Someone in the Mariners clubhouse noticed a peculiar statistic posted Thursday at FanGraphs.com and quickly pointed it out to manager Scott Servais.
The figure in question was a defensive statistic, and the player it questioned was Seattle’s rookie first baseman, Evan White.
For anyone who watched the Mariners’ first six games of the season and gave even casual notice to White’s glovework might assume he was given a high evaluation for his defense. It wouldn’t have been far-fetched to think he might grade out as something close to perfect, even.
Except, Servais and the Seattle coaching staff had a chuckle when they saw FanGraphs’ formula had given White a negative grade through the first six games of the rookie’s major-league career. Which, yes, is a bit amusing.
“You might want to take a look at what they’re using as defensive metrics,” Servais said via video teleconference with reporters, “because I can’t imagine anybody’s had a bigger impact for their team defensively in the infield than Evan White’s had for our team.”
This isn’t intended as a knock on advanced statistics. And it should be noted that six games is an extremely small sample size, and even the most hardcore statheads would probably acknowledge that defensive formulas this early in the season mean very little.
That said, the FanGraphs formula is notable because it might be the first time anyone, or anything, has ever given White’s defense a negative mark. The site’s defensive runs value gave White a minus-0.4 grade, which ranked him 23rd among all MLB first baseman.
White has been lauded for his defense ever since the Mariners took him in the first round of the 2017 draft, and there were reasonable expectations coming into this season that he could blossom into the best defensive first baseman in the game.
He has already turned in several outstanding web gems, including a diving stop to his right in the Mariners’ victory over the Angels on Wednesday night.
“Obviously, he’s a great athlete, and you see it right away play out, seeing the things he can do,” Servais said. “All the great ones make it look easy. … Through the years at least since I’ve been here, we haven’t had anybody like that at first base, and I just think that comfort level it gives to the rest of the infielders is huge.”
White is expected to be a cornerstone of the Mariners’ lineup for the next decade, after signing a six-year, $24-million contract extension last winter, with three club options. He’s the first player in MLB history to get such an extension despite never playing above Class AA.
He had a rare day off Thursday night in Anaheim, with another rookie, Jose Marmolejos, getting his first start at first base. Marmolejos hit his first major-league home run, a three-run blast, in the first inning Thursday to give the Mariners an early lead against the Angels’ Dylan Bundy.
Servais promised to use Evans as a defensive replacement late in the game if the Mariners were in position to protect a lead.
Major changes to M’s scouting staff; Allison dismissed
In a sudden overhaul of their scouting department, the Mariners have let go their vice president of scouting, Tom Allison.
Allison has been with the Mariners since 2012, when he was hired as the club’s director of pro scouting. When Jerry Dipoto was hired as general manager in 2015, he promoted Allison to oversee all of the Mariners’ scouting departments — pro, amateur and international.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported Allison’s departure Thursday night. Multiple MLB sources confirmed the news to The Times.
Longtime pro scout Greg Hunter, top crosschecker Jason Karegeannes, and Northwest scout Alex Ross have also been informed they will be let go, The Times has learned.
Nola expected back this weekend
Catcher Austin Nola (knee) is expected to return to the lineup this weekend when return to Seattle for their home-opening series against Oakland. Servais is hopeful Nola can start on Saturday.
Nola injured his knee on a slide into second base Monday in Houston. An MRI revealed no structural damage.
The Mariners were already without starting catcher Tom Murphy, who was placed on the injured list with a hairline fracture in his left foot.
Times reporter Ryan Divish contributed to this report. Editor’s note: The Times declined to send reporter Adam Jude to Anaheim for this game because of COVID-19 safety concerns.