Seattle Mariners 2022 Season Outlook: Part 1
Taking a look at the notable newcomers and what they’ll bring to the table
Oh where to begin…
As spring training begins after a league wide lockout silenced our beloved sport, the emotional waves of the 2021 season are still rippling throughout the PNW. Simply put, that team accomplished something that was seemingly impossible at the start of the season. If you were like me and were fortunate enough to attend the final series of the regular season, you know the effect that the 2021 Seattle Mariners had on the fanbase. T-Mobile Park was no longer just a baseball stadium, but instead a culmination of the pain, struggle, and jubilation of an entire generation of Seattle baseball fans. It was a scene that has fans dreaming of postseason baseball in a way that is hard to explain but easy to buy into. So where do things stand now?
Statistics to note:
- ERA: earned run average
- BA: batting average
- OBP: on base percentage
- OPS: on base percentage + slugging percentage
The new additions:
Robbie Ray, SP | LHP | 30 years old | Signed in FA for 5 years / $115 million
Key Stat: 32.1% Strikeout rate in 2021
This move alone should signal the Mariners’ commitment to contention this season and beyond. Bringing in the 2021 AL Cy Young winner — and his famous tight pants — on a good value deal ($23 million AAV) will give the rotation the ace it’s been missing since the King’s Court was in session. Ray finished his Cy Young season with a league leading 2.84 ERA and 284 strikeouts. After years of tantalizing stuff but inconsistent results, Ray finally put it all together with the help of a few mechanical changes and gained confidence in his pitches. However, there is admittedly some risk considering Ray’s pre-2021 glaring command issues and aforementioned inconsistency. In 2021, Ray sported a 6.7% walk rate after a 17.9%(!) rate in 2020 and a career rate of 10.3%. Advanced stats also suggest that Ray over-performed in 2021 as he ranked in the bottom percentile for hard hit rate and homeruns allowed. However, there is reason to believe that Ray’s mechanical adjustments will carry over to Seattle and the pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park should help limit the homeruns. Ray also sports a strong track record of durability that should help quell the injury issues that have plagued the pitching staff in years past. Remember: the best ability is durability. Oh and not to mention that Ray is the all-time leader among starting pitchers in SO/9 (strikeouts per 9 inning pitched). Even if Ray does not repeat Cy Young caliber success, he will still flourish at the front of an exciting rotation that should be among the best in the AL by years end.
Adam Frazier, 2B/UTIL | LHH | 30 years old | Acquired via trade from SDP
Key Stat: .305 BA in 2021
If this names sounds familiar it’s because Jerry Dipoto has been locked in on the super utility player for quite some time. Fresh off of his first all-star appearance, Adam Frazier brings a much needed top-of-the-order bat and versatile defense to the Mariners. Despite modest power numbers and a mediocre walk rate, Frazier simply does not strikeout. The Mariners prioritize controlling the strike zone, something that Frazier excels at. For a team that finished last in BA and struck out at the 3rd highest rate in the AL, Frazier’s ability to make consistent contact will provide a significant boost to the 2022 lineup. With the ability to play in both the infield and corner outfield, the Mariners hope Frazier can be the ultra-versatile player that they envisioned Dylan Moore could be. However, there are some causes of concern when looking at Frazier’s advanced stats from last season that may indicate considerable regression next season. According to Baseball Savant, Frazier’s expected batting average was .287 compared to his actual .305 clip. The expected stats for his slugging and weighted on base percentage (which incorporates quality of contact, strikeouts, and walks) were also .037 and .018 points lower than his actual line, respectively. From this perspective, Frazier recorded a stat line that outperformed his batted ball statistics, indicating that he was a recipient of some good fortune throughout the season. I think this can be seen in the significant drop in production in his second half where he hit .266 compared to his .330 BA in the first half. The Mariners hope he can recapture his all-star caliber first half form, but I’m predicting an offensive season closer to that of JP Crawford’s 2021 slash line (.273/.338/.376).
Jesse Winker, OF | LHH | 28 years old | Acquired via trade from CIN
Key Stat: .888 career OPS
Jerry Dipoto came out swinging following the end of the MLB lockout. After scouring the free agent market for impact bats, Dipoto took the trade route to bring in 2021 NL All Star Jesse Winker from the Reds. The Mariners paid a hefty price in the form of top pitching prospect Brandon Williamson, but in order to get good you have to give up good. Winker’s offensive production is more than just good, though. In fact it’s elite. In his 2021 All Star campaign, Winker posted a near .400 OBP and a .949 OPS which were some of the highest marks in baseball — and categories that Mariners finished near the bottom in as a team! The true story of Jesse Winker is better told when looking at his splits facing right handed vs. left handed pitching. In 102 ABs (at bats) vs left handers in 2021, Winker hit an abysmal .176 with a .572 OPS. Conversely, against right handed pitching Winker hit a ridiculous .346 with a 1.070 OPS and mashed 21 homeruns. As a Mariner, Winker will play everyday against righties and, according to Dipoto, will still get significant ABs against lefties in the hopes of unlocking more production. Below is Winker’s advanced stat percentile rankings. The main take-away: lots of red = elite.
All this to say, Winker will immediately plug in the lineup as the Mariner’s most potent bat even if some regression is in store. It’s also important to note that defensively Winker is a liability in left field, posting some of the worst defensive ratings among all outfielders. This may lead to many starts at DH as the Mariners shuffle their plethora of outfielders around. Regardless of his defensive limitations, Winker will be at the core of what should be one of the best outfields in baseball for years to come.
Eugenio Suárez, 3B | RHH | 30 years old | Acquired via trade from CIN
Key Stat: Averaging 38 HRs over the last 3 full seasons
Packaged along with Jesse Winker, Suárez and his powerful bat are poised to take over Kyle Seager’s everyday spot at the hot corner. Although Winker is the headline of the return, Suárez is an intriguing piece. From 2017–2019, he was one of the most prolific power hitters in baseball, hitting 49 HRs in 2019 alone. However, his production has fallen off a cliff since the start of the 2020 shortened season, culminating in a .198 BA and the highest strikeout rate of his career. Despite many career lows in offensive stats, Suárez still managed to slug 31 homeruns after a torrid final month of the season where he hit to the tune of a 1.268 OPS and 8 homeruns. That final stretch of the season where he was one of the best hitters on the planet showed glimpses of an offensive turnaround that may carry over to Seattle. After dealing with shoulder surgery that impacted his swing coming into 2020, Suárez appeared to make the needed adjustments to return to his career mean. Additionally, the BABIP’s (batting average on balls in play) from his 2020 and 2021 season were at .214 and .224, suggesting that he also hit into some bad luck and made less hard contact. That being said, Suárez must cut down on his strikeout rate while upping his walk rate in order to recapture at least some of his All Star form. Defensively, Suárez is an average defender at 3rd and should be a formidable replacement for Kyle Seager. Mariners fans should bet on a bounceback season for Suárez in 2022, essentially replacing the production left by Seager — and potentially even beyond that.
It’s officially win-now mode, Mariners fans.