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Admit it — you rolled your eyes when Eric Wedge kept saying, early in the season, that the Mariners’ offense was on the verge of breaking out, that he was seeing positive signs, and it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” Because he said this when the Mariners were struggling to score, just like they have the past four seasons — to an historic extent in 2010, and nearly as badly last year. It was easy to right off as just more bluster with nothing to back it up but wishful thinking.
But just look now: Bolstered by their recent offensive surge, the Mariners rank 12th in the major leagues in runs scored. That’s a bit deceptive, because they’ve played more games, 59, than any team except the Phillies — as many as four more games than a couple of teams. But if you adjust for that by looking at runs per game, the Mariners still rank 15th in the majors at 4.25. Granted, they’re still 28th in on-base percentage (.297), 25th in slugging (.380) and 27th in OPS (.677). But in the most fundamental duty of an offense — scoring runs — they’re right smack in the middle of the pack. For a team that has ranked dead last, by a large margin, the last two years, that’s a major accomplishment.
And even better is that they’re trending in the right direction. The Mariners scored 90 runs in 22 games in April (4.1 per game). They scored 124 in 29 games in May (4.28). And they’ve scored 33 in six games in June (5.5). That would give credence to Wedge’s sense that the team was on the verge of an offensive breakout. As Geoff wrote about today, the Mariners have struggled mightily with their offense at home. In 22 games at Safeco Field, they have scored just 73 runs — 3.32 per game. On the road, they’ve plated 178 in 37 games — 4.8. That’s a stark and troubling difference — more than a run and a half per game fewer at home. Obviously, for this current offensive surge to have legs, the Mariners will have to figure out a way to translate their new-found scoring prowess to their home ballpark.
But this is not an insignificant sample size to draw upon. The Mariners have played more than one-third of the season, and they’re now on pace to score 689 runs. That would be 133 more runs than last year, and a whopping 176 runs more than 2010 — an improvement in two years of more than a run a game. It would be their most runs since scoring 794 in 2007 (a year in which they won 88 games, one of two winnings seasons since 2003 by Seattle).
An optimist would say that the improvement could become even greater, since teams traditionally heat up at the plate in the summer months. Furthermore, the argument could be made that the young Mariners hitters are having their epiphany, predicted by Wedge, and will only get better. Of course, it could all prove to be false hope — we’ve seen that before — and the Mariners could regress at the plate. If they remain flummoxed by Safeco Field, where they play the majority of their games the rest of the way, that will put a damper on the offensive rise. But right now all the signs are looking good. The American League average, as listed on Baseball Reference.com, is 251 runs per teams. The Mariners have scored precisely 251 runs (albeit in two more games than the average of 57). So the Mariners are very close to being a league-average offensive team – – and what a huge advancement that would be for a team perennially regarded as one of the dregs in baseball at scoring runs.
Here is a look at how the Mariners have ranked in runs scored in each full season at Safeco Field. Rub your eyes and look again at those numbers in the early 2000s:
2012: 689 runs, estimated (4.25 per game), 15th in MLB
2011: 556 runs (3.43 per game), 30th in MLB
2010: 513 runs (3.12), 30th
2009: 640 (3.95), 28th
2008: 671 (4.14), 26th
2007: 794 (4.90), 12th
2006: 756 (4.67), 21st
2005: 699 (4.31), 22nd
2004: 698 (4.31), 25th
2003: 795 (4.92), 11th
2002: 814 (5.02), 7th
2001: 927 (5.70), 1st
2000: 907 (5.60), 7th
Here is today’s poll from seattletimes.com: