mariners

Does Brendan Ryan fit into Seattle’s long-term plans?

Is the glove enough?

With the recent callup of top prospect Nick Franklin there’s some questions surrounding the long-term outlook of the Seattle’s infield. Specifically the future role of shortstop Brendan Ryan.

The M’s were lucky that the struggles of second baseman Dustin Ackley gave them an avenue in which to bring up Franklin without having to do something about Ryan.

But if Ackley turns things around, or Brad Miller—another top prospect who plays at short—continues on his path to the Majors, the Mariner’s are going to find themselves in a sticky situation.

Logistics

No matter how you write it up at some point Seattle’s going to have to decide what to do with Ryan. And I’m here to tell you keeping the shortstop on the team is the right move.

Keeping Ryan at short can be done. As Franklin fills out his body will become more suitable for a position like second, and Kyle Seager has a lock on third.

This makes either Ackley or Miller the odd-man-out, which isn’t a bad thing. Either player can be groomed to play in Seattle’s anemic outfield. And if the M’s stick with Ackley, Miller then becomes a valuable trade chip at baseball’s thinnest position.

Now that we’ve established keeping Ryan around doesn’t put any kinks into Seattle’s future plans, we have to tackle the difficult question of why he deserves to stay.

Offense

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Brendan Ryan is a light-hitting shortstop. His career slash line is an unsavory .241/.303/.324 and it’s gotten progressively worse with the Mariners. He’s currently hitting just .204 with a .543 OPS in 2013.

With that said Ryan provides the best outs in baseball: valuable ones.

Brendan Ryan Mariners

There’s a reason Brendan Ryan is still on this team (Photo: CBS Sports)

His high strikeout rate is actually a boon, because it limits the chances of double plays—he’s averages 5.7 grounded into double plays a year. And since joining Seattle in 2011, Ryan leads the team in sacrifice flys (12) and sac-hits (20).

In that same time frame he’s third on the team in walks with 88.

So yes, Brendan Ryan does have a weak bat, but he limits the detrimental damage he does to the lineup. With that out of the way we get to the real saving grace behind Ryan: his glove.

Defense

While Brendan Ryan has never won a golden glove award—a true travesty—he’s arguably one of baseball’s best defenders today.

Since joining the M’s, Ryan has led the team with a total UZR of 26.8. That mark is only 1.6 points less than the combined total of the second, third and fourth place defenders.

He’s been responsible for 50 defensive runs saved, more than double that of second-place Dustin Ackley.

Let’s expand this to the Major Leagues. Since becoming an everyday player in 2009, Ryan has led the MLB in defensive runs scored with a total of 94. That’s 30 more than second-place Evan Longoria. In that same time he’s totaled a 47.3 UZR, good for fourth-place.

If advanced metrics aren’t your thing, just know he owns a .980 fielding percentage at shortstop.

Conclusion

Translating these stats to wins, Ryan has a total WAR of 4.4 in his time with Seattle. That’s second on the team in that time frame, behind only Kyle Seager‘s 6.0.

Since this is a lot of information to process, here’s a summary:

Brendan Ryan is not a great hitter, but he is effective. He finds ways to get on base, while creating valuable outs. And once you combine that with his stellar defense you get one of Seattle’s—a team that thrives on defense and pitching—most valuable players.

Which is why, at just 31 years old, Ryan deserves to be in the team’s future plans.

Advanced metrics derived from FanGraphs

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