2012 is full of promise for the Seattle Mariners. While the team is certainly not poised, nor expected, to run away with the American League West, they are a much stronger team than they were in 2011. They have a trio of solid young bats in the lineup in Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero and have the ability to gel into something that will bode very well for the future. This is to say nothing of the bevy of young arms that populate the bullpen and starting rotation.
I'm not promising you the world, of course. We need to be pragmatic about this. While it's always possible that the M's could stun the world, they will more likely be in a dogfight with the Oakland Athletics for third place in the division. Having said that, on Opening Day 2: Opening Harder, it's nice to be able to have some perspective on how exciting this team could end up being.
To that end, I would like to present a list of the 10 very worst Mariners single-season performances since 1990. These awful, awful showings -- these sub-Mariners -- will serve to give you some semblance of hope for the coming season. Look upon these numbers, ye M's fans and despair. For while the 2012 season could be fantastic and could be a train wreck, it is unlikely that we will see any performances quite this bad over the next several months.
These rankings are all subjective, but please keep in mind that all of these single-season performances are real, REAL bad.
10. OF Brian Hunter, 1999
Fun fact: Brian Hunter led the American League with 44 stolen bases in 1999. Given that his on-base percentage was .277, that's doubly impressive. Hunter walked 32 times in 527 plate appearances, while striking out 80 times. Although he slugged a robust .300 and put up 112 hits, his OPS+ was a haha-what of 46. (If you're not familiar with OPS+, it's a park-and-league-adjusted metric of on-base plus slugging percentage that allows you to compare hitters across eras. An OPS+ of 100 is average, while 75 or below is bad. An OPS+ of 46 is defined as "Brian Hunter.")
9. SP Horacio Ramirez, 1997
Ramirez started 20 games for the Mariners in 1997. He finished the year 8-7. Not so bad, right? Well, yes. Bad. Ramirez posted a 7.16 ERA, walking 42 and striking out 40 while giving up 139 hits in 98.0 IP. Opposing batters facing him put together an OPS+ of 143, which means that batters facing Ramirez weren't quite as good as Jimmie Foxx.
8. OF Wladimir Balentien, 2008
Hands up if you remember Wladimir Balentien. Not so fast, Wladimir Balentien's mom. Balentien was last seen in the majors in 2009, but he will live on in this list. Balentein walked just 16 times and struck out 79 times, which are Aaron Rowand-like numbers. He had 49 hits in 260 plate appearances and grounded into 12 double plays, which is just under one double play per every four hits. To top it all off, Balentien was caught stealing in his only stolen base attempt. How many wins was Balentien worth over a replacement player? -0.6. The way you say that out loud is "negative zero point six."
7. SP Ryan Rowland-Smith, 2010
Ryan Rowland-Smith had 20 starts in 2010 and ended up with a 1-10 record. He had a 6.75 ERA and gave up 25 home runs, 44 walks and seven hit batsmen to go along with 141 hits in 109.1 innings. Opposing hitters put up a slash line of .314/.379/.575, with an OPS of .954 and an OPS+ of 164, which means that batters facing Rowland-Smith were better than Jimmie Foxx. In professional wrestling, it's great to make your opponent look like a Hall of Famer. In pitching, it is ... less than great.
6. IF/OF Ronny Cedeno, 2009
In just 206 plate appearances, the 26-year-old Cedeno had 50 strikouts against 10 walks. He hit .167, posted an OBP of .213 and finished with an OPS+ of 35 -- the third-lowest OPS+ of all Seattle hitters with at least 200 plate appearances since 1990. Ronny's WAR in 2009 was -0.9, but let's be fair: Cedeno has only posted a positive WAR in three of his seven major-league seasons.
5. RP Russ Swan, 1993
In 1993, relief pitcher Russ Swan appeared in 23 games. He pitched 19.2 innings and faced 100 batters. Think about those last two numbers for a second. I'll wait.
Swan finished the year with a (the only adjectives to describe this ERA are either "whoops!" or that Hanna-Barbera sound effect where someone accidentally walks into a broom closet, resulting in a shower of buckets and mops) ERA of 9.15. He walked 18 batters while striking out 10 and had an ERA+ of 49.
His next season, in 1994 with the Cleveland Indian, would be his last. He would face 43 batters in 8.0 innings pitched -- again, I'll wait -- and posted an 11.25 ERA in 12 games.
4. C Miguel Olivo, 2011
Would you like to see a bad K:BB ratio for a hitter? How about Miguel Olivo's 140 strikeouts against 20 walks just last year? If he's a pitcher, that's outstanding. He's not. He's a catcher. You'd think catchers would be the best at recognizing pitches, right? Shame it doesn't usually work out that way.
3. IF Luis Sojo, 1996
Now we get down to the real nitty-gritty. Sojo spent the first half of the 1996 season with the Mariners before going to the New York Yankees in what I can only assume was the result of a lost bet. Sojo only played 18 games with the Yankees in 1996, but played 77 entire games with Seattle and hoo boy did he stink up the place. He had three more strikeouts than walks, posted a .263 slugging average and an OPS+ of twenty-nine. He was worth negative-two wins for the Mainers, but still managed to be worth -0.1 wins in those 18 games with the Yanks. When it comes to being bad, Sojo was an overachiever in 1996.
2. IF/OF Chone Figgins, 2011
Okay, so this one isn't exactly ancient history. Figgins only played in 81 games last year due to injuries, but was a bag of butts those 81 games were. If you sort bottom-to-top for Mariners position players from 1990 to 2011, it doesn't matter what metric you filter by, Figgins will keep shooting to the top (or bottom, or whatever). A slash line of .188/.241/.243 was good for an OPS of .484. He struck out exactly twice as much as he walked (42 against 21) and had just 54 hits and 15 RBI in 313 plate appearances. Figgins is supposedly healthy this year and will be the everyday leadoff hitter. I'm sure it will be fine!
1. IF Felix Fermin, 1995
The creme de la crud here is poor Felix Fermin, whose 1995 resulted in the rock-bottom OPS+ of 20 over 219 plate appearances. He had 39 hits, six of which went for extra bases (all doubles). He walked six times (but was hit by four pitches!) and drove in 15 RBI (as many as Figgins!). His .457 OPS is the lowest of any Seattle hitter with 200 PAs since 1990, as is his .225 slugging. His .232 OBP is only third-worst, so hey! At least he'll always have that. Fermin only played in one more season after 1995, appearing in 11 games with the Chicago Cubs the following year. He hit .125 in 19 plate appearances, which is how I think he'd want to be remembered.
So there you have it. Regardless of what this season may bring, it won't bring us Felix Fermin. It won't bring us Luis Sojo. It won't even bring us 2011 Chone Figgins (we certainly hope). So keep your head up, M's fans. Things can always, always, be worse.