The fire sale in the Pacific Northwest was something. Sure, the Seattle Mariners traded away Edwin Diaz and James Paxton, who combined to account for 25 percent of the team’s strikeouts last season. Sure, the Mariners traded Robinson Cano, lost Nelson Cruz via free agency, and don’t have many household names anymore, but a lot of people are treating this team like it will clearly be one of the worst in the American League.
That’s not to say that I love the roster by any means, but I’m thinking there might be some daily value on the Mariners.
The time was right for Jerry Dipoto to renovate the roster. Last year’s Mariners went 89-73, but they weren’t that good of a team. In fact, they had a negative run differential and overachieved by 12 games relative to their Pythagorean Win-Loss record. They were 36-21 in one-run games and a ridiculous 14-1 in extra inning games. Seattle was actually 83-69 against AL foes last year.
There are a ton of new faces, but some of them are kind of fun, like Mallex Smith and Domingo Santana. There are some aging professional hitters like Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce that are on the downsides of their careers, but are still productive enough to stick. Mitch Haniger is a productive bat.
It is one of those things where it looks like a collection of castoffs and platoon players to a lot of people. Maybe it is. Maybe the rotation is absolutely that bad. The bullpen sure looks a lot different. There is just something about this team that makes me think we could make some money on them.
Money Line Spots
Yusei Kikuchi is easily the most interesting guy in this rotation. There won’t be a ton of scouting reports on him early in the year. The Nippon Baseball League is a much different product than Major League Baseball. Strikeout rates are a lot lower and things are just a lot different. I’ll be curious to see how hitters adjust to Kikuchi and how he adjusts to them. Usually, I’ll give the pitcher the benefit of the doubt, especially one with some of that traditional Asian deception in his pitching motion.
Oddsmakers won’t really know how to price him. They’ll err on the side of caution and likely be a little bit strong on him in the early going, but this is also a depleted lineup and a very depleted bullpen, so it will be hard to give him too much respect.
Pitch-to-contact starters get very little respect in the betting markets, so Mike Leake, Felix Hernandez, and Wade LeBlanc will be bet against a lot. I won’t argue too much with that, though Safeco Field will provide a safety net for those guys.
I’d like to see how this offense performs, but I think we’re going to get chances to buy low on the M’s.
This is interesting. Seattle was 81-79-2 to the under last season. What happens with totals this year? The pitching staff is much worse on paper, but the ballpark is such an equalizer in terms of run production. The offense has taken some steps back as well. Will the Mariners actually end up being an over team? I happen to think the offense, at least when healthy, is better than what most believe.
The bullpen also helped the Mariners tilt ever so slightly to the under. Seattle’s pen was 10th in ERA and 12th in FIP. Because I would expect that to regress a fair amount, I really do think we’ll be able to seek out overs with this team.
Oddly enough, the Mariners outscored opponents 378-374 on the road last season and went 44-37. At home, the Mariners were outscored 337-299 and went 45-36. Scoring 3.7 runs per game at home is really not good. Maybe we’ll stick to the road overs, but I also feel like this lineup is constructed a little differently and may be able to manufacture some more chances at home this season.
Individual Players to Watch
Mike Leake – I fully understand that Mike Leake isn’t very good, but he doesn’t hurt himself. Leake posted his third straight season with a BB% under five percent. He cut back the usage of his fastball last season, which can only help from a contact management standpoint, as he threw more changeups and curveballs again. He’s actually coming off of his best season with the changeup, which is the bread-and-butter pitch for rotation mate Marco Gonzales.
Leake’s sinker usage went down nine percent and was replaced by better pitches. Perhaps that trend continues this season. It would be a breath of fresh air and would make Leake at least worthy of consideration at home or worthy of consideration with an under ticket.
Marco Gonzales – This is a guy you should watch closely. If Gonzales can stay healthy, which has been his problem since he signed with pro ball, he has some chops. He posted a 4.00 ERA with a 3.43 FIP and a 3.59 xFIP. He excelled in the control department and most of his peripherals were at or above league average. Opposing batters only posted a .296 wOBA against Gonzales at Safeco Field.
His August was a huge concern, especially given his injury history that late in the year, but he rebounded extremely well in September with a .211 wOBA against over his last 21 innings. I really think 1st 5 bets with him will make some sense this season.