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April 29, 2013 at 8:01 AM

No, it wasn’t just the pitching, Mariners did play better this series

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ADDITIONAL NOTE: If you missed my Talkin’ Baseball segment this morning on Sports Radio KJR, you can listen to it by clicking the box above.

Some of you, understandably, have asked me whether the Mariners really did play any better this weekend, especially on offense. After all, they still had trouble scoring runs and might have lost just as often had the pitching given up the kind of runs it did last week in a 1-5 swing through Texas. Or, if the other starters had fallen behind 5-0 early the way Aaron Harang did to the Angels on Friday.

Well, two things.

One, good pitching is part of a team playing better. And the Mariners had very good pitching from three of four starters and the bullpen this past series. And two, the Mariners nearly came back and won the Harang game.

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The only thing that prevented it was a lack of some timely hits with runners in scoring position. Some people believe that hitting with runners in scoring position is entirely luck related. I don’t go that far: I do believe there are hitters who are better at delivering in key situations, even if that has yet to be definitively proven or disproven via stats research. But overall, yes, there is a certain luck component to it and the Mariners just did not — for whatever reason — have the same number of hits with runners on second or third in this series and some others prior as they did all other times.

Michael Morse connects for the tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning on Sunday off onetime Mariners starter Jason Vargas. Seattle took the game 2-1 and won its first series this year. Photo Credit: AP

Michael Morse connects for the tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning on Sunday off onetime Mariners starter Jason Vargas. Seattle took the game 2-1 and won its first series this year. Photo Credit: AP

But let’s take a look at the other, more important base numbers. In those, there was a notable improvement in this series from the two prior against Texas and Houston.

When we look at the team’s on-base percentage against the Angels, it jumped to a robust .361. On the last road trip, it was just .308.

The Mariners also had a slugging percentage of .426 against the Angels, compared to .375 on the prior trip. And remember, that’s at Safeco Field compared to the hitting-friendly confines of the two Texas parks.

Overall, that’s an OPS of .787 here compared to .683 in those two prior series.

You want something like batting average?

It was .295 in this recent series compared to .240 on the last road trip.

So, rather than the Mariners being fortunate not to have had the same rate of losses this past home series than they did on that 1-5 trip, I’ll submit the opposite. That the Mariners were probably a bit unlucky in their offensive results and that’s about the only thing that kept them from sweeping.

The Mariners stranded 33 runners on base in this series just concluded: an average of 8.2 per game.

On the road trip, they left 45 on base: 7.5 per game.

Prior to the trip, they were averaging 6.5 runners per game left on.

So, I’ll submit that the Mariners have spent the past 10 days leaving more runners on than usual. That’s why they and you have been so frustrated with their runners in scoring position futility.

But, I’ll also point out that, the first 17 games of the season prior to the last road trip, the Mariners had a .224 batting average, a .286 OBP, slugged . 359 and put up an OPS of .645.

Constrast that with the .295/.361/.426 slash line and .787 OPS in this series just concluded and it’s clear the Mariners were doing all the right things offensively that should lead to much higher scoring — in theory — than we just saw.

No, this is not a finished product. The Mariners do have to eventually start getting those runs home.

But there was nothing “lucky” about this series victory. The Mariners were clearly better in both the pitching and offensive aspects from what they’d been doing all season.

If anything, it was the Angels who were a bit fortunate the series was even this close.

Now, the Mariners have to keep on playing at this higher level. If they revert to prior form, we’ll be having a much different conversation this time next week.

 

Comments | More in analysis | Topics: aaron harang; OBP; slugging; angels

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