erik lundegaard

Tuesday May 25, 2021

2021 Seattle Mariners Can't Get to First Base

I saw my first in-person no-hitter earlier this month, and even though it was against my team, and thus involved massive mixed feelings, it still felt like an event. First no-hitter! Woooo! Two days later, Wade Miley of the Reds no-hit the Indians. Then during my week in Minneapolis (my first real trip since the Covid pandemic began), there were two more, including another one against the Mariners. That makes six no-hitters this season against three teams: Seattle, Texas, Cleveland. The record for a single season is the seven no-hitters thrown in 1990. We seem destined to smash that mark.

Needless to say, the no-hitter I saw feels less like an event now.

Hitting, of course, is down across the Majors this season—the league average is in the .230s—but the Mariners are exceptional (or its opposite) in this regard. Our team batting average is .199, the lowest of the low. The Indians are third-lowest at .216. Texas, the third twice no-hit team, is the surprise: They're league average at .235. 

What's astonishing about the M's, though, is just how they're failing. They're still hitting doubles—as of today, they're tied for 9th in the Majors with 74. Homers? Tied for 15th with 54. Extra-base hits per game? 18th. Walks per game? 16th. So where are they going wrong?

With the easiest hit you can get, the one so seemingly unimportant they don't even track it in the stats. The Mariners are abysmal when it comes to hitting singles. 

So far this season we've got 170, while second-worst Cleveland is at 187. Every other team is in the 200s, with the Astros on top with 293. But that doesn't even begin to capture it. Because the M's have also played more games than most teams. So if you break it down on a per-game basis, it's much, much worse:

TEAM
 G
H 2B 3B HR AVG 1B 1B/Game
Houston Astros
47
440
90
5
52
.270
293 6.23
Washington Nationals
43
374
68
3
46
.258
257 5.98
Toronto Blue Jays
46
400
68
4
68
.252
260 5.65
Chicago White Sox
46
381
74
10
45
.254
252 5.48
San Diego Padres
48
382
65
9
48
.242
260 5.42
Los Angeles Dodgers
47
395
76
10
55
.248
254 5.40
Boston Red Sox
48
432
105
3
65
.263
259 5.40
Texas Rangers
49
384
58
6
58
.235
262 5.35
Pittsburgh Pirates
46
352
71
6
30
.229
245 5.33
Cincinnati Reds
45
383
73
4
67
.249
239 5.31
Los Angeles Angels
47
386
70
7
60
.247
249 5.30
Detroit Tigers
47
354
53
10
44
.230
247 5.26
Philadelphia Phillies
48
377
70
6
49
.238
252 5.25
Miami Marlins
47
367
70
10
44
.233
243 5.17
New York Yankees
47
355
52
2
58
.231
243 5.17
Colorado Rockies
48
384
78
13
48
.242
245 5.10
Kansas City Royals
45
341
61
10
41
.235
229 5.09
New York Mets
41
295
51
4
32
.224
208 5.07
Baltimore Orioles
47
368
81
5
47
.235
235 5.00
Minnesota Twins
47
382
79
5
65
0.241
233 4.96
Chicago Cubs
46
357
66
9
55
.237
227 4.93
St. Louis Cardinals
47
357
66
6
55
.232
230 4.89
Tampa Bay Rays
49
397
97
5
62
.235
233 4.76
Arizona Diamondbacks
48
370
80
12
51
.229
227 4.73
Milwaukee Brewers
47
330
61
5
52
.213
212 4.51
San Francisco Giants
47
346
64
6
64
.227
212 4.51
Atlanta Braves
47
363
72
6
78
.236
207 4.40
Oakland Athletics
49
359
74
8
69
.226
208 4.24
Cleveland Indians
45
319
70
8
54
.216
187 4.16
Seattle Mariners
48
301
74
3
54
.199
170 3.54

stats via ESPN.com, after May 24th games

We're half a single per game behind even the 29th-place Indians, and a full single per game behind 24 of the 30 MLB teams. The Astros hit nearly twice as many singles as we do. That's why all of our extra-base hits (18th on a per-game basis) don't add up to runs scored (27th). And that's why the .199 batting average. And that's why the two no-hitters against us. We can't get to first base. We hit them where they are.

The question is why. My friend Tim over at The Grand Salami wrote about this the other day:

The M's as a whole have bought into the Statcast obsession with power hitting. ... There is an unhealthy focus on “launch angles” and home runs and slugging as the basis for hitting a baseball. Contact, working counts, and getting on base are, at best, secondary considerations under this philosophy.

And they've been doing this in a year when the ball itself has been deadened to prevent excessive power hitting. 

So is the M's org trying to pivot at all? One would hope. In a way, it's almost good news. We don't suck across the board. Our offense is fairly average in most categories. We just can't get to first base.

UPDATE: Several hours after I wrote the above, the M's beat the A's 4-3 on 11 hits: two doubles and nine singles. Let's hope it's the start of something.

Posted at 04:42 PM on Tuesday May 25, 2021 in category Baseball  
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