|Michael Saunders continues to right his career and give hope to the Mariners as his hitting improves.|
Here are some interesting numbers (before Sunday's game) according to BaseballReference.com
Ichiro Suzuki .272/.303/389 OPS+ 98
Dustin Ackley .248/.323/.369 OPS+ 99
Kyle Seager .274/.313/.468 OPS+ 121
Jesus Montero .254/.295/.422 OPS+ 103
Justin Smoak .241/.289/.414 OPS+ 99
Michael Saunders .256/.325/.422 OPS+113
|Justin Smoak administers the coup de grace with his second three run homer in the 21-8 thrashing of Texas. Is it for real? The Mariners have reason for hope.|
Look at those stats. What is one that stands out? Low on base percentage. The Mariners are 29th in OBP according to ESPN only ahead of AL West rival Oakland. League average OBP is .320. The Mariners as a team get on base at .296. Why is that? Looking at these batting averages you don't see many numbers that would remind you of Ty Cobb or even Ichiro in his prime. Yet, the league batting average is only .253 in the American League. That's a number that's consistently decreased each year since it's high water mark of .276 in 2000. The batting averages are improving to league average and beyond, but selectivity at the plate is not. Two problems the Mariners face are not enough walks and too many strikeouts. The M's will score more consistently when those issues are reversed.
In other ways the Mariners are an improving group since the beginning of the year. Smoak seems to have settled into a groove--for the time being. We've seen this before, but right now things are going along smoothly and his numbers should improve. Ichiro returned to the lead-off spot-where he belonged-and his average is about what it was last year, but his OPS+ numbers are better by 15 pts. Ackley's progress seems to have stalled, but Saunders and Seager are further along. Montero is okay for year 1.
Then there are these numbers:
Miguel Olivo .200/.216/.322 OPS+ 51
Chone Figgins .188/.258/.295 OPS+ 58
Mike Carp .176/.273/.382 OPS+ 80
John Jaso .250/.340/.450 OPS+ 125
Brendan Ryan .176/.274/.286 OPS+ 59
Clearly there are Mariners who continue to struggle at the plate. The big question is will they improve as the season goes along OR do they bring something else to the table, such as outstanding defense that justifies their playing time. In the case of Brendan Ryan, absolutely. The Fielders Bible III ranks him as clearly the best defensive shortstop in the game since 2009. Not close. Miguel Olivo, on the other hand, was ranked one of the worst defensive catchers in the American League last year . Chone Figgins is playing out of position and is not a very good left fielder. Carp had a lousy spring, hurt himself, and is trying to catch up. The Mariners are hoping he's not the next Bryan LaHair. John Jaso has earned his playing time with his bat, though apparently, as catchers go, he's a very good hitter.
|Brendan Ryan doesn't hit much (at all) but his shortstop defense ranks best in baseball according to John Dewan's Hitters Bible III|
Regardless, the guys we consider the core of the rebuilding, are showing signs of life. That doesn't mean they are all going to squirt up a line graph in uniform rapidity, or that the team will play consistently well, but the hitting issues that plagued this team the last several years are diminished.