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 began with the youngest members of the system, ages 26 and younger, who accounted for 7 of the Mariners’ total 35 fWAR, or 20%. (Thanks, Edwin!) Next came the players in their “primes”, with 9.6 fWAR coming from those aged 26-28, or 27% of the team’s total 35.0 fWAR. Ages 29 and 30 made up the next block, accounting for 10.1 fWAR, or 28.9%. This seems like a fairly decent share, although as John noted yesterday, a lot of the players in that block are everyday players, and everyday underperformers. Those of you handy with math will have deduced this leaves just over 20% for everyone over thirty, so let’s see which of these folks we can trust.
Nick Vincent (32)
Projected fWAR: .8
Actual fWAR: .7
A troublesome groin injury kept Nicky V. from hitting his projection and also cost him a little bit of the pinpoint accuracy the high-80s hurler depends upon. Still, since being acquired from the Padres for a bag of baseballs prior to 2016, Vincent has been worth almost three wins for the team and held down an important bridge role in the bullpen. Vincent, with his sneaky invisiball, is an interesting complement to the high-heat relievers occupying the rest of the back of the bullpen. MLBTR estimates Vincent will make $3.5M in arbitration, which feels a little steep, but better to pay for the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t, in my opinion. Vincent is a familiar, proven commodity who won’t cost anything other than money. -KP
Juan Nicasio (31 during 2018 season)
Projected fWAR: 1.0
Actual fWAR: 0.8
Juan Nicasio’s season is the perfect case study for the efficacy of defense-independent pitching stats. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was second best in the majors among pitcher who threw at least 40 innings. His FIP was right in line with what he posted last year and his xFIP was half a run better. He also ran a BABIP over .400 and a strand rate under 60%. It should be no surprise that the difference between his ERA and his FIP was the largest in baseball in 2018. I truly believe he will be a valued member of the Mariners bullpen and will earn every penny of his $14 million salary in 2019. -JM
Cameron Maybin (31)
Projected fWAR: 1.1
Actual fWAR: 0.5
Actual, actual fWAR (while on the Mariners): -0.3
If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results, then watching Cameron Maybin on the 2018 Mariners was an exercise in madness. Whether he appeared in the initial starting lineup, or came off the bench later in the game, I’d always think to myself “Oh, that’s right, Cameron Maybin is on this team...weird,” typically followed shortly thereafter by “Oh, yikes, Cameron Maybin is on this team.”
Ryan Cook (31)
Projected fWAR: 0
Actual fWAR: -.2
Aw, man. I really wanted Ryan Cook to have a great redemption arc this season after battling a Job-like list of injuries and ills. And excepting one very horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad metric, Ryan Cook’s year would look fine! A 12.18 K/9 for a reliever who throws in the mid-90s should be hot shakes. Unfortunately, there’s the matter of that unsightly 30.8% HR/FB rate. Pro tip: a HR/9 rate should ideally not be higher than one’s BB/9 rate. Cook would be a solid candidate to be brought back on a minor-league deal to see if his second year back full-time goes more smoothly than the first. -KP
Gordon Beckham (32)
Projected fWAR: -.1
Actual fWAR: -.1
Gordon Beckham. Gordo. Bama Bangs. [very John Madden voice] now here’s a guy who gets up in the morning and puts on pants just like the rest of us! As you can see, I don’t exactly know how to start talking about Gordon Beckham. Personally, I maintained some affinity for him all year. I think this was mostly due to an overactive gall bladder on my part plus the fact that he was not named Andrew Romine on his part. The brain can play funny tricks on our memories, swapping things in and out and convincing us of things that never happened. This is how I was convinced until just now that Gordon Beckham had been not great but perfectly fine at the plate in a tiny number of plate appearances this year. Turns out he had a 32 wRC+. Thanks, brain. Way to be on team Gordon.
I kind of want him to stick around in 2019, but maybe in Tacoma. Or Arkansas. - TC
Marc Rzepczynski (32 during 2018 season)
Projected fWAR: 0.3
Actual fWAR: -0.3
To use the parlance of our times, the Mariners signing Marc Rzepczynski was not it at all, chief. Adding Scrabble prior to the 2017 season is one of the black eyes on Jerry Dipoto’s otherwise handsome face, and another example to never pay big bucks for relievers, particularly specialists like Rzepczynski.
The contract Seattle gave Rzepczynski (2 years, $11 million) seemed like an overstep at the time, and that was only solidified with each disastrous outing. While the rest of us screamed voraciously from the bleachers, couches, and bars everytime Rzepczynski emerged from the bullpen, the 33-year-old lefty bravely, if ineffectively, pitched through our ill-wishes. Also unlike the rest of us common folk, Rzepczynski can wipe his tears with Ben Franklins and sad eat in any Ethan Stowell restaurant he chooses.
All told, Scrabble’s contributions as a Seattle Mariner include a 4.02 ERA across 31.1 innings in 2017, and a 2018 stat line that is almost inspiring in its ineptitude. Eight earned runs in a mere 7.2 innings, nine walks to ten strikeouts, and a 45 ERA+. The nicest thing I can say about him is that I’m thrilled I don’t have to type Rzepczynski anymore. -MR
Andrew Romine (32)
Projected fWAR: 0.1
Actual fWAR: 0.1
Andrew Romine, despite slugging .244 and spitting out a 43 wRC+, somehow did just enough to be above replacement level. I have never questioned FanGraphs’ WAR calculator as much as I have right now. Much like the football coach in Lady Bird who has to take over the school play, Romine was in wildly over his head and probably underqualified for the position, but gave a good faith effort and seemed to enjoy himself along the way. I guess maybe there is value in being a likable teammate. - MR
Kristopher Negron (32)
Projected fWAR: 0.0
Actual fWAR: 0.0
The line of utility players churned through by the Mariners since Jerry Dipoto took over in 2016 is long. It includes favorites like Shawn O’Malley and less-than-favorites like Taylor Motter. That list also includes forgettable names like Tyler Smith. If I had to guess, Kristopher Negron will fall into that latter category. Forgotten until you’re in the middle of a Sporcle quiz and his name is on the tip of your tongue but you end up just giving up because it just won’t come to you. -JM
Felix Hernandez (32)
Projected fWAR: 1.5
Actual fWAR: 0.3
Oh, my sweet King. As Dan Szymborski noted in his season preview that “we’ll likely never see another healthy season from him,” but not even Szymborski saw this plague year coming for Félix Hernández. From showing flashes of good control and his vintage skill of keeping batters off balance, to injuries, to barely being able to grind through a couple innings, to the brief bullpen demotion, to the injury-necessitated reinstatement to the rotation…2018 was the world’s shittiest rollercoaster ride for Félix and for all of his long-time supporters. I have no idea what happens with Félix in 2019 and I will continue to actively avoid thinking about it like I avoid thinking about my dog dying someday. - ES
Ross Detwiler (32)
Projected fWAR: -0.3
Actual fWAR: -0.1
Yes, Ross Detwiler was a real person on this year’s baseball team. Plucked from the indy leagues midseason, he put up mediocre numbers with Tacoma before being summoned as a warm body to have in the bullpen in mid-August. He only saw action in one game, but it was a memorable one - working six innings in relief on August 21st, Detwiler held the Astros to just three runs, and the sequencing spirits smiled upon him by way of granting him a double play in five of those. He was predictably designated for assignment and outrighted the next day, but I will say without a shred of irony that his outing - his first in the bigs since 2016 was a blast to watch despite him taking the loss. Wishing you well, Ross. -CD
Total fWAR from this age group: .9
And that’s only because of Nick Vincent and Juan Nicasio. Holy cats, is this a depressing group.