(John Jaso provided a rare moment of Safeco power yesterday with his solo homer in a 2-1 Mariners’ loss).
The good news is that the Mariners have played just 33 games at home so far out of the 81 scheduled. That means that 59 percent of the home schedule, 48 games, remains for the Mariners to figure out how to hit — just a little — at Safeco Field.
The bad news is that right now, on June 28, they have played 41 percent of their home schedule, and the Mariners are shaping up as the worst-hitting team at home, by batting average, in the last 93 years. And it might be longer — that’s as far back as I can find a record of home-road splits.
I went to Baseballreference.com, started in 2011, and began working backward to find a team that posted a lower home average than the Mariners’ current .202 mark at Safeco Field. I figured that, at worst, I’d have to go back to the 1960s, pre-designated hitter, pre-lowered mounds, to the days when Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA and Carl Yastrzemski won a batting title with a .301 average.
Not so fast. No team in that era was below .202. I kept going, and going, and going back in time. The league kept getting smaller, from 30 teams to 26 to 24 to 20 to 16, as expansion clubs fell off. Long-gone teams started showing up, like the St. Louis Browns, Brooklyn Dodgers and Washington Senators. The Braves went from Atlanta to Milwaukee to Boston, the Athletics from Oakland to Kansas City to Philadelphia.
And still no team that completed a full season with a home batting average as low as .202. Finally, after 1918, the website stopped offering home-road splits. I made a couple of phone calls, but couldn’t find any listings from previous years. But does it really matter? The point is made.
Here is a complete list of teams from 1919 through 2011 with a home batting average under .220 for a season:
2009 Padres: .219
1972 Rangers: .218
1968 Yankees: .210
1967 White Sox: .208
That’s it, folks. Four teams, with the 1967 White Sox currently holding the standard for poor hitting at home. Here’s a look at that team, if you’re interested. They happened to have a great pitching staff — including 24-year-old Tommy John, with his ulnar collateral ligament still intact — and won 89 games, losing out on the pennant in the final days to the Yaz-lead “Impossible Dream” Red Sox.
I also looked year by year at home OPS, because what else did I have to do on a beautiful, sunny Thursday? The Mariners currently sit at .581 at Safeco. In those same 93 years, I did find one — and only one — team with a worse OPS mark at home: those wacky 1967 White Sox, at .571. Here’s a look at every team since 1918 that has finished with a home OPS under .600:
1972 Padres: .586
1968 Yankees: .586
1967 White Sox: .571
1964 Astros: .584
1963 Astros: .582
It’s a crazy thing. The Mariners have actually become a fairly prolific offense on the road, ranking eighth in the majors with a .730 OPS — ahead of teams like the Angels, Braves, Phillies, White Sox, Rays and Blue Jays. But at home, where MLB rules require them to play half their games, they are headed for epic failure with the bat, unless things change.