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April 25, 2012 at 9:39 AM

One night jump in stats shows why it really is still too early for any conclusions about Mariners offense

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In case you missed it, here’s my Talkin’ Baseball segment yesterday on Sports Radio 950 KJR and the Mitch in the Morning show.
There has been plenty of justifiable angst about the Mariners and the state of their offense the first three weeks of the season. And as we wrote yesterday, it will be up to the team to prove that it really is better at the plate this season than in the past two campaigns. But as we’ve also been quick to mention, repeatedly, it is still far too early to demand benchings, releases of players and firings of coaches associated with hitting.
And if we needed more proof, we got it last night. The Mariners, in one game, upped their team batting average by 10 points to .233, their on-base-percentage (OBP) by 10 points to .284, their slugging percentage (SLG) by 11 points to .353 and their on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS) by 21 points to .637.
Just to be clear, none of those numbers is great. But they are a big leap to make in just 24 hours and that’s why an 18-game sample really is not much to be basing any lineup decisions on. The Mariners today have the exact same team batting average they did before that perfect game was thrown against them. So, if you were sort of OK with the offense (not ecstatic, just OK) prior to the Phil Humber perfecto, then you should be fine with it now. I imagine some of you would have been downright pleased with the offense and the team in general had Brandon League not blown the game the night before and had Seattle held an 8-1 lead the the series opener against Cleveland.
Again, nobody is saying you have to be happy with the team and this 8-10 start. Just pointing out how quickly perceptions can change in a season’s opening month.
Especially on an individual level.
In one night, Michael Saunders raised his batting average by 20 points to .229 and his OPS by a whopping 55 points to .719. That type of OPS is almost just about right for decent, solid-gloved center fielder. Prior to last night, many were talking abut Saunders being a bust. He still might be. But it’s way too early to tell.


Take a look at Ichiro, who upped his average 22 points to .297, his OBP by 20 points to .321 and his OPS by 33 points to .726. We can quibble about his being ill-suited for the No. 3 spot and the timeliness of some of his hits versus his outs made last night. But another game or two like this, folks will be deeming the move a stats success if nothing else.
Over to Kyle Seager, who lifted his batting average 12 points to .267 and his OBP by 11 points to .279. Seager’s numbers have been so volatile that many fans might not even realize he’d been slumping — memories still fresh from that home run he clubbed in Texas 13 days ago.
But since that home run, his batting average had tumbled 66 points down to .255 prior to last night, while his OBP was down 77 to .268 and his OPS was off by 177 points from .845 down to .668.
Again, the hazards of dealing with small samples. The reality changes so quickly that the perceptions don’t keep up.
So, while pulling hair out trying to rationalize some of the lineup moves by manager Eric Wedge as well as decisions to keep certain players as starters at various positions, always remember these three words: It’s still early.
When will it be getting late? Sometime in May.
It is getting late for this team as a collective to make an impression on fans and get them to stick around longer.
But impressions are one thing, reality-based decision making is something else. I’ve just shown you in Seager’s case how perception can outflank reality in stats.
Oh yeah, one more thing: Alex Liddi is not a threat to Justin Smoak and his playing time.
Not even after Liddi lifted his batting average 82 points to .368 last night. Not after Liddi sent his OPS soaring 376 points to 1.008 in just nine innings.
Ah, the joys of small sample size. Fun to watch, but hell to base any decisions off of.

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