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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.

September 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Mariners offense barely improved in 2011

(Here are the results of our poll to choose readers’ favorite baseball movies).

The final numbers are in, and they’re not pretty.

The Mariners, en route to a 67-95 record — just a six-game rise from 2010’s disaster — were nearly as inept at the plate this year as they were in 2010, when they scored fewer runs (513) than any major-league team since the designated hitter was instituted in 1973 (and that includes National League teams).

It was glaringly evident heading into this season that any Mariners improvement in 2011 would be predicated upon bolstering their offensive attack. But the players they added in the offseason, and the rookies they integrated during the season, barely accomplished that. And not to nearly enough of an extent to make an appreciable difference.

This year, they scored 556 runs. That’s an improvement of 43 runs — a whopping .27 per game — but still the lowest total in the majors. Even the Giants, who had fallen below the Mariners in August and through much of September, rallied to surpass them with 570 runs as Seattle closed the season with 20 straight scoreless innings.

It’s still one of the worst scoring seasons of the past 28 years. Here is a complete list of all the seasons in which teams scored fewer runs than the 2011 Mariners since 1973, the first year of the DH (excluding strike-shortened seasons):

2010 Mariners, 513

1992 Dodgers, 548

1989 Dodgers, 554

1988 Braves, 555* (*160 games)

1988 Orioles, 550* (*161 games)

1982 Reds, 545

1978 A’s, 532

1976 Angels, 550

1976 Expos, 531

1975 Padres, 552

1974 Padres, 541

1973 Padres, 548

It’s a motley collection of 12 really bad teams, a characterization that fits the 2011 Mariners. That doesn’t mean they can’t be much better in 2012, but Jack Zduriencik has the same offseason mission as he did a year ago: Beef up the offense. Bringing in retreads like Jack Cust and Milton Bradley and crossing their fingers isn’t going to get it done, either. There’s certainly a possibility that some of the young players who were up and down this year will blossom in 2012. But it seems obvious to me that Zduriencik needs to target at least one “sure thing” for the middle of the Mariners order, either via trade or free agency. That could be Prince Fielder, it could be someone else, but the presence of an established slugger would take pressure off guys like Justin Smoak and Mike Carp to carry the offense.

If you want to see how far the Mariners’ offense has to go, here is a comparison of the 2011 and 2010 ballclubs in several key statistics, and their rank in MLB:

Runs

2010: 513 (30th)

2011: 556 (30th)

Batting average

2010: .236 (30th)

2011: .233 (30th)

On-base percentage

2010: .298 (30th)

2011: .292 (30th)

Slugging percentage

2010: .339 (30th)

2011: .348 (30th)

OPS

2010: .637 (30th)

2011: .640 (30th)

Home runs

2010: 101 (30th)

2011: 109 (25th)

Strikeouts

2010: 1,184 (11th)

2011: 1,280 (4th)

Walks

2010: 459 (30th)

2011: 435 (28th)

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