman/designated hitter. Things would settle down for Ford in 2023 because he was with one organization for the entire season.
He started the year off in Triple-A with the Tacoma Rainiers where he would play in 49 games and post gaudy numbers. He slashed .302/.427/.605 with 13 home runs and 11 doubles. He also walked more than he struck out. Fangraphs says he had a 146 Weighted Runs Created Plus, where 100 is league average and it is park-adjusted to factor in the environment a player is playing in.
After having an incredible start to the season the Seattle Mariners finally called up the thirty-year-old to the big leagues. Since Ford has bounced around so much in his career it was unlikely that the Harvard graduate was going to stick around for a long time. However, Ford would have his best season at the Major League level in his career.
Mike Ford would end up playing in the most games in his career, 83, and had the most plate appearances he ever had in a season, 251. He had a .228/.323/.475 slash line to go along with a 123 wRC+. He was mostly used as a platoon player to hit against right-handed pitching. It would probably surprise fans to learn that Ford actually had better numbers in a small sample size against lefties.
He slashed .215/.304/.480 with a 117 wRC+ against righties in 227 plate appearances and slashed .368/.500/.421 with a 177 wRC+ in just 24 plate appearances according to Fangraphs. That is such a small sample size to be meaningful. Also, the power numbers were much greater against right-handed pitching, which was very valuable to the Mariners lineup. His 16 home runs against righties were critical to the season the M's had.
Mike Ford earns a B+ for his Mariners tenure in 2023
If Mike Ford had not hit as well as he did for the team, they would have struggled even more than they did. Through the first few months of the season, the Mariners struggled to find a player to hit consistently in the designated hitter spot. AJ Pollock could not find it at the plate at all this year and Tommy La Stella turned out to be a flop. The Mariners called up Ford in early June and he helped lengthen the lineup.
Grading Mike Ford's whole season, including his time in Triple-A, I would give him an A because he was the best hitter in the Pacific Coast League for two months and then was a 20% better player than replacement level in the Majors in over 80 games. For his Mariners tenure exclusively, I would say he was a B+ player for Seattle because he really helped them to have another power bat against righties and he had the fourth-highest wRC+ among Mariners hitters in 2023. He was a real unsung hero for Seattle.