The Seattle Mariners are one team that has come out of the gates playing above expectations so far and have continued to keep themselves relevant through the first month of the season. After experiencing a couple of impactful injuries during Spring Training, many people expected them to have the same injury fate that they have every season, but so far, that has not been the case.
Rather, the Mariners currently find themselves in third place in the AL West with a 17-12 record and are 1.5 games back from the reigning World Series Champion, Houston Astros, for first place in the division. To date, the Mariners have a +3 run differential and have a 6-4 record over their last 10 games. Certainly impressive numbers and a big reason why the team has been so successful is because of their deep lineup.
The Mariners lineup consists of great names like Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager, all of whom have the potential to give Seattle at least 25 home runs and 80 RBI this year, if they stay healthy. Then, there's Dee Gordon and Jean Segura at the top of the lineup, both of whom have been great table setters and provide plenty of speed on the base paths. Mixed within those names are other names like Ryon Healy, Mike Zunino, and one guy that doesn't get nearly enough love, Mitch Haniger.
Haniger, 27, was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in November 2016. The trade included shortstop, Jean Segura, and reliever, Zac Curtis, heading to Seattle in exchange of starting pitcher, Taijuan Walker, and shortstop, Ketel Marte. So far, that deal has worked out extremely well for both teams, but the Mariners have really benefitted from it especially from an offensive perspective.
To date, Haniger has a batting line of: .301/.383/.670 over 103 at bats with 31 hits, 69 extra-base hits, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 10 home runs, 27 RBI, 13 walks, and 28 strikeouts. In fact, Haniger finished the month of April second in home runs, only behind Didi Gregorious of the New York Yankees, and could have easily been the AL Player of the Month, but lost out to the aforementioned, Didi Gregorious, who also had himself one heck of a month.
When it comes to hitting, Haniger has similar stats between left and right-handed pitching, but does slightly better against left-handers. Over a sample size of 30 at bats, Haniger has a .333/.394/.633 batting line with 10 hits, 2 home runs, and 8 RBI. On the other hand, over a sample size of 73 at bats against right-handers, Haniger has a .288/.379/.685 batting line with 21 hits, 8 home runs, and 19 RBI. Much bigger sample size for right-handers, but nonetheless, it helps to illustrate potentially which pitchers Haniger has more success against.
Furthermore, here is a chart showcasing some other stats for Haniger to date, so far this season:
For Average Exit Velocity, Haniger's teammate, Nelson Cruz, has the highest velo in the big leagues currently at 97.9 MPH, while Haniger himself comes in 34th on the list.
In addition, Mitch Haniger is one of those hitters that has the ability to spread the ball all over the field as illustrated by his Batted Ball stats on FanGraphs. Currently, Haniger has a Pull% of 37.7%, Centerfield% of 40.3%, and an Opposite Field% of 22.1%. Furthermore, when Haniger does make contact with the baseball, it's going to be hard as indicated by his Hard Contact% of 42.9%, which blows his Soft Contact% of 15.6%, out of the water.
When you take that data and compare it to other right fielders for this season, Haniger comes in 4th in Hard Contact%, fifth in Centerfield%, and is middle of the pack in both Pull% and Opposite Field%. When you look at hitting as a whole, those hitters who have a high percentage of batted balls that leave the park or go out to centerfield, are very impressive. Not only does that demonstrate the hitters ability to hit for power, it also shows that they have a great swing through the zone. Haniger becomes even more valuable because he has the ability to cover the entire field when he swings, so opposing teams never quite know how to shift on him, because they aren't sure about where the ball is going to go.
Beyond all of that, Mitch Haniger is also very impressive in some other stat categories, to date, as well. When it comes to Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), Haniger is second among right fielders with a value of 180, behind only Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox. In addition, Haniger is second in Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) with a value of .434, which again puts him behind only Mookie Betts, and is fourth among right fielders with a Weighted Runs Above Average (wRAA) value of 11.5.
All of these things are impressive as is the fact that Mitch Haniger had such a great opening month to the 2018 season and the idea that he is still only 27 years old meaning that he is just starting to hit his peak. Now that Haniger is able to play on an everyday basis and has a terrific offensive core group of players around him, he should only get better with time and it would not be surprising to see him finish as one of the top hitters in all of baseball this year. In fact, you could even make the argument that he could be a fringe AL MVP candidate, if he is able to keep up this pace and beat out current favorites, Mike Trout and Didi Gregorious.
While there hasn't been much to like to date in the pitching department for the Seattle Mariners, you have to love the deep lineup that they possess and Mitch Haniger is a big reason why the Mariners have been so successful to this point.