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A Mixed Bag: Corner infielders

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Not all corner infielders are created equal

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

*Author’s note: This piece was written under extreme duress, and protestation. I was late to sign up, and corner infield was all that was left. So, kids, don’t be late because otherwise you’ll have to waste precious minutes of this life thinking about Adam Lind. To make the (general) misery of reading about first base slightly more palatable I’ve split each section into a quick look and an extended look, so you don’t necessarily have to dwell on the agony of Dae-Ho Lee’s 23.3 K%.

Kyle Seager

Amuse-bouche: In 2016 Kyle Seager had a very Kyle Seager-y season. He was mostly very good, with flashes of great but also periods of yikes, and errors are a deeply flawed and outdated statistic you shouldn’t worry about at all. Assuming he does not continue to foul balls aggressively off his own body, he will likely play 162 games at third base for the 2017 Seattle Mariners.

Main course: Quite honestly, I’m not sure what you’d like me to say here. 2016 saw Kyle Seager at peak Seagerness. He had a slow start to the season, and a sticky conclusion, and there was quiet panic about both periods but those are elements of Seager’s season that we’ve all come to generally expect. In between all that he had a career-best offensive year, which featured 30 home runs and a personal best slash line of .278/.359/.499. There will probably be some regression next year, but not enough to worry. He’s the franchise third baseman from now until his stocky legs detach from his saggy diaper butt, and we’re lucky that third base is not one of the many holes to be concerned with in this offseason.

(Aside: I’m not going to touch his defensive metrics because a) my understanding of them is marginal at best and b) I don’t trust them all that much anyway. Numbers are good and wonderful and helpful, but there’s very little predictability to be found in attempting to understand the probability of a human catching a small projectile moving at speeds of 100+ MPH.)

Adam Lind

A cup of coffee: In 2016 Adam Lind was the hero very few people asked for, and the villain almost everyone desired. I’m pretty sure he’ll be a free agent in 2017, but I got distracted by all the weird Teen Mom links that popped up when I searched "Adam Lind, contract" so I can’t be sure. If we are very, very good, and eat all of our broccoli we will never have to hear his walk-up music ever again.

The (mediocre) breakfast buffet: It’s no secret that first base for the Seattle Mariners has long been a haunted merry-go-round of misery, sadness and grotesque K%. Justin Smoak, Casey Kotchman, Russell Branyan and Richie Sexson are all men who’ve stood on that seemingly-cursed ground, and crushed the hopes of many a budding M’s fan. In 2016 the merry-go-round claimed another man, as Adam Lind’s K% and BB% fell victim to the curse of Mariners first basemen.

In many ways, Adam Lind’s 2016 is a more concentrated version of the Mariners 2016 season. Just enough high-leverage excitement, and heroic antics to fool you into thinking things were good and fun, but not quite enough to make the charade seem real. To Jerry Dipoto’s credit, Lind was supposed to be different; he was meant to be a shift from the old Jack Z power-hitting-righty archetype. You can’t blame Dipoto for jumping on an 11.5 BB%, a 17.5 K%, and a 119 wRC+ player, particularly since he was got for a trio of middling prospects. Unfortunately, everything tanked, and Lind ended the season with a miserable -0.6 fWAR. He had a knack for putting together some of the ugliest plate appearances in the lineup, flailing at pitches outside of the zone with breathtaking consistency, and appearing to start each at bat already in an 0-2 count

Looking ahead, I’d be pretty surprised if the Mariners tried to make him an offer as a free agent, but there’s a small chance they might try again. 2016 was such a dramatic decrease in Lind’s production and ability that 2017 could hold the tantalizing possibility of positive regression, and he’s not likely to command a terribly high price. Unfortunately, a first base platoon takes up a chunk of space on a Mariners roster that has never been as flexible as we’d like it to be, and with the extreme R/L splits that Lind runs there’s no way a team could regularly trot him out against lefties. Also, honestly, I grew to loathe watching his plate appearances this season and would be very happy to never see Adam Lind take another golfing swing below the zone in a Mariners uniform ever again.

Dae-Ho Lee

Cliff Notes: Dae-Ho Lee brought a lot of joy to a lot of people this season, and sometimes that was because he did good baseball things. After June/July it was mostly because he is a human corgi, in that he is oddly proportioned but impossible to not smile at. He is now a free agent and will (really, probably, I’m pretty sure) not be a Seattle Mariner in 2017.

Reading the actual book: Lee’s season was a cautionary tale of love and heartbreak. He carefully planted seeds of love and good fortune in our hearts in April with a 134 wRC+ and what would ultimately be a season-low K% OF 14.8. He wooed us with a beautiful walk-off dinger, a 127 wRC+ and a .260/.302/.560 slash line for the month of May. June marked a slight shift away from the honeymoon period, but July was when everything began to crumble and August was finally when the Mariners decided taking a break was best for everyone involved. September and October brought a tiny glimmer of hope back to the relationship, but really it was mostly nostalgia for what wasn’t a terribly stable relationship to begin with.

If you’d like to see some of the more aggressive first half/second half splits, I highly recommend perusing his Fangraphs page. However, one thing that remained consistent throughout the season was Lee’s inability to take walks. In fact, the percentage of Americans with a master’s degree is higher than Lee’s highest monthly BB%. Ending on that snarky note feels mean, so instead I’ll leave you with this bizarrely competent line (from Fangraphs) for his splits with runners on.

Daniel Vogelbach

The movie trailer: Dan Vogelbach played in eight games for the Seattle Mariners. In thirteen plate appearances he had one hit but struck out 46.2% of the time. In 2017 he might be up on the Mariners roster, he might be hanging with Stefen in Tacoma, or he might be a Cincinnati Red (Red? Reds? Redsss?). Life is silly and unpredictable, and we’re all just cogs in the wheels of Mr. Dipoto’s Wild Ride.

The feature film: Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach missed second base during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Dan Vogelbach struck out in the final game of the Seattle Mariners’ 2016 season. Does Dan Vogelbach deserve better than this? Yes, probably, but he did scarcely anything for the 2016 team and nobody really knows what the future may hold anyway.