Tough not to notice all the strikeouts the Mariners have taken of late. Hitting coach Dave Hansen is hard to pin down, but we got him for a few moments today and one of the topics that came up was the team’s strikeout rate. The Mariners have struck out at least 11 times in four of the first seven games on this 2-5 trip.
They have struck out 13 times on three occasions and are averaging 9.3 strikeouts per contest.
Then again, if you crunch the date, the Mariners also have a .348 on-base-percentage and a .474 slugging mark during those seven games for an .814 OPS and are averaging 4.7 runs per contest. The team’s walk rate has also gone up. So, on the surface of it, the team is still putting up some impressive offensive totals despite the whiffs.
Hansen said what you’re seeing now is the team going through the process of “refining” its strike zone. The Mariners are still striking out, ut they are also taking more walks and generating more offense by swinging at hittable pitches and doing some damage with them.
“We’re still working on it,” Hansen said. “We’re still getting our strikeouts. But when you’re consistent with your approach, you refine your strike zone. It’s a byproduct, I think. You just don’t chase as many. We still chase. But we don’t chase as many pitches. We’re looking for more specific pitches and that’s real important that we do that — stay focused that way.
“You will see the walks. We’re still working on the other part, but I do see that we’re in it every pitch. And that’s real important.
Hansen said that Justin Smoak is a good example of a player who has refined his strike zone while working to maintain his aggressivness.
“He’s got a really good eye, but he would chase outside of that zone because he can drive the ball out of the ballpark,” Hansen said. “So, being able to control that aggressiveness — still staying on-the-hunt, but refining that strike zone so that we can have some discipline at the plate — that’s the bottom line.
“These guys are all good,” he added. “Pitchers are good at this level. The hitters are good. Wat’s the difference, really? It’s discipline. We’re still working on it. It’s a daily process, for sure.”
Hansen was asked whether the power numbers might be the last thing to come for Smoak, as he carries a team-high .366 OBP, but only a .367 slugging mark into tonight’s game.
“Yeah, it is,” he said. “Smoakie’s a unique guy, because from both sides (of the plate) he’s pretty disciplined with his strike zone. For a big dude, that’s pretty unique. But keeping him within himself — because he does have that power — that can get you in trouble. So, we just constantly preach about being a good hitter. Being a good hitter and not worrying about where the ball ends up. If it ends up in the seats, great.”