Entering Saturday the Seattle Mariners had won five consecutive games, outscoring their opponents 30-8 in that span, and because of the latest surge found themselves tied with the Detroit Tigers for the second American League Wild Card spot. Seattle, compared to other teams vying for the elusive final playoff spot, did not seem to stand much of a chance due to their impotent offensive game pre-Trade Deadline.
However, Jack Zduriencik made some moves to bolster his abysmal offense with the acquisitions of Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson, and Chris Denorfia the weeks leading up to the passing of the deadline. None made headlines, but served a purpose to improve the Mariners’ chances of securing a playoff berth down the stretch.
The fact the aforementioned moves got Endy Chavez and James Jones out of the lineup — killing two birds with one stone — made those additions look that much better. Remember, it’s always easier to replace below-replacement-level players with average than it is to replace average with great. So, yeah, that’s exactly what Seattle accomplished by doing this.
The post-deadline Mariners rank fifth in wRC+ (the most accurate offensive stat) in Major League Baseball at 112. To knock out any confusion and to further clarify, Seattle has been the fifth-best offensive team the month of August; on the season they place 21st in wRC+. Though I can’t say for certain, it’s safe to assume the new-look Mariners’ offense in August has brought their ranking up some.
Without proper context, you might believe the newbies (Jackson, Morales, and Denorfia) are the reason for the sudden offensive outburst. I mean, it makes sense to a degree. Their offense sucked without the three, and upon their arrival they’re now a top five offense. Case closed, right? Not in the slightest.
*(Important to know for the next paragraph that a 100 wRC+ is considered league-average)
The month of August hasn’t been kind to Jackson (52 wRC+; -0.1 fWAR), Morales (94 wRC+; -0.1 fWAR), or Denorfia (39 wRC+; -0.3 fWAR). Now, obviously a half month of action is too small of a sample size to take to Twitter and call Zduriencik a fool for his “mistakes.” My point, rather, is that the new-additions have had little to do with Seattle’s success hitting the ball this month, and even without those guys on the field, there’s a very good possibility the Washington (state) baseball club would’ve been fine.
Let’s be clear here. In no way, shape, or form am I insinuating the Mariners shouldn’t have made the moves they made, because clearly they needed the help. Whether it be luck (which isn’t likely given their .288 team BABIP in August), a temporary hot-streak, or just players playing their best collectively, Seattle has transformed into an elite offense — well, for the last two and half weeks, anyway. Will this become the norm the rest of the way? Let’s take a look at who’s been playing well (and who’s not) the deathly humid month of August for the M’s.
Robinson Cano (53 plate appearances)- .472 OBP, .698 SLG, .289 BABIP, 218 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR
Chris Taylor (40 PA)- .450 OBP, .486 SLG, .500 BABIP, 167 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR
Logan Morrison (46 PA)- .391 OBP, .476 SLG, .361 BABIP, 149 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR
Kyle Seager (53 PA)- .321 OBP, .391 SLG, .231 BABIP, 103 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR
Dustin Ackley (56 PA)- .273 OBP, .434 SLG, .227 BABIP, 98 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR
Endy Chavez (22 PA)- .400 OBP, .556 SLG, .333 BABIP, 173 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
Mike Zunino (36 PA)- .278 OBP, .344 SLG, .263 BABIP, 79 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR
*(Brad Miller, Corey Hart, James Jones, and Jesus Sucre also saw playing time in August, but failed to eclipse 15 plate appearances to qualify for the arbitrary standard I just set out of pure laziness)
Aside from Robinson Cano’s eye-popping (place interchangeable embellishing adjective here) August numbers, the one thing that immediately jumps at me is Chris Taylor’s very unsustainable .500 BABIP. There’s no way that continues, and sooner or later it should deviate towards league-average, which means his extraordinary offensive numbers won’t be so extraordinary. But, hey, sustainable or not, Seattle should be very grateful with the production they are receiving from the shortstop position this month. However, it’s not like Brad Miller and his 71 wRC+ in 90 games at short set the bar very high.
Morrison, too, was the recipient of a lot of good fortunate (i.e. high BABIP), but there’s something to be said for his refined approach at the plate. Take a gander at Morrison’s strikeout to walk ratio month-by-month this season.
March (3 at-bats)- 3/2 K/BB
April (17 AB)- 2/0 K/BB
May (did not play)
June (65 AB)- 14/7 K/BB
July (89 AB)- 18/4 K/BB
August (42 AB)- 5/3 K/BB
He’s evidently striking out less which means he’s putting more balls in play, and, people, do I really need to detail why that’s a good thing? Okay. Now moving on….
Both Seager and Ackley have played adequate baseball whilst having extreme bad luck with BABIP. That’s undeniably encouraging, but then again outs and hits are a split-second difference and anything can unfold within such a short time-frame.
Finally, we see Chavez doing damage to the baseball in the limited amount of chances he’s gotten, and Zunino not playing well whatsoever.
I don’t know about you, but I legitimately believe Seattle’s offense has a good opportunity to thrive the next month and a half of regular season play, though, top-five offense is a bit of a pipe dream. Nevertheless, Jackson, Denorfia, Ackley, Seager, and Zunino’s expected increase in performance cancel out Cano, Morrison, Chavez, and Taylor’s expected decrease. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: baseball’s a weird game and anything can happen.
So Mariners fans, be prepared to party like it’s 2001.