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It’s Never Too Early for Baseball A Look at the 2016 Projections for the Seattle Mariners

Monday, January 18, 2016


Even with the NFL playoffs shifting into second gear and the NBA and NHL coming into focus, it’s never too early to talk baseball. After all, pitchers and catchers report in just three weeks. So accordingly, FanGraphs has started rolling out their 2016 projections. These projections include individual players’ statistics, as well as overall projected wins and losses for each team.

How do the Seattle Mariners Fare?

Preseason projections for the Seattle Mariners show improvement over last year’s club, but probably not as much improvement as most Mariners’ fans would like to see. Last season, after being picked to win the division by most pundits and possibly even making their first World Series appearance, the M’s managed to eke out a paltry 76 wins to finish 10 games under .500 and 12 games behind the surprising Texas Rangers. This season, FanGraphs projects the Mariners to improve upon last season by 8 games.

In this projection model, with an 84-78 record, the Mariners would finish second in the division to the Houston Astros at 86-76 and would be in the thick of the race for the second wild card (the New York Yankees grab the first spot at 86-76), along with the Toronto Blue Jays (projected at 84-78 as well).

Looking at WAR

Projection models like Steamer, ZiPs, and FANS that can be found at FanGraphs, arrive at total team wins by adding WAR (wins against replacement) contributions from every player on the roster to a baseline of wins, roughly 48 or a winning percentage of .294, that would be expected if a team fielded all replacement level players, essentially 0 WAR. So to arrive at 84 wins for the Mariners, the projections are expecting 36 WAR from the roster as currently constituted.

A quick glance reveals that Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano are near all-stars (4 WAR is considered all-star), but despite the roster turn over, no other player reaches the level of everyday big leaguer (2 WAR is considered every day). However, another game and a half might be on the roster right now simply by keeping Nelson Cruz out of right field.  And there’s always the possibility of adding another impact bat at some point.

While Felix Hernandez continues a slow decline, he remains an all-star caliber pitcher. The return of Hisashi Iwakuma’s to Seattle, following the hiccup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, provides the Mariners with a solid number two, provided he can stay healthy. Many have hailed Taijuan Walker’s upside, but the projections have him solidly every day. He is still only 23, however. It’s the back end of the rotation and the bullpen that may need shoring up over the course of the season. Like with the offense being maybe one bat short, the rotation may be one arm short.

Projections Aren’t Perfect

It is worth noting that the win total projections are made in a run neutral model. In other words, a run scored in a 10-0 blowout is weighted equally with a walk off double in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. While advanced analytics often dismiss the idea of clutch (and for pretty solid statistical reasons), the random clustering of runs over the course of a season is difficult to account for.

For the third year in a row, FanGraphs is predicting the Kansas City Royals won’t win even 80 games, but we know what they’ve done the past two seasons – come within an out of winning the World Series and actually winning the World Series.

GM Jerry Dipoto’s emphasis on OBP may translate into a few more “clutch” situations than M’s teams have had in the past. And, that might be just enough for another two or three wins and the type of season Mariners’ fans expected last year. We’ll start to find out in just three weeks.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time

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#3 Hoosiers

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#2 Bull Durham

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