It was not hard for Scott Servais to find the word that best summed up the Mariners’ 2017 season, which came to an end Sunday in Anaheim.
“Bittersweet,” he said. “Expectations coming into the season were very high, as they should have been. We liked our club. We never really had that full club together. That happens. Some clubs can overcome it, we weren’t able to. It is an opportunity to reflect of where we are headed going forward as an organization.”
The losses to the pitching staff were well documented. The Mariners used a record 40 pitchers – or to be more precise, they used 38 pitchers, a utility player and backup catcher on the mound – to get through 162 games. There were times during the season where only one of the projected five starters was healthy and pitching. It is incredibly tough to put wins up consistently with so much uncertainty in the rotation, but Servais will not let that mask other flaws he saw with his team. He believes they can do better offensively.
“We probably haven’t controlled the zone this year as well as we have in the past. We’ve got to get back to that,” he said. “Getting back to our core and what we really, truly believe is going to be huge for us going forward, and that’s what winning teams do.”
Had the pitching been stable, “C the Z” and fundamentals most likely would have received more attention. Managing the pitching and keeping the team on track as it sustained injury hit after injury hit from start to finish became the priority. The mistakes, however, did not go unnoticed.
“The errors are another issue, the base running,” said Servais. “I’ve spent a ton of time just thinking about how do you address these things as the season goes on. You do get on it in spring training, but it’s got to carry out throughout the season, and how do you address it? That is being creative.
“I don’t think I am going to have any push back from our players,” he continued. “Once you look at the raw data, the numbers. These are the outs we made on the bases, this is the number of times we lined into double plays on the left side of the infield. That should never happen. We had it happen multiple times this year.”
Work was certainly put in on these issues, but it clearly wasn’t always effective. Servais will look for other ways to get the messages through and onto the field in the games that count.
“How do you practice it? That’s what I get paid to do. Figure it out,” he said. “We will do creative things to get better at this. I’m not afraid to try anything. I will try different things, think outside the box to connect with our players and get them to see the value of it, the importance. And teaching, that’s what we are going to do. whether you have got 12 years in the league, one year, eight years – everyone has got to do it.”
Despite the adversity and ultimately the disappointment of the 2017 season, Servais saw something with his team that cannot be measured but is vital to any success in the future.
“I am proud of our group,” he said. “We continued to compete and battle and fight. That says a lot about our group. I think our group has come together, our team has got a lot closer. Typically that happens through winning. Chemistry is great when you are winning.”
Changes to the roster will be made in the offseason, although we shouldn’t see as many changes as we have the past two years. While the emphasis has been on coming together as a team and creating a good team environment the past two springs, perhaps that will be more of a given in 2018 because of the work that has been put in. It is now time to raise the bar, and it will be interesting to see how Servais does that.