Every year, after the dust has settled from the regular season, we at LL like to look back at the year that was, and what that suggests about the year that will be. In past years, we’ve divided this up by position group; this year, we’ll be trying something new: examining the contributions of each player by age. The Mariners have a rep as being one of the oldest teams in MLB, thanks to an eternally-dry farm system and several top-heavy contracts. But who produces how much value, and at what age?
A note: throughout this series, we’ll be basing our calculations off FanGraphs for both Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) and the prediction system ZiPS.
We begin with the youngest segment of the team: ages 24-26.
Edwin Diaz: (24):
ZiPS fWAR: 1.0
Actual fWAR: 3.5
While it is the organizing conceit for this article, and many others, it’s seasons like those Edwin Díaz had this year that remind us Wins Above Replacement is only the best we can do at approximating value right now. Edwin’s numbers jump off the page, but they still understate how important he was to the Mariners. Seattle’s entire gameplan, as their offense struggled throughout the second half, became dependent on their youngest player, and he delivered time and time again. The Mariners were 69-4 in games where Edwin appeared and 20-69 in those where he did not. By nature of his role, he was obviously appearing in mostly winning situations, but as we saw with the Dodgers, Nationals, and Astros, bad results at the end of games can hamstring a team. Instead, Edwin made the Mariners a contender. It will be nearly impossible for him to be better in 2019, but nothing in his body of work suggests regression is inevitable. Díaz will be 25 next March, and will be entering his final pre-arbitration season. Rest well, Sugar. - John Trupin
Rob Whalen (24):
ZiPS fWAR: .4
Actual fWAR: 0.0
Do you remember the four innings Rob Whalen pitched as a member of the 2018 Mariners? Me neither. Whalen’s promising Spring Training start, where he neutralized the Rockies’ A-team with his curveball, is but a distant memory after he struggled through another disappointing season in the minors. Whalen is a minor-league free agent after this season, and all indications are he won’t be back with the club. -Kate Preusser
Daniel Vogelbach (25)
ZiPS fWAR: .7
Actual fWAR: .1
Would that I were a med-i-e-val bard
To tell a doughty tale of a lad much-scarred
Left to toil in the minors for reasons left unclear
Despite another all-star, tater-bashing year.
Call him up, do it now, or else you’ll get the whammy;
Get him in some games, already, or trade him to Miami. -KP
Sam Tuivailala (26)
ZiPS fWAR: .5
Actual fWAR: .2
A very nice (1.69 ERA) five outings for the Mariners ended all too swiftly thanks to a potent combination of Rougned Odor’s baserunning, the Facebook Game Curse, and the fragility of Achilles. -Isabelle Minasian
Matt Festa (25)
ZiPS fWAR: N/A
Actual fWAR: .1
The first of the 2016 draft class to make it to the bigs, Festa impressed throughout the minors with his combo of a nasty curve and a mid-90s fastball, as well as excellent control that saw him walk very few batters. Festa was called upon to make his debut during the team’s series in Colorado, which should be reported as Prospect Abuse, and it took him a surprisingly long while to record his first MLB strikeout. Look for Festa to build on his brief taste of The Show and become a contributor in the Mariners bullpen over the back half of 2019. -KP
Dan Altavilla (26)
ZiPS fWAR: .3
Actual fWAR: -.1
An elbow injury sidelined Altavilla for most of the year. He didn’t have surgery, but instead rehabbed the injury traditionally. Hopefully Quadzilla will be running at 100% next year. -KP
Nick Rumbelow (26 during 2018 season)
ZiPS fWAR: .5
Actual fWAR: -.4
Rumbelow’s 2018 was the equivalent of a late-night QVC ordering binge. Dipoto was convinced the Mariners bullpen would be transformed by this one handy-dandy device, but the product arrived damaged—Rumbelow made all of one appearance in Spring Training before being sent to the DL with an ominous-sounding “nerve pain” diagnosis. There he would remain until June, when he was sent to Tacoma to build his innings before being called up in mid-June. Things went very badly for Rumbelow in the bigs, as he transformed into a dinger machine (3.06 HR/9) and never seemed to find his footing on the major-league team. Rumbelow has some work to do to prove he’s not a Cornballer. -KP
Ryon Healy (26)
ZiPS fWAR: -0.3
Actual fWAR: -0.8
* begins weeping * ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha
Baseball fates: So, we heard you’ve got a Mike Zunino
Mariners: That’s right
Baseball fates: Cool. And you like him, yeah?
Mariners: I mean, yeah, he’s streaky, and strikes out a ton, but man that pop. And the defense isn’t too shabby at a premium position, either.
Baseball fates: Awesome. Have another one.
Mariners: Uh, well…
Baseball fates: But bigger - like, HUGE. And even less walking -
Mariners: Is...is that possible?
Baseball fates: And DINGERS. Big ‘ol taters, just absolute moonshots.
Mariners: That sounds okay...
Baseball fates: But also 4th-most GIDPs in all of baseball
Mariners fans: Oh no
Marco Gonzales (26)
ZiPS fWAR: 1.1
Actual fWAR: 3.6
Prior to the season, if you had told a Mariners fan that Marco Gonzales would compile the tenth most fWAR among all qualified American League pitchers, I think they would have laughed in your face. The profusion of confidence Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais laid on Gonzales during the offseason was actually justified. By all accounts, Gonzales had an incredibly successful year. He maintained his health for most of the season, with only a little fatigue showing during September. He reintroduced a cutter into his arsenal, improved his curveball, and utilized all five of his pitches effectively. The most surprising development was his excellent command—his walk rate was fourth lowest in the American League. It kind of feels like this season was Gonzales’s peak, though he will be another year removed from Tommy John surgery in 2019 and has a strong foundation to build on. - Jake Mailhot
Ben Gamel (26)
ZiPS fWAR: .4
Actual fWAR: 1.0
Gamel accumulated his one win despite FanGraphs dinging him heavily for his defense, and while Gamel might take adventurous routes in the OF, he’s not a sub-par corner outfielder by any stretch, and occasionally can make highlight-reel catches. In a limited role this year, Gamel showed his worth to the contact-happy Mariners: boasting superior plate discipline, Gamel knows how to take his walks and work a count. He’s also a smart baserunner on a team that can play it a little too fast and loose on the bases. Gamel suffered a little this year from the un-juiced ball, but as long as he keeps stroking line drives to the gap and stays true to his approach at the plate, he’ll be a valuable contributor to a team that often swings first and asks questions later. -KP