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

April 16, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Mariners offense is still down…but they’re not alone (plus minor-league reports)

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(Justin Smoak rounds the bases after his home run on Sunday. Photo by Associated Press)

Here is the Mariners minor-league report for today, for Sunday and for Saturday. In case you’re wondering why Taijuan Walker skipped his start, it’s apparently because he developed a stiff neck.

So far, the Mariners’ offensive numbers through 11 games look depressingly familiar — a .232 batting average, .267 on-base percentage and .356 slugging percentage for an OPS of .620. That compares to last year’s .233/.292/.348 at season’s end for a .640 OPS, and 2010’s .236/.298/.339 (.637).

They are scoring runs at a clip of 3.6 per game, compared to 3.4 last year, and 3.2 in 2010, so there’s that. They’ve walked just 18 times in 371 at-bats (Eric Wedge’s emphasis on aggressiveness at the plate come home to roost?), and hit only seven homers. Kyle Seager leads the Mariners with his .763 OPS, and that ranks just 84th among major-league players. Miguel Olivo’s .274 OPS ranks 191st — out of 193 qualified players (ahead of only Ryan Raburn’s .241 and Marlon Byrd’s .212).

It’s just 11 games, and offensive numbers always go up as the weather heats up. But as Wedge continues to talk about all the signs he’s seeing of a drastically improved offense, it’s not manifesting itself yet on the field.

But the early trend around baseball is that offense is down everywhere compared to last year — when scoring dipped to a two-decade low.

The folks at High Heat Stats recently did this study, comparing early-season offense last year to early-season offense this year, and you can see that’s it is plummeting again. Through the first 172 games played this season compared to last year’s first 172 games, scoring is down 11 percent, batting average is down 7 percent, home runs are down 3 percent, and strikeouts are up 8 percent. So signs are already pointing to a continuation of the offensive decline that has been seen ever since MLB began tightening up on performance-enhancing drugs.

Again, it’s early, and the bats are going to pick up around baseball. Whether they will pick up in Seattle — as Wedge keeps insisting is going to happen — is the burning question of 2012.

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