When it comes to the Mariners’ increased emphasis this season on base running, flash and substance are neither synonymous nor mutually exclusive.
Start with the flash.
The Mariners bolstered their base-stealing capability last winter through trades that added outfielder Jarrod Dyson and shortstop Jean Segura. Those two averaged a combined 62 stolen bases over the last four years.
They join outfielder Leonys Martin, who led the Mariners last year with 24 steals and who has averaged 26 thefts over the last four years.
So it no surprise to hear Dyson boast: "We’re looking forward to doing a lot of damage. We’ve got a good chance of stealing close to 100 bases, for sure, out of us three. I mean, I’m looking forward to it."
That’s not just flash. That’s substance, too. The three have a combined 75.8-percent success rate over the last four years. Dyson brings an 84.6-percent rate to the top of the lineup.
"I think it’ll be a little easier for the guys who drive in runs," Martin said. "We’ve got more guys who can get on base and be aggressive on base. That will create rallies for the people who drive in runs.
"Now, the guy on the mound has to worry about Segura and worry about Dyson and me."
Dig deeper for the Mariners’ search for substance beyond the flash. Improvement is a priority after ranking 26th among the 30 clubs last season in Fangraphs.com’s base-running stat (BsR) at minus-12.5 runs below average.
"It’s not just the fast guys who can be good baserunners," manager Scott Servais said. "There are other guys who can be very efficient on the bases without being super fast.
"That starts with your lead, your secondary (lead), your turns and how efficient you are."
Better performance from the lineup’s potent core of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager is a far greater spring emphasis than a possible triple-digit achievement by Dyson, Segura and Martin.
Cano, Seager and Cruz each finished last season with negative BsR scores and, as Servais wryly observed: "Those guys are on base a lot."
Servais added, "We’re not looking for those guys to steal bases. But can they get another foot or foot-and-a-half on their primary lead? Can they be in better position on their secondary lead so they can score from first on a double?
"Those are the little things we’re looking for. When you look at the big picture of the game, you don’t really notice it. But we do. When you break it down, the value of an extra foot — those are the things that make a difference."
And here, the Mariners’ increased emphasis on analytics provides a boost.
"Our guys upstairs," Servais said, "have grouped players together in the sense they can track everybody’s actual speed in running the bases. Then they group those players together.
"So Kyle Seager is grouped with a certain type of player. Some of them are catchers. But that being said, here are the guys in your group, these 10 players, here’s their primary lead and here’s their secondary lead.
"Kyle is better than anybody else in his group. He’s really good at this."
The payoff isn’t typically apparent to the eye-test. This isn’t Dyson jogging around the bases on a double to score easily from first. "It’s one of those things that doesn’t show up in the boxscore," Servais agreed. "It’s really hard for the average fan to break down. But we played 60 one-run games last year, and we were 30-30.
"I have to believe our base-running maybe affected one or two of those games, which could have been the difference when you get to game 161 and 162. Little things really show up."
The Mariners were eliminated from postseason contention last year in an extra-inning loss in their next-to-last game…game 161.
That the extra flash this year will help is hard to dispute. That’s part of why the Mariners acquired Dyson and Segura. The three-man race for a combined 100 steals is a reasonable goal and could prove decisive in a postseason push.
"It’s going to be another weapon," Segura said. "We have a lot of power hitters in Nellie, Robby and Seager. I think it’s going to be good to see guys like me and Dyson steal some bases.
"We can play a smaller game when the big boys aren’t hitting home runs. It’s a different way to win some ballgames."
That’s the point. Sometimes, those big boys need to run the bases, too.
A year ago, outfielder Boog Powell appeared poised to work his way into a role as part of the Mariners’ future. Club officials officials pointed to his speed, defense and on-base skills as reasons they acquired him in a trade from Tampa Bay.
Powell then started the season at Triple-A Tacoma but received an 80-game suspension on June 23 after testing positive for a banned substance. That suspension carries into this season.
And while Powell, 24, is in camp and eligible to play in spring games — he started Wednesday in left field against the Indians — his future status is far more suspect.
"Over the course of the year, things change," Servais said. "We’ve got more guys who are capable of doing the type of things that he can do. He’s a little bit behind the eight-ball, so to speak.
"He’ll get a chance to play in camp. We still certainly like the player and what he brings, but we’ve got other guys who have that skill set now. There’s much bigger competition for him to earn the playing time."
Right-handed reliever Tony Zych reported no day-after problems after testing his shoulder Tuesday for the first time this spring by throwing from a bullpen mound.
Zych threw 20 pitches at about "85 percent" and is tentatively scheduled to throw again on Friday. He underwent surgery in October for a biceps tendon transfer.
WHEN IT ALL STARTED
It was 40 years ago Wednesday — March 1, 1977 — that the Mariners opened their first spring camp when 42 players reported to Tempe, Ariz.
The Mariners trained in Tempe from 1977 to 1992 before moving in 1993 to the Peoria Sports Complex.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners