If you believe this conversation will somehow jinx the postseason aspirations of the Mariners, I don’t know what to tell you other than get over it. Talking about baseball is fun. Relax and enjoy the ride! Manager Scott Servais, his staff, and most importantly, his players control their own destiny. Not this nerd or anyone else in the blogosphere.
Considering the Mariners just came out of a rebuild, it may not surprise you the team doesn’t have many players with postseason time. Let’s walk through the roster beginning with position players.
The veteran just mentioned is Carlos Santana. The 36-year-old’s first taste of the postseason was during Cleveland’s Wild Card game loss to the Rays in 2013. Three years later, he was a member of an Indians club that fell to the Cubs in the World Series. Santana also played in the 2017 ALDS and 2020 Wild Card game with Cleveland. All told, Santana slashed .193/.302/.361 with four home runs in 96 plate appearances.
Jake Lamb is the second most experienced Mariner when it comes to October baseball. Lamb played four games in 2017 with Arizona and the same number of contests with Oakland in 2020. The Seattle, Washington native had seven hits in 20 plate appearances with both clubs.
There’s a noticeable Cincinnati connection among playoff-experienced Mariners. Eugenio Suárez, Jesse Winker, and Curt Casali were teammates on a 2020 Reds unit swept 2-0 by the Braves in the NL Wild Card series. In 20 combined plate appearances against Atlanta, the trio had three hits, two walks, and struck out seven times. It’s worth noting Suárez had one plate appearance in Detroit’s ALDS loss in 2014. Similarly, Casali came to the plate once when the Giants fell to the Dodgers last year in the NLDS.
Our final position player, Abraham Toro, was part of the 2020 Astros postseason roster. That said, Toro didn’t appear in the Wild Card series or the ALDS. However, the switch-hitter hailing from Longueuil, Canada did walk in his lone plate appearance during Houston’s ACLS loss to the Rays.
As with the position players, there’s one only pitcher with notable postseason experience – reliever Diego Castillo. Originally from Cabrera, Dominican Republic, Castillo was an anchor in Tampa Bay’s bullpen during its 2019-20 postseason runs. He walked nine, struck out 20, and allowed two earned runs in 16.2 innings spanning 14 appearances. the 28-year-old also has World Series experience on his résumé.
The other Castillo with playoff innings also has a Cincinnati connection, Luis Castillo. The native of Bani, Dominican Republic native started one game against Atlanta allowing one run in 5.1 innings, while striking out seven and walking one. Despite this strong contribution, Castillo would be tagged with the loss. It’s worth noting the Reds were blanked in both of its losses to the Braves.
Robbie Ray has three postseason appearances – two with the Diamondbacks in 2017 and one with the Blue Jays in 2020. Ray allowed seven hits, walked five, and surrendered six earned runs in 9.2 innings of work. That said, we shouldn’t forget the Tennessean would have a breakout season and win the AL Cy Young Award a year after Toronto’s postseason defeat.
It’s been a while, but Marco Gonzales has demonstrated his postseason mettle. As a rookie, Gonzales appeared as a reliever in three games for the Cardinals during the 2014 NLDS against the Dodgers and three more contests in the NLCS versus the Giants. The Gonzaga product pitched extremely well in his first five appearances. Unfortunately, San Francisco roughed him up for three runs in 0.2 innings during Game Four of the NLCS. Overall, Marco demonstrated a bulldog mentality as a freshman hurler with St. Louis.
The coaching staff doesn’t have much postseason experience either. Servais hasn’t coached in a playoff game. But he did play in Game Two of the 1998 NLDS with the Cubs. The La Crosse, Wisconsin native had two hits in three plate appearances during the North Siders’ 10-inning loss to Atlanta.
Infield guru Perry Hill was on Miami’s staff when the Marlins won the 2003 World Series. Third base coach Manny Acta filled the same role with the Mets when the team dropped the 2006 NLCS in heartbreaking manner to the Cardinals. Well, it was heartbreaking for Mets fans – trust me.
President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto hasn’t appeared in the postseason as a player. But Dipoto was a scout for the Red Sox in 2003-04 when the Sawx broke its infamous World Series curse. The Virginia Commonwealth University alum was also working in the Diamondbacks organization when it was swept by the Rockies in the 2007 NLCS. Later on, Dipoto was the GM of the Angels when they were swept 3-0 in the 2014 ALDS.
What does it all mean?
Does the relatively low amount of postseason experience on the Mariners really matter? Personally, I have doubts. Sure, it’d be nice to have more players who had “been there done that.” Then again, the 2014 Royals demonstrated experience isn’t everything by reaching the World Series with a relatively small portion of the roster possessing previous playoff time.
Among regular position players, only veteran second baseman Omar Infante had appeared in the postseason. That said, several role players had been to the playoffs before. Among them, three-time former Mariner Raúl Ibañez and Jayson Nix. A pair of contributors on the Royals’ pitching staff had previously toed the mound in postseason games. Starter James Shields was part of the Rays’ 2008 World Series run and then again with Tampa Bay in 2010-11 NLDS. Backend reliever Wade Davis was Shields’ teammate in 2010.
Dome and Bedlam
For a local example of a successful club with limited postseason experience, look no further than the 1995 Mariners. You know, the dead horse that continues to be repeatedly beaten over the airwaves. Very few key contributors had previously played meaningful games in October. They were infielder Joey Cora, outfielder Vince Coleman, starter Tim Belcher, and reliever Norm Charlton.
Cora and Charlton were central to Seattle’s magical win over the Yankees in the ALDS. But a group of unproven entities propelled the team past a New York club teeming with hired guns boasting postseason experience. By beating the Evil Empire from the Bronx, future Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., and Edgar Martinez, plus Jay Buhner forever cemented their legacy in the hearts and minds of Mariners fans.
In the end
Assuming the Mariners clinch a Wild Card berth next month, how the team performs in the postseason probably has little to do with previous October experience. What will really matter is whether Servais’ players continue to perform well. Since the postseason can be chaotic, they should feel right at home.
After all, Chaos Ball has been the Mariners’ calling card this season.
My Oh My…
Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up as a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he decided to make Seattle his home.
In 2014, Luke joined the Prospect Insider team. During baseball season, he can often be found observing the local team at T-Mobile Park.
You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins