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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 7, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Small-sample-size comparisons to last year after six games

The first thing to remember is that after just six games, we really don’t know anything. I’m not ready to conclude that the 0-5 Red Sox are a bad team, or the 4-2 Royals and Pirates are a good team. Nor that Nick Hundley (.500 average, 1.439 OPS) has become a great hitter, or Kevin Youkilis (.111 average, .527 OPS) and Shin Soo Choo (.087, .377) have become bad ones.

But some trends can start to emerge; with the Mariners, the early indications are that, as expected, they’re not exactly going to be an offensive juggernaut. They have scored two more runs than they did through six games last year, while their average and slugging percentage are slightly higher. Their on-base percentage, however, is a bit lower. Their .622 OPS compares to .610 at this stage last year — neither anything to brag about. The Mariners finished 30th in MLB with their .637 OPS, so the early struggles were a strong hint of the trouble to come.

Here is the offensive comparison to last year’s start:

Record

2010: 2-4

2011: 2-4

At-bats

2010: 197

2011: 202

Runs

2010: 19

2011: 21

Hits

2010: 44

2011: 47

Doubles

2010: 7

2011: 13

Triples

2010: 0

2011: 0

Home runs

2010: 3

2011: 2

RBIs

2010: 17

2011: 19

Average

2010: .223

2011: .233

OBP

2010: .305

2011: .295

Slugging

2010: .305

2011: .327

OPS

2010: .610

2011: .622

Individually, the biggest early upgrade has been from Milton Bradley, who last year got off to a horrible 1-for-21 start (.048) that was compounded by personal issues that eventually landed him on the restricted list. So far this year, Bradley has been probably the Mariners’ most productive hitter wtih a .333 average, .385 on-base percentage and .458 slugging percentage.

Jack Wilson has also jumped out better, at least at the plate, with a .333 average (6-for-18) compared to .250 last year (5-for-20). But that just shows how flighty early-season averages are: Wilson has one more hit in two fewer at-bats, and it accounts for an 83-point swing. I reiterate: Don’t read too much into any of this. It’s just an interesting exercise at this point.

Chone Figgins got off to a slow start last year (4-for-21, .190), and he’s off to an even slower start this year (3-for-25, .120). Ichiro was hitting .292 (7-for-24) after six games last year, and now he’s hitting .261 (6-for-23): One fewer hit in one fewer at-bat.

Interestingly, the Mariners in their sixth game last year came up with what seemed to be a rousing victory, scoring three runs in the ninth to edge Texas 4-3. But that may have been a costly win; it was the game in which manager Don Wakamatsu pinch-hit Ken Griffey Jr. for Chone Figgins in the ninth inning. Griffey got a game-tying single, but Figgins reportedly was not happy to be hit for that early in the season, and his relationship with Wakamatsu may have been irretrievably damaged.

Pitching wise, the M’s are doing a little better than did last year, with a 3.78 ERA compared to 4.15. Here, again, are the comparisons:

Innings

2010: 52

2011: 50

Runs

2010: 26

2011: 27

Earned runs

2010: 24

2011: 21

Walks

2010: 21

2011: 12

Strikeouts

2010: 36

2011: 31

Opponents average

2010: .288

2011: .233

ERA

2010: 4.15

2011: 3.78

Saves

2010: 2

2011: 1

Blown saves

2010: 2

2011: 1

Complete games

2010: 0

2011: 1

Home runs

2010: 4

2011: 3

Now let’s let the season play out, and eventually those comparisons will become more meaningful.

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