ADDITIONAL NOTE: 6:50 p.m.: Had a few innings to crunch numbers on just how bad the Mariners had been with two strikes the past week or so, in context with what this discussion was about. The last two series leading up to our post yesterday, the Mariners were batting .160 with a .406 OPS (only .184 of that from slugging) and a strikeout rate of 58 percent over 135 PA with two strikes in the count. Needless to say, that’s well below the team and baseball average and a reason why it was cause for concern. Despite what you might read, this isn’t common for other teams, especially winning ones.
Won’t be wasting a whole lot of time on this, but I do like to clarify things when fans/bloggers misunderstand the basic premise of stuff. Today, I was taken to task by U.S. S. Mariner, for among other things, ripping the Mariners for their two-strike approach of late. The blog site’s main writers are relatively new and still feeling their way, so consider this more of a clarification than an attempt to rip somebody who is still rather raw.
When we discuss the Mariners’ two-strike approach having gone off the rails recently, the key word there is recently. When we refer to Eric Wedge being upset about his team’s two-strike approach, he wasn’t talking about the first week and a half or so of the season, when the Mariners were at least hitting like a semi-normal club.
So, looking at the team’s season-long two-strike approach tells us nothing about their recent play of the past week or so, nor does it add much to this argument.
The Mariners first started going off the rails after the series at home against the Texas Rangers. Up to that point in the season, they’d run a .670 OPS and a strikeout rate of 20 percent.
Nothing to write home about, but not horrible either. About average in strikeout rate and slightly below in OPS.
Since then, up to yesterday’s post by me, they had dropped five out of six games.
Their strikeout rate during that time? Shot up to 35 percent over those six games. Their OPS? Dropped to .570. The strikeout rate was the worst in all of baseball by far for that period. I don’t have the splits on their two-strike numbers for that specific period of time — I’m running around doing work at the ballpark now and don’t have time to go back through all the daily pitch-by-pitch counts for every team in baseball — but clearly, if their strikeout rates are the worst and their OPS overall is abysmal, their two-strike numbers are going to be putrid.
Many of us expected the team to see strikeouts climb when Michael Morse was added to the team. Hitters with pure power often tend to strike out plenty, but as long as their OBP is decent and their power is there, teams will forgive the whiff factor.
But what the Mariners did most of the past week before getting to Houston was like taking Carlos Peguero at his MLB worst and multiplying it by nine across the entire batting order.
That’s why Wedge was so concerned. That’s why this team needed to change its approach throughout entire at-bats. Both with two strikes and the process of how it was getting there.
The fact that Boston and Atlanta are running similarly bad two-strike numbers as the Mariners over the entire season to-date is irrelevant in the context of this argument. Nobody said the Mariners have been awful all year at plate approach. Nobody said they had a bad offense to begin with. Well, nobody on this blog. I believe their offense is much better than we’ve seen.
But it was only within the past week or so that the team’s numbers began to go haywire. Some of it may have had to do with facing Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Yu Darvish, sure. But the team has faced other pitchers right before and since and not done very well at all.
You can go back a full 10 games from the start of Seattle’s series against the Rangers at Seattle to the end of this past series at Arlington and the Mariners still ran a 30 percent strikeout rate and a .578 OPS during that time.
And a 30 percent strikeout rate is reason for worry. It’s a good 10 percent too high for any team aspiring to be good. That’s why Wedge was upset. That’s why we wrote about it. Nobody is calling for the team to be blown up. But if the Mariners kept running those numbers, it was going to be an awfully long season indeed.
Hope this clears things up for those having trouble grasping the idea that teams do look at smaller samples through the course of every season. The jobs of those running the clubs often involves turning those small samples around before they become huge problems.