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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

April 21, 2007 at 11:38 AM

Hit and miss offense

Just over a week ago, we got into some good debate on this site about the state of Seattle’s offense. I wrote at the time that some of the early trends were disturbing and have seen little to change my mind, despite a two-game respite against the woeful Texas Rangers that padded Seattle’s stats back up to respectability. Yes, it is still early, but at the risk off repeating myself, some of the habits we’re seeing were around the past few years.
Many of you have written in to suggest that it’s the offense — which was supposed to be much improved — that is a bigger reason for this four-game losing streak than the pitching staff. I would tend to agree with that. But first, let’s see what the numbers tell us.
The basic numbers make it look like Seattle’s offense has righted itself after a major drought.
The Mariners are hitting .259, good for sixth-best in the AL.
They are also fifth in slugging percentage, showing that not all of that batting average is coming via singles.
So then, where is the problem?
Right where it’s always been. The team’s .306 on-base percentage is second-worst in the league. The Mariners draw only two walks per game, the worst rate in the AL. Seattle’s run total of 57 is only 12th best. Richie Sexson talked last night about how too many of the team’s 13 hits against Los Angeles came with two out. You can hit as many doubles as you like with two out and nobody on, but the zeroes are still going to stay up on the scoreboard.
Some may argue that the team’s run total is comparitively low because the Mariners have played four or five fewer games than other teams. That much is true, but I’d argue back that the 20 runs put up in two games against Texas, helped by some woeful pitching and defense by the Rangers, evens things out.
Let’s see. Here is the number of runs per game the Mariners have scored:
Over-all: 4.75
Minus Sunday’s 14-6 win over Texas: 3.90
Minus Saturday and Sunday’s wins over Texas: 2.5
How can a team that scores 2.5 runs per game on most nights expect to win? They can’t. And the Mariners have not won. Since I questioned their offense right after Felix Hernandez’s one-hitter in Boston, the team is 2-5. Without Hernandez to bail them out while scoring four runs or less, this team is destined to keep on losing unless the rest of the rotation steps up big-time. The good news, I guess, is that Seattle visits Texas after this series.
But if you can believe it, even those 2.5 runs per game being scored by the Mariners in those other 10 contests still flatters them considerably. Think back to the Minnesota series, when the Mariners twice lost by a run in games they trailed by four or more relatively late. They may look good on-paper, but the reality is, a team is only going to rally from such a late deficit a handful of times in a season.
So, while the books will show the Mariners have scored 13 runs in the last three games, how many of them mattered?
Here’s some food for thought. Seattle has scored 30 runs before the sixth inning in its 12 games, an average of 2.5. But take away those two lopsided games against the Rangers and they’ve scored only 20 runs before the sixth inning — an average of two per contest in the first five frames. That’s hardly much run support for starting pitchers.And judging by the career and season numbers of the guys not named Hernandez in this starting rotation, there’s a better-than-even chance the Mariners will be losing early and often in just about every game.
It doesn’t help when, as they did last night, the Mariners pile on runs in the final two innings to make an 8-0 game into an 8-4 final. Or score three in the ninth to make a 6-2 loss into a 6-5 defeat.
This Seattle team often goes prolonged stretches without scoring, then tends to pile up runs in bunches, as most teams with decent hitters will do. The Mariners, as we’ve mentioned, do know how to hit — placing in the top-six in batting average and slugging percentage. Every once in a while, some bloopers will fall in, or opposing fielders mess up, and they will put up a truckload of runs to make the overall stats look better. But they are not getting on base nearly enough, don’t walk enough and have not shown a knack for manufacturing runs. With the pitching now springing some leaks, the losses will mount if these trends at the plate continue unchecked.



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