This offense is crazy-aggressive. That stands out in a couple of key areas: on-base percentage, and percentage of runs scored due to the home run.
The team on-base percentage is only .292. Do I HAVE to say that it’s still early and we’re dealing with a small sample size? OK, whatever, let’s move on. If I had a bigger sample, I’m sure I’d be bitching about the same stupid shit, so just get over the sample size for a minute. .292 is a very good batting average; I can’t remember the last time a Mariner regular finished the season with a batting average that high (though, I’m almost positive he wore number 51). If you had five players on this team with a .292 batting average, you’d be thrilled!
.292 as an on-base percentage is pathetic, FYI. Right now, it sits third-worst in the American League (though, for the purposes of this post, I think it can be assumed that the Houston Astros are last in everything, because they are a glorified AAA team, and therefore the Mariners are actually SECOND-worst in the AL). For the life of me, this low on-base percentage doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, as the Mariners are tied for the third MOST walks in the AL!
Then, we take a look at the team batting average: ahh. Now, it clicks: .218, which is dead last in the AL (or next-to-last if you include the Astros). What gives?
Well, for a start, the Mariners have already struck out a whopping 54 times. That’s tied for the second-most in the AL (not counting the AAA Astros, who have struck out an absurd, MLB record-breaking 74 times). We have seen a LOT of ugly swings. In yesterday’s game alone, I recall at least two times – in full counts – where the Mariners batter swung and missed at would-be ball 4 (and, it’s not like we’re talking about a close pitch that could’ve gone either way; these pitches were up at face-level or bouncing in the dirt!).
Walks are nice. I think we all like walks. They’re not extra-base hits or anything, but they’re good for two reasons: they put a(nother) runner on base, and they make the opposing pitcher work harder than he’d like. Walks increase the pressure on the other team’s pitcher: now, he’s got to worry about a guy trying to steal. Now, he’s got the first baseman holding the runner on, which has opened up a hole between first and second. Now, he’s got to make sure to improve upon his pitching to the next guy, because he REALLY doesn’t want to let the next guy on and start a scoring rally. I think we can all agree that walks are pretty great.
Therefore, striking out on a pitch that would have led to a walk is pretty terrible! Because it shows you lack discipline; you are tipping your hand to the other team that you will likely chase pitches like that in the future. Now they know yet another way to get you out. More than showing them you lack discipline, it PROVES to everyone that you lack discipline! If you just had better discipline, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place! So, batters, be more smart!
This post has kind of gone off the rails here, so let me try to reign it back in.
Seager, Smoak, Saunders and Ryan: so far, you’re leading the team with a combined 14 of the team’s 24 walks. What’s interesting, though, is that Ryan is the only regular who is among the team’s leaders in on-base percentage. He’s getting on base at a 40% clip. After that, you’ve got Morse (.355), Morales (.333), Guti (.333), and then Saunders (.333) rounding out the top five in that catagory. Morse and Guti are both batting over .300, Morales is batting .280, and Saunders is batting .250. Everyone else is dwelling at a sub-.200 batting average, which is pretty God damned piss-poor.
What’s the cause of all this aggressiveness? My guess is the home run ball. There was a team-wide epidemic of home run balls flying out of the park back in Arizona. The Mariners have seemingly been trying to carry that over into the regular season, in the real world, where the climate isn’t so forgiving. And only Morse has seen his home run production continue, with 5 in the first 7 games. He’s leading the team in RBI, total bases, and batting average among regulars. He’s also leading the team in strikeouts. 5 of his 9 hits have gone for extra bases (all homers, duh). It’s a blessing and a curse, is what I’m trying to say. Yeah, home runs are fun, but sometimes with the game tied and there’s a runner on second, you just need a single to right field to push him home. Can we mix in a few of THOSE, so we’re not striking out four times in the same game?
The Mariners are 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position in their four losses. In their victories, they are 10 for 29 (.345), but there’s a real outlier in last Friday’s 8-7 victory, where the Mariners went 6 for 11 (.545). Take that game away, and the Mariners were only 4 for 18 (.222) in their victories. On the whole, the Mariners had one good game out of seven with regard to hitting with runners in scoring position. The other six games, the Mariners hit .108; in case you don’t have a thesaurus nearby, that’s the opposite of “clutch”.
The Mariners have scored 13 of their 27 runs via the home run. However, again, last Friday’s game was the outlier. That game saw only 1 of the Mariners’ 8 runs scored via the long ball. The rest of the rallies were extended with timely singles and doubles, like a normal fucking team. Take away that outlier, and you’re talking about the Mariners scoring 12 of their 19 runs via the homer. Good for a fraction over 63% of all their runs.
It’s going to be feast or famine with this team. That’s the bottom line. There will be good games and bad games. There will be lots of walks and lots of baserunners, and there will be lots of strikeouts. There will be times that the Mariners hit over .500 with runners in scoring position, and there will be many more times where the Mariners hit .000 with runners in scoring position. Those times the Mariners hit out of their minds will ultimately skew the numbers, so they look normal, but you and I will know better. There are going to be many more times during the season where this team frustrates rather than pleases. It will be those games where we’re going to have to lean on our pitching a little harder. Unfortunately, the way things are looking early, that pitching won’t necessarily be there to pick up the slack.
Then again, what’s better? “Feast or Famine” or “Just Famine”? It’s been Just Famine for about three years now going into 2013. I wouldn’t mind sprinkling in a little Feast every now and again.