As you might expect, the Seattle Mariners getting no-hit at home for a second time in two weeks has fans feeling a bit salty today. An understandable reaction, for sure. But please spare me the faux surprise about the Mariners’ lineup being unproductive at this stage of the season. The warning signs were there for everyone to see.
Remember how much the Mariners’ lineup struggled to consistently produce last year? There were memorable moments and short-lived hot streaks. But run production ranked near the bottom of MLB in multiple categories. Fast forward to the present, a season marked by muted offense across the league. Once again, Seattle’s hitters are bringing up the rear.
The stat currently creating the greatest stir on social media and with the local sports talk radio crowd is the Mariners’ .199 batting average. Bad news, your angst may skyrocket to new heights as the season progresses. The team is currently on pace to set a franchise-low in AVG. Yes, it’s only May. But Seattle has already been no-hit twice and waited late into games before avoiding a no-no on several other occasions. The threat of this offense being historically bad is real.
Lowest AVG in Seattle Franchise History
Despite having a punch-less lineup in 2020, the Mariners didn’t add position players from outside the organization to their 40-man roster in the offseason. Sure, Mitch Haniger and Tom Murphy returned after missing last year. That’s an upgrade in a way. But did anyone seriously believe Haniger and Murphy would somehow ignite an offense that was so underwhelming in 2020?
And let’s talk about the squad the Mariners have assembled this season. It can’t be overemphasized how inexperienced this group is. To see what I mean, check out the following table illustrating the career numbers of Seattle’s position players. Take note of how few have appeared in more than 162 big-league games.
I know what some of you are thinking, batting average can fluctuate by season and era. Therefore, using the conventional stat for this conversation isn’t ideal. That’s true. Instead, let’s use OPS+ to discuss the overall effectiveness of Seattle’s hitters in 2021. League-average OPS+ is always 100. Regardless of which statistic you prefer staring at, the picture isn’t pretty.
Of the 15 Seattle position players with plate appearances this season, only four have a career OPS+ above league-average – Haniger, Kyle Seager, Kyle Lewis, and Ty France. For anyone watching the Mariners on a regular basis, it’s become glaringly evident that the offense is effectively dead in the water whenever this foursome scuffles.
Something to consider with Lewis and France – they remain unknown quantities despite their early success. Sure, Lewis won 2020 AL Rookie of the Year and France has hit at every level of his professional career. But neither player has appeared in 100 games in a season. Am I suggesting the duo will fail? Absolutely not. But it’s reasonable to expect each will struggle as their development continues in the bigs. We’ve already witnessed this with Lewis in 2020 and France before he went to the IL last week.
Murphy and Dylan Moore are hovering near a career 100 OPS+, although neither has 200 games of big-league experience. Shortstop J.P. Crawford has more time in the majors, but it’s spread over five seasons. Moreover, a career 86 OPS+ suggests the Gold Glover has been a below-average run producer with the Phillies and now the Mariners. After this trio, we enter a black hole where everyone else is significantly worse than league-average and very green.
Like it or not Mariners fans, your team is enduring the growing pains of an organization transitioning from tear-down mode to evaluating young players at the big-league level. To date, it’s been a slog for Evan White, Taylor Trammell, Luis Torrens, Jake Fraley, and Jarred Kelenic. Even the youngsters who’ve been productive – Lewis and France – have been inconsistent. And don’t forget slightly older, yet relatively inexperienced players like Crawford and Moore, who remain enigmas.
Yes, some or all of these players could eventually form the foundation of a contending lineup. But that’s not the case right now. Using 20/20 hindsight, the Mariners should’ve obligated more financial resources in the offseason to help take pressure off younger players and provide added stability to the lineup. Other than Seager, who was a known quantity entering 2021? On some level, signing veteran free agents like Kolten Wong, César Hernández, and Jonathan Villar could’ve made sense. But management chose to avoid pursuing outside help. Now, we’re witnessing the consequences of their hot stove inaction.
The default response for some fans is to place blame at the desk of GM Jerry Dipoto. Yes, Dipoto is the architect of the rebuild and ultimately responsible for its success or failure. But let’s face it, he’s never been shy when it comes to making moves designed to improve his ball club. On the other hand, the now-infamous comments of former team president Kevin Mather made it abundantly clear ownership was unwilling to spend last offseason.
None of what I’ve suggested will go over well with many in the fan base and that’s okay. Fans should fan however they see fit. Having said that, the Mariners’ offense woes this season shouldn’t surprise anybody unless they haven’t been paying attention for the last two years.
My Oh My….
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