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Hot Stone League

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

April 25, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Mariners aren’t only team struggling to hit

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(Adam Kennedy trots around the bases after a homer on Thursday. Scoring has been all too infreqent for the Mariners again this season. Photo by Associated Press).

This is shaping up to be another miserable Mariners’ offense, one that is simply painful to watch on a day-to-day basis. The lone area of improvement has been in patience at the plate: the Mariners are tied with the Red Sox for the major-league lead with 92 walks.

But when the Mariners are not walking, they’re just awful: The M’s rank 26th (out of 30 MLB teams) in runs, 28th in home runs, 29th in batting average, 22nd in on-base percentage (even with all the walks), 29th in slugging and 29th in OPS. They can thank the Padres from keeping them out of the basement in many categories. And they can’t hit in the clutch, ranking dead last (even below San Diego) with their .188 average with runners in scoring position.

Turns out that sluggish offense is epidemic this year — not to the depths of the Mariners and Padres, but definitely to the extent of being a trend. According to STATS LLC, the average runs per game of 4.32 is the lowest since 1992. David Schoenfeld of ESPN points out that the American League average of .248 is the lowest since a .239 mark in 1972 — the last season before the designated hitter rule.

Eight teams are hitting .240 or below. Ten teams have OPS’s (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) under .700. Just as a point of comparison, in 2001 — the year Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs — the average OPS for the majors was .758. This year, just four teams are above .758.

It’s remarkable to look at some of the individuals who are struggling. Here is a just a partial list (taking out the Mariners, who would clog up the list):

Brett Gardner, Yankees .140 average/.197 on-base percentage/.263 slugging

Jorge Posada, Yankees: .153/.254/.458

Alex Rios, White Sox: .160/.253/.210

Travis Snider, Blue Jays: .167/.191/.211

Vernon Wells, Angels: .169/.213/.258

Carl Crawford, Red Sox: .171/.218/.244

Mark Reynolds, Orioles: .179/.263/.343

Dan Uggla, Braves: .182/.234/.398

Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: .182/.299.242

Carlos Pena, Cubs: .182/.313/.200

Raul Ibanez, Phillies: .187/.265/253

Austin Jackson, Tigers: .193/.264/.284

Carlos Santana, Indians: .200/.329/.314

Jayson Werth, Nationals: .200/.286/.373

Torii Hunter, Angels: .200/.255/.333

Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: .207/.264/.305

And so on. Of course, many of these players will heat up as weather does, and by the end of the year, the numbers will be respectable. But the decline of offense is an undeniable trend since steroids testing was instituted in 2004. It has led to a different style of baseball — one that Mariners manager Eric Wedge likes.

“I think the game is changing,” Wedge said before Sunday’s game. “We’ve started to see that the last couple of years. It’s going to be more of a throwback game. I’ve said that before. The team that makes that one play or gets that one hit to finish off an inning a lot of times is going to be the team that wins that game. The days of playing sloppy baseball and knowing that you might be okay because you are going to hit three home runs in the last three innings are gone.

“It’s a purer brand of baseball and I like that. Because the teams that are more prepared and able to make the plays and step up offensively late in the innings, those are the teams that are going to win games. That’s the type of team I want us to be. That’s they type of team we will be … in time.”

Right now, however, the Mariners are a team that not only isn’t scoring enough runs, they’re not making the plays to win games, either.

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