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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.

June 1, 2011 at 7:21 AM

Taking stock of the Mariners statistically at the one-third mark

smoakcust.jpg

(Justin Smoak is greeted by Jack Cust and Ichiro after his game-winning home run on Tuesday night. Smoak is on pace for a solid power season. Photo by Associated Press).

NOTE: I have amended the Mariners run projection, but I’m going to pass the blame. As you can see here, the ESPN stats, which I used for my projections, have the Mariners scoring 241 runs, which projects to 723 runs, which got me all worked up. Turns out the Mariners have actually scored 193 runs, which projects to 579 runs, which isn’t nearly as provocative. In fact, now that I look at it more closely, all of ESPN’s team stats are off, so I’ll update accordingly. Thanks to SRP for setting me straight).

We’ve reached one of the signposts of the season — the 54-game mark, which is exactly one-third of the way through a 162-game season. And that means we get to play one of America’s favorite parlor games: Multiply The Current Stats by Three To Get A Full-Season Projection.

OK, so the title needs a little work.

Seasons ebb and flow, of course, so these numbers aren’t necessarily indicative of final results. But it’s still fun, and convenient, to do some projections.

Individually, it doesn’t look good for the Mariners on offense . Ichiro, with 61 hits, is on pace for 183, which would be the first time in his 11-year career he didn’t reach 200. And, of course, his .272 average would be his first time under .300. But he’s in line to score 84 runs, 10 more than last year, and drive in 54, his most since he had 68 RBIs in 2007. Ichiro is on his way to 42 steals, the exact same total he had last year.

Justin Smoak projects to 24 homers and 93 RBIs, with 36 doubles — good, solid numbers for an emerging young hitter. But after that, the only players projected to reach double figures in homers are Adam Kennedy and Miguel Olivo — with 12. And only three players, besides Ichiro, project to have more than 50 RBIs, and not by much: Olivo (57), Brendan Ryan (51), and Jack Cust (51).

Cust, the designated hitter, is one-third of the way to a three-homer, 51-RBI season, with 168 strikeouts and 93 walks (both teams highs). Tied for third (with Smoak) on the team in strikeouts (behind Olivo’s (144) would be Michael Saunders with 135 — in just 402 at-bats (with six homers and 21 RBIs).

Chone Figgins, of course, is down across the board, with a .190 batting average. But what stuck out to me was his projection for just 33 walks — this from the guy who led the American League with 101 walks in 2009, his last with the Angels. Figgins had 74 walks last year with Seattle.

Offensively as a team, the percentage stats are even worse, for the most part, than last year: A .231 batting average, compared to .236 in 2010; a .303 on-base percentage, compared to .298; a .332 slugging percentage, compared to .339; and a .635 OPS, compared to .637.

Yet the Mariners are still on pace to score 579 runs — 66 more than last year’s 513. That still ranks 13 out of 14 American League teams, and 27th out of 30 major-league teams, but at least it’s not historically awful, like last year’s run total.

They’re projected for 255 doubles (compared to 227 last year), 15 triples (compared to 16) and 87 homers (compared to 101). They’re also projected for 542 walks, compared to 459 last year. They don’t seem to be better at clutch hitting. Last year’s OPS with runners in scoring position was .644; so far this year, it’s .611. And with runners on base, they finished at .666 last year, and are at .638 this year. What the stats don’t show is an improvement in so-called situational hitting, but I’ve got to think they’re doing a much better job of moving runners along and getting them in without a hit. Certainly, the win over the Yankees in which all four runs scored on ground outs is indicative of that.

The pitching, not surprisingly, shapes up well. Felix Hernandez projects to a 15-12 record in 36 starts with a 3.19 ERA, 254 innings pitched, 201 hits allowed, 243 strikeouts and 78 walks. Last year, in his Cy Young season, he was 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA in 249 2/3 innings pitched, with 194 hits allowed, 232 strikeouts, and 70 walks.

Doug Fister projects to 9-15, 3.24 in 33 starts, with 217 innings pitched, 228 hits, 150 strikeouts and 48 walks.

Michael Pineda: 18-6, 2.42 in 30 starts, 190 innings, 132 hits, 198 strikeouts, 57 walks.

Jason Vargas: 9-9, 4.50 in 33 starts, 198 innings, 204 hits, 132 strikeouts, 66 walks.

Erik Bedard: 9-12, 3.41 in 30 starts, 174 innings, 159 hits, 156 strikeouts, 60 walks.

Brandon League would have 45 saves, tying Kazuhiro Sasaki’s 2001 club record. And David Pauley’s 0.84 ERA is ahead of J.J. Putz’s record for lowest ERA by a reliever (1.38 in 2007).

The Mariners’ team ERA of 3.35 compares very favorably to last year’s 3.93. That breaks down to 3.36 as starters, 3.47 as relievers. Last year, the breakdown was 3.83 as starters, 4.23 as relievers.

For the Mariners, the best projection of all is this: Their 28-26 record projects to 84-78 for the season, an improvement of 23 games.

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