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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.

October 3, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Replacing Edgar Martinez at DH has been exercise in futility for Mariners

edgarpitch.jpg

(Seattle Times photo)

Another year, another woeful season of designated hitting by the Mariners.

With one game to go (as I write this), M’s DHs have pretty much swept away the field. They rank last in the American League in runs (49), homers (11), RBIs (58), average (.214), on-base percentage (.286), slugging percentage (.309) and OPS (.595).

Of course, they haven’t hit well at many other positions. That’s the inevitable result of finishing last in the majors — again — in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and (obviously) OPS.

But it strikes me that year after year, the Mariners change their personnel at DH, and yet continually finish right at or near the bottom of the American League in DH production. That’s particularly galling considering that for a decade, they had the best in the business in Edgar Martinez. In 2001, the Mariners got 24 homers, 131 RBIs and a .929 OPS from the designated hitter spot (primarily Edgar). Different era, I realize, but the Mariners are so far from that production now it’s like a different planet.

This year, It was Jesus Montero (78 games) and John Jaso (47 games) doing the bulk of the DHing, with Miguel Olivo getting 12 appearances, and 12 other players appearing in a combined total of 31 other games (none more than four).

Remember early in the season when the story line began to develop about how Montero was crushing the ball whenever he caught, and flailing when he was the DH? Well, that pattern held up. As a DH, he went .226/.265./.309 for an OPS of .574, with five homers and 30 RBIs in 297 at-bats. In 55 games behind the plate, hit went .306/.338/.493 for an OPS of .831 (.263 points higher) with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in 209 at-bats.

Considering that Mike Zunino will take over as the full-time catcher in the near future, Montero is going to have to figure out the mindset it takes to DH if he wants to thrive on the Mariners. Moving in the fences should help him as much as anyone, as someone whose power is to left-center (not right-center, as I wrote earlier). Jaso also did better behind the plate, but had good numbers in both realms. He was 296/.389/.504 in 39 games (125 at-bats) as a catcher, with five homers, 24 RBIs and a .893 OPS. As DH, Jaso went .247/.393/.418 for a .811 OPS, and five homers and 22 RBIs in 146 at-bat.

The guy who, in retrospect, should never have seen the light of day at DH was MIguel Olivo, who in those 12 games went 5-for-44 with just one extra-base hit. That’s a .114 batting average, .133 on-base percentage and .182 slugging, pretty much giving the M’s a blank at DH in 7 percent of their games.

If those paltry numbers sound familiar, they should. Last year, the Mariners DHs — a motley crew of Jack Cust (63 games), Wily Mo Pena (21 games), Mike Carp (19 games), Adam Kennedy (18 games), Justin Smoak (12 games, Ichiro (10 games) and nine others (18 combined games) — the Mariners were last in runs (48), homers (9), average (.226), slugging (.333) and OPS (.650). They did sneak into 13th, just ahead of Oakland, in on-base percentage (.312).

In 2010, Mariners DHs —Russell Branyan (52 games), Milton Bradley (28 games), Ken Griffey Jr. (25 games), Mike Sweeney (22 games), 12 others (44 games)– were, lo and behold, last in RBIs (60), last in batting average (.194), last in on-base percentage (.269), last in slugging percentage (.340) and last in OPS (.609).

And so it’s gone. Looking at the Mariners’ DHs since they could pencil in Edgar for 140 games a year is a mix of the obscure, the trivial, and the “I completely forgot he played for the Mariners.” Here are some of the people who have manned the position, sometimes for just a handful of games, since 2005 (please hold your applause until the end): Mickey Lopez, Quinton McCracken, Hiram Bocachica, Justin Leone, Jamal Strong, Jaime Bubela, Joe Borchard, Matt Lawton, Oswaldo Navarro, Charlton Jimerson, Jason Ellison, Tug Hulett, Luis Valbuena, Matt Tuiasosopo, Chris Shelton, Josh Wilson, Eric Byrnes, Matt Mangini.

I just gave you the sad stats for 2010-12. Here they are for 2005 (the first post-Edgar season) through 2009:

2005: Primary DHs were Raul Ibanez (101 games), Greg Dobbs (24), Mike Morse (9), nine others (26 games).

Home runs: 12th (out of 14 AL teams) w/14

RBIS: 8th (79).

Avg: 5th (.268

OBP: 7th (.333)

Slugging: 10th (.390).

ops: 10th (.723)

2006: Primary DHs were Carl Everett (80 games), Ben Broussard (45 games), Eduardo Perez (35 games), 12 others (28 games).

Home runs: 11th (17).

RBIs: 13th (65).

Average: 13th (.233)

OBP: 14th (.298)

Slugging: 14th (.358)

OPS: 14th (.656)

2007: Primary DHs were Jose Vidro (122 games), Raul Ibanez (13 games), 10 others (28 games).

Home runs: 14th (9)

RBIs: 14th (60)

Average: 2nd (.294)

OBP: 6th (.357)

Slugging: 13th (.389)

OPS: 9th (.746)

2008: Primary DHs were Jose Vidro (70 games), Jeff Clement (22 games), Tug Hulett (13 games), Kenji Johjima (11 games), Raul Ibanez (9 games), Bryan LaHair (7 games), Jose Lopez (7 games), 12 others (33 games).

Home runs: 14th (15)

RBIs: Tied 12th (77)

Average: 13th (.221)

OBP: 14th (.273)

Slugging: 14th (.334)

OPS: 14th (.608)

2009: Primary DHs were Ken Griffey Jr. (94 games), Mike Sweeney (57 games), eight others (20 games).

Home runs: Tied 8th (24)

RBIs: 13th (78)

Average: Tied 11th (.242)

OBP: 11th (.328)

Slugging 10th (.419)

OPS: 11th (.747)

Not a pretty picture. Among the Mariners’ many challenges is finding a way to fill the DH position with productivity that’s been mostly absent for the last eight years.

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