You know that feeling everyone had when Lori died on The Walking Dead? That feeling of pure gratification knowing that you no longer had to grudgingly give your attention to a character who simply makes things worse but plays such a crucial role in the plot? And when they’re gone it makes everything not just bearable but actually enjoyable?
Jack Zduriencik is Lori, and I couldn’t be happier that he’s gone.
To make things even better, Jerry DiPoto is like Chuck Norris with a machine gun and the sense to STOP GETTING SO CLOSE TO THE ZOMBIES. Also, he puts Carl in his place. Carl is such a punk.
Now, I know that Chuck Norris isn’t on The Walking Dead, but DiPoto’s influence in Seattle was immediately felt during his first season as GM. The Mariners enjoyed a ten-win improvement from 2015 to 2016 and finished second in the AL West and just three games out of the second Wild Card spot. A lot of this had to do with the usual AL West Powers struggling last year, but the improvements in Seattle are undeniable. They scored more than 100 more runs in 2016 (768) than they did in 2015 (656), and enjoyed solid health and production from their big bats.
Scott Servais couldn’t have found a better situation in which to begin his managerial career. Well…maybe he could have. It could’ve been the Cubs. Servais’ longtime friendship with Jerry DiPoto led to immediate chemistry and will serve the whole team well moving forward. DiPoto’s tenure with the Angels was made difficult by struggles with Mike Scioscia, so hiring a manager who shared his same views and vision moving forward had to be on the top of his to-do list arriving in Seattle.
DiPoto and company preached “C the Z” (Control the Zone), which basically means “get walks”. In 2015, the team as a whole posted 478 walks with a .249 batting average and an on-base percentage of .311. In DiPoto’s first year as GM, they posted 506, .259, and .326. Slight improvements, perhaps, but improvement is improvement. More people on base means more runs, more runs means more wins.
Lori never understood that. She never listened.
Robinson Canó reached a career high in home runs with 39, and of the big three (Canó, Cruz, and Seager) no one had less than 30 homers and 99 RBI, and the three totaled 112 home runs and 307 RBI. This had to be what the M’s had in mind when they signed Cruz, and it’s worked out nicely so far.
Perhaps the biggest surprise at the plate in 2016 was center fielder Leonys Martín. He was signed as an elite defender, but showed excellent improvement in his first year in Seattle. His batting average went from .219 in his last season in Texas to .247 in 2016 with the Mariners. His walk numbers went from .16/game in 2015 to .31/game in 2016. Leonys was definitely C’ing the Z.
Possibly the Mariner’s biggest project over the last few seasons has been catcher Mike Zunino, whose power at the plate is undeniable but inconsistency has justified the Mariners keeping him in AAA for a good while. In only 55 games with the major league club in 2016, he drew 21 walks. In 2015, he played twice the amount of games in the majors (112 games) and posted the same amount of 21 walks, both an improvement on his 17 walks over 131 games in 2014.
Last season had King Felix spend a good amount of time on the DL, and showed a drop in fastball velocity. You hate to think it, but Felix’s time as the King might be coming to a close. This next season will be more telling, of course, but the decline in performance is concerning for sure. We should all hope he returns to form and continues his dominance, because anything else would be depressing, and that’s just lame.
The emergence of closer Edwin Diaz was one of the brighter spots of 2016. Steve Cishek’s struggles led to Diaz taking over as the full-time closer in August. He reached 50 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings, the first to do so in 123 years, an incredibly and historic achievement. Diaz’s emergence could have had a Linsanity kind of effect, but it was late in the season and Mariner fans had already moved on to Seahawks preseason news.
Trust me, I know how it goes.
If 2016 was any indication of things to come, 2017 should be an incredible season for the Mariners. It’ll be two years removed from Jack Zduriencik, and the influence of DiPoto and Servais will truly begin to take hold in Seattle. Buckle up, it should be great.