The Ms and Defense

The Mariners put a team together this off-season that was supposed to compete, in large part, because of its spectacular defense and cavernous field. Obviously, this team is not competing (unless 11-0 losses to the White Sox are now filed in the “Summer Classics” archive).

Do we blame the management for so foolishly following a defensive strategy? Not so fast. The Mariners are good defensively, but not as good as expected. Seattle GM, Jack Zduriencik, put 8 guys in the field to start the year that combined for a staggering 80.7 runs saved in 2009, according to FanGraphs’ UZR defensive stat. We can only assume that scouting backed up the UZR decisions on each new addition, or conversely, perhaps UZR and other defensive stats backed up the the scouting. Either way these are great defensive players who don’t appear to be fielding as well as they have in the past. It’s hard to pin that one on management.

So far this season, the M’s defense has save about 16 runs, according to Fangraphs. Despite the wishywashyness of the UZR measure, their 26-runs-saved pace is nothing close to what we expected. The only decision I can really find to complain about was flip-flopping Jose Lopez and Chone Figgins at second and third. It seemed like a good idea at the time, with Lopez’s strong arm and Figgins’ range, but Lopez had played third only a handful of times, and Figgy had recorded below-average UZRs in limited time at second. Statistically, Lopez has been better than average at third this season, and better than he ever was at second. However, Figgy hasn’t figgied it out yet, I guess, having cost the Ms nearly 7 runs this season defensively.

So the defense hasn’t been quite what it was cracked up to be, but it is still above average by all accounts. The real kicker is the painful lack of offense. The Mariners have been so inept offensively, that arguing against the concept of defense winning ballgames becomes impossible if we use Seattle as an example. Even the argument that pursuing defense left the Mariners void of enough hitting breaks down since the offense we have is under-performing all logical 2010 predictions by a large amount. Fangraphs writer, Matt Klaassen, wrote an interesting piece HERE about why the 2010 Ms should not necessarily be a deterrent to building future teams around defense.

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