On the Value of Flexibility to a Marginal Contender
A couple of commenters on recent posts have brought up a common refrain among Ms’ fans these days: that the team’s biggest need is a big bat, and that until they acquire one nobody should waste any time worrying about incremental improvements to the 24th or 25th spots on the roster.
Obviously, the Mariners’ offense has not been very good. Nobody will seriously argue that there aren’t many different positions at which the Mariners could conceivably get better. If the right player came along, and the asking price was right, I have no doubt that the powers that be would love to add another solidly above average bat to improve the team’s .290 wOBA. That underlying point is obvious to the point of being pretty much not worth mentioning.
The specific point conveyed by these comments, though, simply could not be more wrong. After watching the Texas series, this should be abundantly obvious.
A team built around run prevention that struggles to score runs absolutely must worry about the flexibility the last few roster spots give them. Far, far more than a team with a good offense, in fact. A team like the Yankees will routinely run away with games. In contrast, 9 of the Mariners’ 11 wins this season have been by 3 runs or fewer (7 of them by either 1 or 2 runs). With strong pitching, great defense, and a mediocre at best offense, this team will see more close games than pretty much any other team in baseball with a shot at contention.
The team’s weak offense makes optimizing its bench more important. Not less.