Jaffe: Mariners’ hot-hitting start defies rebuild

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs on April 10, 2019:

While the Dodgers’ bolt from the gate isn’t too surprising given their back-to-back NL pennants and preseason playoff odds around 90% (though yes, I reaaaally nailed the timing of my investigation into their hitting), the Mariners’ hot start is the kind of early-season anomaly that reminds us how reality often fails to conform to our preconceptions. Expected to be a bystander during a rebuilding year, Seattle opened the season by sweeping a two-game series in Japan against last year’s upstarts, the A’s, and has continued to roll. They own the majors’ best record (11-2) and run differential (+40) so far.

The Mariners did spend most of last year in contention, ultimately notching 89 wins — their highest total since 2003 — but finishing eight games behind the A’s for the second AL Wild Card spot. In missing out on the October festivities, they ran their postseason drought to 17 years, the longest in North American professional sports. Given a club record payroll ($157.9 million as of Opening Day 2018) and the game’s worst farm system, general manager Jerry Dipoto opted to plunge the team into rebuilding mode, bidding adieu to free agent Nelson Cruz and trading away Robinson Cano, Alex Colome, Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino, among others — nearly all of the popular kids, basically. With Kyle Seager suffering a torn tendon in his left hand, the only players common to Seattle’s 2018 and ’19 Opening Day lineups were Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger, and Ichiro Suzuki, the last of whom used the Japan series as a farewell tour.

Read the full article here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/mariners-hot-hitting-start-defies-rebuild/

Originally published: April 11, 2019. Last Updated: April 11, 2019.