Much gnashing of teeth has occurred in the Mariner fan community over the number of former M’s on teams in baseball’s playoffs–16 of them, more exes than any other major league team.
“Hey,” the thinking goes, “if we’d just held on to all those guys, we’d be in the playoffs, too!” This thinking is wrong.
Most of the ex-Mariners in the playoffs are below-average players. Sure, Yuniesky Betancourt is a playoff-caliber shortstop–if he’s got Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks to his left. With Jose Lopez and Richie Sexson? Not so much.
In fact, a good chunk of these post-seasoning ex-Mariners were on the same team–six of them* were on the 2008 Mariners, who lost 101 games and finished 39 games out of first place.
Some of the best Mariner teams had their share of below-average players. The ’95 Mariners gave former Brewer Alex Diaz and former Ranger Doug Strange their only tastes of post-season play. Perhaps the same Milwaukee and Texas fans who are enjoying their team’s post-season runs were gnashing similarly back then.
Fact is, you can pile up all the role players you want–there’s no substitute for talent, something the Mariners sorely lack, especially among position players. Stat time! The statistic “Adjusted OPS,” written as “OPS+,” standardizes a player’s hitting stats according to the park and league he played in. The average hitter is 100.
Among 2011 Mariner regulars, only 2B Dustin Ackley and 1B Justin Smoak were above average (remember, this is adjusted for park factors, so no using Safeco Field’s expansive outfield as an excuse). And Smoak’s 104 OPS+ is really an underwhelming figure when you consider that, as a first baseman, he is expected to be a better-than-average hitter.
Yuniesky Betancourt’s 2011 OPS+? A dismal 75. Even the 2012 Mariners’ shortstop, Brendan Ryan, posted a better number. So, on the bright side, the Mariners do have players worthy of post-season play–if (big if) they can scare up some decent teammates for them.
Once the post-season ends, the free agent and trading season begins–and we’ll all see what Mariner brass does to bring good baseball back to Seattle.
*Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez, Arthur Rhodes, J.J. Putz, Willie Bloomquist, Yuniesky Betancourt