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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Analysis: Statistics show just how terrible Mariners’ offense has been

J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners strikes out during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at T-Mobile Park on last Saturday in Seattle.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SAN DIEGO – Six games to either stop their slide in the American League West standings or stay on the same downward trajectory out of the division lead and into more familiar territory of sitting behind the Houston Astros.

Every team talks about wanting to go into the All-Star break on a positive note, finishing strong before the unofficial “halfway” point of a season, but the Mariners desperately need to use the final six games as a way to reset their trajectory after 2 1/2 weeks of miserable baseball.

Back on June 18, they banged out nine extra-base hits to beat the AL Central-leading Cleveland Guardians, 8-5, starting a difficult three-city road trip with a win. Coming off a three-game sweep of the Rangers at T-Mobile Park, the Mariners had won four in a row and improved to 44-31 and pushed their lead in the division to 10 games over the Astros.

They weren’t just leading their division, but they were up by more games than any other division leader.

An offense that was largely lifeless and prone to strikeouts seemed to be improving to finally complement a starting rotation that had carried the team for much of the season.

But Seattle dropped the next two games in Cleveland, losing the series. It was the start of a frustrating trend. They lost two of three to the Marlins, one of the worst teams in baseball, and avoided being swept in Tampa, pulling out a victory in the final game of a 3-6 road trip.

The struggles carried over to the recent homestand. Despite having so much success at home this season and playing in front of large crowds in all nine games, Seattle went 3-6, dropping series against the Twins, Orioles and Blue Jays. What made the losses at T-Mobile Park so galling was the Mariners’ dismal run production, scoring three runs or fewer in six of the nine games.

Since that win in Cleveland, the Mariners are 5-12, dropping six straight series. The offense continues to be a frustrating conundrum.

Over that span of 17 games, Seattle posted a .194/.278/.322 slash line with 54 runs scored, 49 RBI, a 31.3% strikeout rate in 626 combined plate appearances. It was the fewest runs scored by an MLB team during that span with the lowest batting average and slugging percentage and the highest strikeout rate. Of the 72 hits amassed, half of them were singles with 17 doubles, three triples and 16 homers.

Averaging 3.2 runs isn’t going to work. Seattle amassed double-digit strikeouts in 14 of those games, including their last 11 games, while stranding a whopping 115 base runners.

Yes, 115 runners left on base, including 15 in Sunday’s extra-innings loss to the Blue Jays.

The Mariners’ hitting with runners in scoring position during those 17 games was dreadful.

Seattle hitters had 145 plate appearances with runners in scoring position over those 17 games, posting a .165/.245/.331 slash line and scoring just 35 runs. They registered just 21 hits with four triples, four homers with 30 RBI with 12 walks and 46 strikeouts. The batting average was the worst in MLB and almost 30 points lower than the next team and the 31.7% strikeout rate was the second worst.

Meanwhile the Padres, who they are playing over the next two days, posted a .353/.393/.609 slash line in 148 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, scoring 68 runs with 65 RBI and only 24 strikeouts over that same span.

While fans continue to blame the hitting coaches, demanding another change since firing offensive coordinator Brant Brown hasn’t yielded the expected improvement, Cal Raleigh put the onus on the players and their own personal failures at the plate. But he also wasn’t certain how to fix the issues.

“I really don’t have an answer,” he said. “I wish I did. I guess what I’m trying to say is I think we all wish that we had the answer. I don’t think that anybody here is not trying. I don’t think it’s that at all, but we’ve got to find it soon. We’ve put ourselves in a good spot in the first half. I’m not taking anything away from that at all, but we know who is in our division. We have the defending champs and the Houston Astros are really good and have proven it. We’ve got to find a way quickly to make those adjustments.”

The Mariners’ situational hitting has been awful this season. Baseball reference tracks the data.

With a runner on third and less than two outs, the Mariners have 159 plate appearances and have produced a run 68 times, striking out 41 times. That 42.8% success rate is the worst in MLB. The league average in that situation to score a run is 51.5% of the time.

With a runner on second and no outs, the Mariners have 129 plate appearances, the base runner advanced just 56 times. That 43.4% success rate is also the worst in MLB with the league average being 51.5%.

These overall numbers speak to team-wide struggles and failures. As much as some people want to believe, Jorge Polanco isn’t the cause for it all and designating him for assignment doesn’t fix the team’s offense. It seems unlikely that move will happen before the All-Star break but it certainly is looming.

Since he returned from the injured list, Polanco has five hits in 33 plate appearances with a double, an RBI and 16 strikeouts. He’s trying to swing his way out of struggles and it’s not working. The Mariners would have to eat roughly $4.5 million in owed salary.

Using FanGraphs’ all-encompassing weighted runs created plus measure (wRC+), which is supposed to offer a glimpse into overall offensive contribution, the Mariners have only four players with a wRC+ in triple digits with 100 being considered average – Luke Raley (111), Dylan Moore (111), Josh Rojas (106) and Ty France (100). The Oakland A’s have six players with a wRC+ over 100.

Julio Rodriguez has an 85 wRC+ this season. He finished his rookie season with a 144 wRC+.

“We’ve seen guys here who have long track records, guys have shown it before, but it’s not showing up right now,” Raleigh said. “That’s the tough thing about baseball and you’d like to see it come around a little more often, but it’s not right now. And it’s just frustrating.”