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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.

July 19, 2011 at 1:02 AM

For Mariners, outfield and third base are prime culprits for their offensive ineptitude

ichiroslump.jpg

The latest parlor game sweeping the nation is to find new, exciting ways to measure the Mariners’ offensive futility. On our website, there’s this compilation of the dreadful numbers. Statistician/humorist Bill Chuck sent me a chart entitled “Seattle Shrinkage,” which chronicled the decrease in team batting average by month:

April/March .235

May .228

June .219

July .186

I decided to look at a different angle: Comparing the Mariners production at each position to the rest of the league at that position. That way, I figured, we could see where the Mariners are most lacking.

At the outset of the season, March 31 to be exact, I posted this blog entry in which I tried to figure out where any offensive improvement might come from. I predicted they would get better production at first base, shortstop, third base, catcher, DH and left field, while right field would be a wash.

First of all, let’s give a round of applause to the Mariners’ second basemen this year, primarily Adam Kennedy and Dustin Ackley. It is the only position, this year or last, in which the Mariners have out-performed the American League average in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), which I used as an all-purpose tool to measure offensive production. (I know it’s not perfect, but without getting into the exotic stats, I think it’s a pretty telling measurement of overall offense). M’s second basemen are putting up a .715 OPS, compared to the league average of .696. That’s a marked improvement from last year’s .643 OPS from Seattle second basemen, primarily Chone Figgins.

The rest of the news is not so good. The Mariners did, indeed, see some moderate improvement at first base, catcher, and designated hitter — compared to last year, at least, which isn’t saying much. But compared to the rest of the league, they are still under-performing, particularly at DH.

The most staggering offensive problem areas, however, are at third base (surprise, surprise), and at all three outfield positions. The Mariners rank dead last in the American League in OPS at all four of those positions, alarmingly below the league average, and well below even last year’s putrid showing.

For instance, last year we all thought, rightly so, that Jose Lopez was stinking up third base. M’s third basemen, led by Lopez, put up a .583 OPS, which ranked 13th among 14 teams.

But this year’s Mariner third basemen — primarily Figgins, who moved from second base to third — have been much worse. They rank 14th with a .459 OPS. They have a grand total of one homer from a position that traditionally produces power.

In left field, last year’s motley crew put up a .693 OPS, last in the league. This year, the M’s revolving cast of left fielders rank last again, and much worse at .586.

The Seattle center fielders in 2010 were 13th in the American League with a .664 OPS. This year, the M’s center fielders — mainly Franklin Gutierrez in both instances — are 14th in the AL with a .533 OPS, and project to nine homers and 36 RBIs, compared to 15 homers and 68 RBIs last year.

And finally, Ichiro’s decline makes for some ugly comparative numbers in right field. Last year, M’s right fielders (ie, Ichiro) ranked 11th with a .756 OPS. This year, Seattle right fielders (ie, Ichiro) rank dead last with a .622 OPS.

Mariners outfielders hit a total of 39 homers last year, which was pitiful. This year, they are on pace to produce 27 home runs, which is truly pathetic. Jose Bautista has 31 homers by himself, and it’s just July 19.

Yes, to be fair, offense is down throughout baseball. But it’s still not a pretty picture — as if you hadn’t already figured that out.

Here is a comparison of this year’s production so far by position — with batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS — compared to last year. The number in parentheses is their league ranking in OPS. I’ve also projected this year’s power numbers for a full season, and giving a glimpse of the league average and league leader in OPS at each position this year to provide some idea of how much the Mariners are lacking. I’ve also listed how far below league average they are at each position this year, and how far below league average they finished last year. The players listed are the primary inhabitants of the position, though others have had playing time).

First base

2011 (Justin Smoak): .242/.328/.427/.755 (9th)

24 homers, 85 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .786. AL OPS leader: .998 (Detroit). Mariners: .031 below league average.

2010: (Casey Kotchman, Justin Smoak): .227/.293/.357/.651 (13th)

17 homers, 75 RBIs

AL OPS average: .786. Mariners: .135 below league average.

Second base

2011 (Adam Kennedy, Dustin Ackley): .266/.315/.399/.715 (6th)

12 homers, 55 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .696. AL OPS leader: .869 (Boston). Mariners: .019 above league average.

2010 (Chone Figgins): .259/.339/.304/.643 (13th)

1 homer, 35 RBIs

AL OPS average: .717. Mariners: .074 below league average.

Shortstop

2011 (Brendan Ryan): .240/.302/.293/.595 (13th)

0 HR, 49 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .703. AL OPS leader: .823 (Cleveland). Mariners: .108 below league average.

2010 (Jack Wilson, Josh Wilson): .230/.276/.294/.570 (13th)

2 HRs, 37 RBIs

AL OPS average: .666. Mariners: .096 below average.

Third base

2011 (Chone Figgins, Kyle Seager): .173/.232/.227/.459 (14th)

2 HRs, 39 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .682. AL OPS leader: .883 (Boston). Mariners: .223 below league average.

2010 (Jose Lopez): .226/.259/.324/.583 (13th)

10 HRs, 57 RBIs

AL OPS average: .729. Mariners: .146 below league average.

Catcher

2011 (Miguel Olivo, Chris Gimenez, Josh Bard): .206/.251/.351/.602 (13th)

20 HRs, 73 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .682. AL OPS leader: .780 (Detroit). Mariners: .08 below league average.

2010 (Rob Johnson, Adam Moore, Josh Bard): .201/.263/.303/.566 (14th)

10 HRs, 42 RBIs

AL OPS average: .684. Mariners: .118 below league average.

Designated hitter

2011 (Jack Cust, Adam Kennedy): .210/.331/.303/.635 (14th)

7 HRs, 53 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .747. AL OPS leader: .941 (Boston). Mariners: .112 below league average.

2010 (Ken Griffey Jr./Mike Sweeney/Russ Branyan): .194/.269/.340/.609 (14th)

21 HRs, 60 RBIs

AL OPS average: .757. Mariners: .148 below league average

Left field

2011 (Milton Bradley, Michael Saunders, Carlos Peguero, Greg Halman, Mike Carp): .199/.257/.328/.586 (14th)

15 HRs, 56 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .681. AL OPS leader: .844 (Kansas City). Mariners: .095 below league average.

2010 (Milton Bradley, Michael Saunders): .218/.318/.375/.693 (14th)

18 HRs, 61 RBIs

AL OPS average: .766. Mariners: .073 below average.

Center field

2011 (Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders, Ryan Langerhans): .197/.257/276/.533 (14th)

9 HRs, 36 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .729. AL OPS leader: .949 (New York). Mariners: .196 below league average.

2010 (Franklin Gutierrez): .242/.298/.365/.664 (13th)

15 HRs, 68 RBIs

AL OPS average: .726. Mariners: .062 below league average

Right field

2011 (Ichiro): .255/.303/.320/.622 (14th)

3 HRs, 44 RBIs*

AL OPS average: .766. AL OPS leader: .997 (Toronto). Mariners: .144 below league average.

2010 (Ichiro): .314/.363/.394/.756 (11th)

6 HR, 43 RBIs

AL OPS average: .790. Mariners: .034 below league average.

*projected totals

(Photo by Associated Press)

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