Mariners

Could the Mariners have competed in the 2014 World Series?

The 2014 World Series provides reasons to be both optimistic and frustrated for the Seattle Mariners.

The San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals won 88 and 89 games, respectively and were able to get hot enough behind strengths that play well in the postseason to make it to the brink of a championship. Such a World Series gives Seattle hope that a run of its own could happen in the near future, but that easily could have been the Mariners if they were able to win just one more game during the regular season.

Kansas City and San Francisco are better teams than the Mariners, but Seattle could have competed with them or any team in the postseason. Here’s how the Mariners stack up.

Starting Rotation

The starting rotation is the one area where the Mariners would arguably have an advantage over both the Royals and Giants.

Few pitchers in the league could go head-to-head with Madison Bumgarner and have a chance to win, but Felix Hernandez is one of them. James Shields is a fine pitcher himself, but has struggled this postseason and is clearly a step behind the other two.

Yordano Ventura and Jake Peavy are also strong, but the nod goes to Hisashi Iwakuma over either of them. That gives the Mariners a better 1-2 punch that could help them compete against any team in a postseason series, let alone the Royals or Giants.

After that, things get a little harder to sort out. Chris Young posted a lower ERA in the regular season than Tim Hudson or Jeremy Guthrie, but began to fade hard at the end of the year.

The Mariners would have to turn to a young pitcher with high upside next, likely James Paxton, while the Royals and Giants could send out more experienced options like Jason Vargas and Ryan Vogelsong. Still, the top two in the rotation would give Seattle an advantage over most teams in baseball during a postseason series.

Bullpen

The Mariners led the majors with a 2.59 bullpen ERA in the regular season, meaning they could at least compete with any team. However, that does not necessarily mean they would have been the best bullpen in a theoretical series against either team.

Kansas City’s late-inning trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland was nearly unhittable in the regular season and has again been tremendous in the postseason. Those three have overshadowed a strong San Francisco bullpen that ranked fifth in the majors with a 3.01 ERA and has a great closer in Santiago Casilla at the back end.

Seattle’s bullpen may be the strongest top to bottom, but in a playoff situation where only a couple of high-leverage relievers are needed, the Royals win out.

Lineup

This would be the area where the Mariners would seemingly have the biggest disadvantage. There is a gap between Seattle’s lineup and those of the two World Series teams, but it’s not so big that the Mariners couldn’t compete.

The Mariners scored 634 runs during the regular season and ranked last in the American League in on-base percentage. Neither World Series team ranked higher than 12th in the majors in runs, with San Francisco scoring 665 runs (without the benefit of a DH) and Kansas City totaling 651 runs.

Seattle’s main problem was that it relied on Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager too much to carry the entire offense. With one more bat, the Mariners could stack up well with the World Series teams and challenge for a playoff spot next season.

Kansas City doesn’t have a Cano-type bat, but the Royals can cause a lot of havoc with their speed and options off the bench. The Giants have a superstar in Buster Posey and have a better supporting cast than the Mariners, with players like Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan (when healthy) making huge contributions.

Defense

Measuring defense as a team can be tricky, but just by using the eye test it’s apparent that the Royals are far better defensively than the Giants or Mariners, particularly in the outfield.

By the Defensive Runs Saved metric on FanGraphs.com, the Royals ranked fourth in the majors with 40 runs saved, the Giants ranked 17th and the Mariners ranked 19th. Seattle has some good defensive players in Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley (range-wise, not arm-wise), but nobody can touch Alex Gordon and the Royals.

The Mariners were also dinged due to poor defensive metrics in center field from James Jones, as well as an apparent down year defensively for Cano.

Seattle wasn’t quite as good as the two teams in the World Series, but the Mariners were good enough to compete with them or any other team in the postseason. This year’s matchup proves that any team, even one in the mid-80s in wins, can get hot in October and win a title.

Photo Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.
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