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

July 18, 2012 at 10:03 AM

Mariners truly pulling off an odd home/road statistical feat

Last night’s latest nine-run road outburst by the Mariners has thrust them into a very unusual position this late in the season.
As of right now, the Mariners own the distinction of having scored the most road runs of any team in baseball while having scored the fewest at home. Has that ever happened over a complete season? I truly doubt it. It hasn’t happened over the past decade and it’s not even close.
Now, let’s say this up top: the Mariners have played a few more road games than many teams, so yes, we would expect them to have scored more runs away from home than most clubs. But when you look at the “runs per game” average for the Mariners, it’s actually still third-best in all of baseball on the road. Only the New York Mets at 5.07 runs per game and the Yankees at 5.05 are higher than Seattle’s 4.96.
So, another blowout or two of the Class AAA level Kansas City Royals pitching we’ve seen the last two nights and the M’s could legitimately be right at the top — regardless of the number of games played.
At home, the M’s are the very worst in baseball at a 2.86 runs per game average. San Diego is the next closest at 3.02 and the worst American League team in home offense is the Oakland Athletics, who sit way, way up there at 3.68.
Going back over the past decade, I can’t find any examples of a home/road split where a team is scoring more than two runs per game less at its own ballpark than on the road. That’s just crazy. But the Mariners are somehow pulling it off.
Photo Credit: AP

Usually, when you see such extreme splits, it’s the home numbers that are far out in front of the road stats.
The biggest case of this was the pre-humidor Colorado Rockies, who now keep their gameday baseballs in a humidor to reduce the effects of altitude on how balls travel. Prior to the humidor being implemented, the Rockies in 2000 averaged 7.81 runs per game at home versus 4.14 on the road.
In fact, the Rockies routinely had a differential of two or more runs between their altitude-impacted ballpark and everywhere else they played.
Makes me wonder whether we’re seeing the same sort of atmospheric impact at-play when it comes to Safeco Field — only in reverse.
Because the Mariners now face a similar two-run gap in home/road splits, only it’s their offense at home being adversely affected.
For all the talk about the ballpark dimensions at Safeco Field, it’s tough not to notice all the gap shots the Mariners have been hitting at Kauffman Stadium the past two nights. Never mind the home runs, we’ve seen the Mariners hitting doubles and even triples in Kansas City that they theoretically should be getting a lot more of at home because of the outfield gaps.
But they don’t happen as often in Seattle. Players have discussed and we’ve all seen how line drives seem to hang up in the air just a tad longer at Safeco, where any fleet-footed outfielder can take advantage and use the extra steps afforded to make the catch.
I don’t know. We’re not conducting a conclusive scientific survery for some academic journal here designed to be the definitive word on weather and barometric pressure and the like. This is baseball. The Mariners are one of the best scoring teams in the majors on the road and the absolute worst by a country mile at home.
Will things level off on the road? Well, they should start to at Tampa Bay, where the Mariners were swept in a relatively low-scoring four-game series two months ago. The Rays have very good pitching — far better than the Royals possess. But still, every baseball season is full of good, bad and ugly pitching. And every team gets to see some of it so we can’t take it all away from the M’s when they beat up on it.
We’ve seen the Mariners demolish the Texas Rangers on the road this year. Saw them take down the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. We saw them pile up runs at Angel Stadium. They scored a truckload of runs in Arizona.
The only place they don’t ever seem to ever score any runs — against good or bad teams — is at home.
This is why I do believe the Mariners will officially choose to move the outfield fences in a bit when they have their September organizational meetings. It’s at the point now where you have to try something.
Sure, it may only be a neutral move in the end — the uptick in offense replaced by a downturn in Seattle pitching. But at worst, you’ll be making Safeco Field a neutral park, rather than pitcher-friendly. At worst, you’ll get a true representation of how good your team really is. Being pitcher-friendly at home really hasn’t helped the Mariners as a team even with Felix Hernandez around. Even with others like Cliff Lee passing through. The Mariners have been awful the past several years and much of it begins and ends with the lack of offense.
And as I’ve mentioned, when you get into an offensive rut at home, it can often carry over on the road. We saw the Mariners turn things around on a dime this time when they hit the road. But that didn’t happen when they went to Oakland right before the All-Star Break.
Not to mention the season-long struggles we’ve seen from Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley. And plenty of other hitters on individual fronts. Might their slumps have been mitigated if they didn’t have to start over from scratch every time they began a homestand? Would we be looking at Smoak differently if a few more of his flyballs had left the park at home? Had a few more line drives not been held up in the air?
The Mariners can’t afford to sit around guessing anyore. This is now a critical point in the franchise’s history, when the team is on-the-verge of losing a sizeable chunk of its fanbase to indifference. There are no guarantees those fans will return even if this team becomes a contender in a few years.
If moving in the fences can boost the confidence level of young hitters and maybe speed this rebuilding plan up a year statistically just by changing the ballpark’s dimensions, the Mariners would be nuts to not try it.
Yeah, the home park has helped pitchers like Jason Vargas stay in games longer. But who cares? The Mariners as a team are still terrible. Baseball is a game of confidence and if your home ballpark is inside hitters’ heads for 81 games per year (as opposed to 3-to-9 games for visiting players) that has serious potential to carry over beyond just home games and ruin the team throughout a season.
The sample sizes here might not be perfect and the impact on bats could be slightly exagerrated in 2012. But the Mariners have not been anywhere near the league lead in home offense for a long, long time. It’s time to stop with the theoretical debates and look at what keeps happening in real life.
The Mariners don’t have time to let three more seasons go by in order to have enough of a “sample” to base a decision off. They are a terrbile team at home and one of the highest scoring on the road. Offense has been their problem for years. Time to stop diddling around with theory and take some action for a change.
If it makes the hitters into what they’re supposed to become, it will shave more time off this rebuild process than any of the recent moves made by GM Jack Zduriencik and his staff. That alone makes it worth pushing aside those impulses of fear and taking that next step.



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