Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager began a rehab stint with the AAA Tacoma Rainiers this week. Seager has missed the entire season after undergoing surgery to an injured tendon in his left hand, which he suffered diving for a ball in Spring Training. In anticipation of a return date around May 25th when he will first be eligible to come off the 60-day IL, I did what I’m certain most fans do: I started looking to see where Seager ranks all-time among Seattle Mariners hitters. After all, Seager has had his meteoric moments in the past and, more recently, the lowliest of lows.
To my surprise, Kyle Seager ranks fifth in Fangraphs version of WAR for position players in Mariners history behind only Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey, Jr. There are, of course, two caveats.
First, WAR of any version takes into account defense and base running along with hitting, even though the hitting component is the most heavily weighted. If not for being heavily penalized for poor defense, Edgar would be ahead of Griffey and in first place all time and Jay Buhner and Alvin Davis would likely be ahead of Seager.
Second, the leaderboard only counts WAR accumulated in a Mariners uniform. So, in no way is this leaderboard taking into account the totality of the careers of the likes of Robinson Cano, Mike Cameron, Bret Boone, Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, or John Olerud, all of whom immediately follow Seager on the Mariners WAR leaderboard.
If you attempt to make the list even more Mariners-centric by limiting the search to players who tallied 1,000 or more games in the uniform, A-Rod, Cano, Cameron, Boone, Beltre, Cruz, and Olerud all fall by the wayside. Seager moves into fourth place and suddenly Dan Wilson, Raul Ibanez, and Harold Reynolds jump into the conversation.
Since I didn’t live here at the time, it is a little hard to believe that A-Rod only played 790 games in Seattle. For fantasy players in the late ‘90s, Rodriguez, Edgar, and Griffey were the Seattle Mariners to us. But I digress.
In more traditional statistics, Seager also ranks 5th in HR with 175 behind A-Rod, Buhner, Edgar, and Junior. By the way, Griffey “only” hit 417 dingers in a Mariners uniform. Seager ranks 7th in RBI but will likely pass Ibanez and Ichiro with any kind of decent bounce back and could get past Alvin Davis if he stays healthy the rest of the way. He needs 10, 31, or 65, respectively, to move up the ladder.
A more sabermetrically leaning index like wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) smiles favorably on Seager as well. By limiting the search to 3,000 PA, roughly five full seasons, Seager in 9th in Mariners history. For context Seager’s 113 wRC+ means he’s been about 13% better than the average major league hitter. Now to be fair, we are not comparing apples to apples when we look at wRC+ on an historic leaderboard. For instance, Edgar’s 146 wRC+, which is the all-time Mariners leader with 3,000 or more PA, compares him to hitters of his time, while Seager’s 113 wRC+ compares him to hitters of this time. I’ll let the reader decide what era was “better.”
This brief little exploration of the various all-time Mariners leaderboards was by no means meant to suggest that Kyle Seager is a top five Mariners player of all-time. Obviously, there a dozen or so better players when you take the entirety of their careers into account.
But for Mariners fans who have had little to cheer about for 18 years or so, it can be comforting to know that a current player is among the elite of those who stuck around for a while.