A Quick Note On Chemistry
By nearly any account you read from someone who spent significant time in the Mariners clubhouse last year, the place was a disaster. The Ken Griffey Jr fiasco turned a significant portion of the roster against the manager, and it was apparently quite a toxic environment. The Mariners ended up firing Don Wakamatsu and replaced him with Eric Wedge, and this spring, we heard numerous reports about the significant change in culture in the clubhouse. People were getting along again. The tension had been removed. According to almost anyone you talk to, the atmosphere in 2011 has been drastically improved over last year’s debacle.
So, given that we’re often told how important team chemistry is to creating an atmosphere where players can succeed, we’d expect to see some players taking a step forward now that the clubhouse had been cleaned up from the poisonous waste of 2010, right?
Err, no. Here are the players who have had significant roles on the team the last two years, and their performance in each year, with 2010 WAR first and then 2011 WAR second.
Felix: +6.2, +5.5
Ichiro: +4.5, +0.3
Fister: +2.9, +3.2
Vargas: +2.6, +1.9
Gutierrez: +1.9, +1.2
Figgins: +1.1, -1.2
League: +0.4, +1.3
Pauley: +0.1, +0.6
Bradley: -0.1, -0.6
Total: +19.6, +12.2
The holdovers from last year’s team performed dramatically worse this year than last year. In fact, the only guys you could say performed substantially better is Brandon League – it’s hard to argue that Doug Fister’s slight improvement is related to the great clubhouse in Seattle when he took it to another level upon being traded to Detroit, after all.
Now, there are certainly extenuating factors that have nothing to do with clubhouse atmosphere or team chemistry – Gutierrez got sick and Ichiro got bad, neither of which you can chalk up to having any kind of causation rooted in how well they like their teammates. However, it is worth noting that there’s just no evidence that anyone on the roster last year benefited at all from the team’s improved clubhouse atmosphere or better culture.
The improvements the team have made this year have everything to do with adding more talented players to the roster. If you take away the likes of Pineda, Ackley, and Bedard, this team is even worse than it was a year ago, good chemistry and all.
I’m glad the guys like each other more, and I’m sure it’s great for everyone that there’s not serious conflict between the coaching staff and the players on the team. But, once again, we’ve seen that an improvement in team chemistry just doesn’t seem to have any effect whatsoever on performance on the field. Good clubhouse, bad clubhouse, it doesn’t really seem to matter. Guys play well or poorly for a variety of reasons, but how well everyone gets along off the field just doesn’t seem to be one of those reasons.