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

December 11, 2007 at 10:43 AM

More power to them

Nothing new to report on the pitching front, as the Mariners await word from free-agent Hiroki Kuroda, as well as from the Baltimore Orioles on an Erik Bedard trade. This report out of Arizona says the D-Backs have upped the value of their three-year offer to Kuroda. As we told you last week, M’s GM Bill Bavasi has said he isn’t opposed to taking an offer up from three to four years for a pitcher he likes. No idea if he’s done that yet with Kuroda.
There has been speculation the O’s might try to package Bedard and shortstop Miguel Tejada. If that happens, wave bye-bye to Seattle’s chances of landing Bedard. This report out of Baltimore this morning, if you read a little further down, lists the M’s as frontrunners for Bedard, along with the Dodgers and Reds. I laughed at that report out of Cincinnati, where an unnamed Reds source said his team had a 75 percent chance of securing the Canadian lefty. How the heck would he know that? Does he live inside O’s president Andy MacPhail’s head? How does he know it isn’t a 60 percent chance? Or 85 percent? Or zero? Stuff makes me laugh.
Yes, Bavasi should do the deal, as I said yesterday. The names I’ve seen tossed around on this site all day yesterday aren’t anything that should get in the way of one. If that’s what it takes, then get it done. No Bedard, kiss the 2008 and 2009 seasons goodbye. I’ve come around on that from where I was two weeks ago. In this day and age, with a payroll at $115 million and climbing, you can’t tell your fans to wait until 2010. Anyone who thinks landing Kuroda will be enough is placing way too much hope on the M’s being able to keep winning all of those one-run games they did in the first half of last season. This team needs to dramatically reduce the number of runs it allows.
It also wouldn’t hurt if the M’s scored a few more runs. I spent yesterday’s lunch hour going over a bunch of year-end statistics in the AL. A few things surprised me, while others did not. Here is a big one that surprised me. The Mariners were one of only four AL teams not to have a hitter with a slugging percentage above .500. I’ll qualify this by saying those players had to have a minimum of 502 plate appearances (which qualifies them for batting titles, etc.). Here are the high sluggers on each of the four teams that didn’t have a .500 guy.
Alex Rios (Blue Jays) .498
Nick Markakis (Orioles) .485
Adrian Beltre (Mariners) .482
Alex Gordon (Royals) .411
Despite this lack of a big bat power threat, the Mariners were the only team that emerged above average offensively. Here are the park-weighted OPS+ stats for the teams lacking a .500 slugger.
Mariners 104
Blue Jays 96
Orioles 95
Royals 85
Remember, a score of 100 is average and every number above or below that is the percentage above or below average for that offense. In Seattle’s case, the pitching-favored environment of Safeco Field works against sluggers, so the M’s are expected to have somewhat lower slugging numbers. It was written throughout the year that the M’s had a more-balanced offensive attack (50 RBI or more for all nine guys in the order). That would explain how the M’s wound up above average offensively, if only barely, despite lacking power. But there is obviously a need for improvement in the power department, especially for a team not all that adept at drawing walks and getting on-base with anything other than a hit.
In 2006, the M’s had two players, Raul Ibanez and Richie Sexson, with slugging numbers above .500. Sexson had a lofty .541 slugging percentage in 2005.
The M’s didn’t have a .500 slugger in 2004, a season that saw them win only 63 games.
They also lacked one in 2002, when the team OPS+ of 107 was very similar to this season’s 104. John Olerud was the high-slugger at .490 for that squad, which won 93 games but missed the playoffs. It was the only time in team history, other than this past year, in which the M’s posted a winning record without a .500 slugger. But that squad’s ERA+ was 104 (4 percent above average) compared to this year’s 91. Explains a little.
In fact, 2002, 2004 and now, 2007, are the only years dating back to 1990 in which the Mariners failed to have a hitter slug .500 or better after logging at least 400 plate appearances. Considering the questionable state of team pitching at the moment, better production from power hitters next season seems a must. Early candidates? Sexson, Ibanez and Adrian Beltre. As I said, this team needs offense to contend, given how the pitching is presently constructed. Its .425 slugging percentage is only slightly above the .423 league average, while its .337 on-base percentage (generated mainly through hits) is slightly below the league average of .338.
The M’s aren’t going to learn to draw walks overnight. So, the only way this offense can make substantial gains is for the power producers to produce. The lack of a middle-of-the-order threat plagued the team throughout 2007 and helps explain why this offense (and the team) was so streaky.
And it’s going to take a two-pronged effort, greater pitching through acquisitions and improved hitting by hitters paid for power, to create separation between Seattle’s runs-for and runs-against next season. Unless some of you believe that J.J. Putz and George Sherrill can once again do it all by themselves for half a season and beyond.

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