Tough to blame fans who feel resigned to the fact that the Mariners will be no better offensively by season’s end than they are right now.
There is no mathematical formula that states your team’s batting numbers are doomed to stay the same after six months as they are after three weeks. But for M’s fans who feel as if they’ve been down this frustrating road before — they have been.
Over the last four seasons of offensive ineptitude, the Mariners have usually finished about where they were offensively in the first 17 games in terms of batting average and on-base percentage (OBP). Some of the time, they got worse, especially with the all-important OBP numbers.
2011 — .217 AVG./ .301 OBP/ .321 SLG/ .621 OPS (after 17 games)
2011 — .233 AVG./.292 OBP/.348 SLG/.640 OPS (actual finish)
2010 — .248 AVG./.323 OBP/.349 SLG/.642 OPS (after 17 games)
2010 — .236 AVG./.298 OBP/.339 SLG/.637 OPS (actual finish)
2009 — .254 AVG./.307 OBP/.366 SLG/.673 OPS (after 17 games)
2009 — .258 AVG./.314 OBP/.402 SLG/.716 OPS (actual finish)
2008 — .263 AVG./.337 OBP/.400 SLG/.737 OPS (after 17 games)
2008 — .265 AVG./.318 OBP/.389 SLG/.707 OPS (actual finish)
You’ll notice that, on a couple of occasions, the slugging numbers (SLG) did go up. One expanation could be some warmer weather allowing players to hit the ball further. But overall, the on-base-plus-slugging numbers (OPS) didn’t change much.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the numbers, or their scientific significance in terms of prediction accuracy, the fact remains that the team has an image problem when it comes to selling fans on the notion that things will get better. And the only way, it seems, that they will convince anyone they can improve is to go out and do it.
Photo Credit: AP
Those who heard me this morning on my Talkin’ Baseball segment on Sports Radio KJR’s Mitch in the Morning show know that I do think it will improve. One reason is that there are just too many reputations riding on the gamble that Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and company will pay off. They have to if you’re GM Jack Zduriencik.
The days of blaming everything that happens in Seattle baseball on Bill Bavasi should be long done by now. Bavasi has not been part of this organization for nearly four years. This is now Zduriencik’s team and the moves he’s made to get it to where it is now are his alone and he has to start to be judged on how those moves are paying off — not only on how they might pay off two or three years from now.
Zduriencik has staked his future on Smoak being able to hit something other than a fastball.
He inherited the Ackley draft pick from the Bavasi regime and its awful 2008 season. But if Ackley stays the type of hitter he’s been so far this season, any Zduriencik plan may have zero chance of ever lifting off.
Montero? His first full year. He needs to be better, but you can’t bank on rookies for very much and he gets a pass this year.
But other guys, like Zduriencik acquisitions Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Carp, both have to show up ready to be counted once they are healthy enough to be back in the lineup.
Zdurinecik needs these players and his other young acquisitions to get it going and keep it going. Especially if Zduriencik’s older acquisitions, like Chone Figgins and Miguel Olivo, can’t find their strides at the plate.
As I’ve been saying, it’s still very early. Plenty can happen. Zduriencik needs it to happen this season — being decisively better on offense than in previous years — if his plan is to gain anyone’s vote of confidence.
Some positives to end on?
The 2007 Mariners did not begin that season very well at the plate.
2007 — .258 AVG./.304 OBP/.412 SLG/.717 OPS (first 17 games)
2007 — .287 AVG./.337 OBP/.425 SLG/.762 OPS (actual finish)
As you can see, they finished a whole lot better across the board. That team won 88 games and competed for a playoff spot into early September.
So, there is hope. No team is sentenced to be dismal offensively based merely on the first 17 games. But it’s now up to the Mariners to prove they are more like the 2007 squad than the 2010 or 2011 versions.
There’s a limit to how many leaps of faith any fanbase can endure making. If the team wants more, it has to give people a reason to believe things will be different this time.