SEATTLE – For weeks, manager Eric Wedge’s daily briefing has turned into a psychological examination of why the Seattle Mariners offense is so bad.
Their start to the second half of the season didn’t end that conversation as the Mariners scored two runs in four games while being swept by Texas, dropped nine straight and fell to 111/2 games back in the American League West Division.
The brief optimism of a month ago when Seattle was just a half-game out in the division race has been replaced by reality – a rebuilding season.
If the Mariners don’t improve soon, they could turn out to be one of the worst offensive teams since the designated hitter was added to the A.L. in 1973.
After being swept by the Rangers, Seattle is hitting just .221 as a team, eight points lower than anyone else in baseball and 15 points worse than any other team in the A.L. Only five members of Seattle’s current roster are hitting above .240, none higher than rookie Greg Halman and his .279 average – albeit in just 68 plate appearances.
Even the normally consistent Ichiro Suzuki is slumping through the worst year of his career. Suzuki ended Sunday hitting just .262, an astounding 65 points below his career average of .327. His streak of 200 hits in every season since arriving in the majors in 2001 is at risk, with just 102 hits through 94 games.
Meanwhile, veterans such as Chone Figgins, Miguel Olivo, Jack Wilson and Jack Cust are all hitting below .230.
“Everybody goes through stuff like this, through slumps and stuff like that,” Wilson said Sunday after getting his fourth start in the last month. “You don’t want to stand on this last homestand and what we did offensively, so you gather yourself together in Toronto and say ‘it’s going to be a good series.’”
Beyond just a lack of hitting, the M’s simply aren’t getting on base, and at a record pace. They are the only team in the A.L. with an on-base percentage below .300 at .286. Last season, the M’s became the first A.L. team since the addition of the DH with an on-base percentage below .300 when they finished at .298. The only other A.L. teams to come in below .300 were the 1981 Toronto Blue Jays and 1981 Minnesota Twins and both those came in a strike-shortened season.
Additionally, the M’s are on pace for just 94 home runs, which would be fewest in a full season and is severely bringing down the Mariners OPS – on-base plus slugging percentage. Seattle currently stands at .611, headed toward the worst total in baseball in nearly four decades since the 1972 Texas Rangers had an OPS of .581.
It’s all adding up to an anemic offense. Wedge has regularly expressed his disappointment with his veterans being unable or unwilling to change their approach at the plate and correct what he views as problems.
“With a kid it’s somewhat understandable. With a veteran, it’s not.”
The offensive woes are coming at a time when the Mariners are getting exceptional pitching. Seattle has a team ERA of 3.27, on pace to be the best pitching staff in franchise history by nearly a half-run.