If you keep up with the Mariners (perhaps via Maqman’s Mariners Mini Morsels), then you might be aware of some key events. In the last year, among other things, the Mariners effectively traded John Jaso for Mike Morse, allowed for Raul Ibanez to play defense, and now, word on the street is that they’re talking about signing a free-agent closer. These are all bad decisions. Each of them is an objectively bad decision. I would have added the qualifying offer to Kendrys Morales, but perhaps that was actually a smart decision made based on their knowing Scott Boras.
Four years ago, the Mariners made a smart move. They signed Chone Figgins (GASP!). It was smart because Figgins was an above-average defender at third base—a skill that was and is undervalued on the market—and his combination of slap hitting and walk-drawing skills weren’t sensitive to various ballparks. 4.7 bazillion articles have been written exploring why Figgins fell off the deep end, but basically the conclusion is that no one could have seen it coming. In 2010, the ZiPS projection system pegged Seattle’s new third baseman for a .373 OBP and an OPS+ of 99. Considering Figgins had been producing an approximate 1.5 WAR between his feet and his glove, that league-average OPS made for a projected 3-ish WAR player. If you blame the nerds for a bad projection, then I’m no longer talking to you.
Some forget that his first year was tolerable—a .340 OBP and 1.2 fWAR—but nothing about the entirety of his time in Seattle was tolerable. Sorry, this isn’t a post about tolerating Figgins. I digress. This is a post about how Figgins underperformed so much that the Mariners started doing stupid things like overpay for power and closers. It makes me wonder, what would have happened if Figgins had panned out? What if he outperformed instead of underperformed his projections? Sure, the 2010 season was pretty ugly, regardless, but would it have changed the perception about using evidence-based methodology—AKA sabermetrics—to build a better team in Seattle? Maybe, maybe not. I’d like to think so.
Of course, it wasn’t all Figgins. No baseball team is built on one person. Even if you take away Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers don’t become worse than the Mariners. But that move was the headliner of moves, and Figgins failed the most of all the individual failures. I’m just so tired of hearing about needing “thump in the middle of the lineup” and “a proven closer for the ninth inning.” Those concepts are figments of the imagination, and I can’t help but think that had Figgins panned out, I wouldn’t have to hear about them.