We hear about hot streaks all the time in baseball. Just think about how often you’ve heard a phrase like these during the 2012 season: “_____ has been red-hot on this road trip, batting .426 over his last 5 games!” or “The ____ have been nearly unbeatable since the all-star break, winning .750 of their games!”
Baseball is a game of streaks, more so than any other sport I know well. I admit that streakiness could have a greater effect on curling or fistball, and I simply wouldn’t know it. But that’s not important now. My point is – you don’t generally see great basketball players go for 30 game stretches where they simply can’t shoot. In the same way, it’s rare for a running back to go through a rough midseason cold streak that can be attributed only to streakiness. Perhaps it’s because baseball is more psychological than other sports. Maybe it’s due to the unrelenting nature of baseball’s 162-game schedule. I really don’t know.
But any baseball fan who has been around the game for a few years can probably tell you about a time they remember when one of their favorite players was on the kind of hot streak that makes any out come as a surprise. I remember seeing Ichiro play a few games back in May 2009 against the D-Backs and Padres when it seemed like he could punch the ball through the infield for a single anytime he damned well pleased. It was just incredible. Baseballreference.com just helped me to confirm my memories, and I see that he batted .446 over a 19 game stretch that May. It was an absolute pleasure to watch. I knew then that I was watching a surefire hall-of-famer.
This year’s Mariners have no such player on their roster, at least not on the offensive side. What they do have is a bunch of young players trying to figure out how to realize their full potential, and that's a perfect recipe for the streakiness we are discussing today. If I was a more negative person, I could tell you all about when Brendan Ryan went hitless for 23 ABs a few months ago or about Justin Smoak’s 40-game stretch with an OPS under .400. I’m not sure how many people are aware that the average OPS for the 2012 American League is sitting at .732. And that’s not for first basemen….it’s a number that includes all the glove-first shortstops and catchers in this league. Anyways, like I was saying, a more negative person would tell you all about those things.
But I’m here to tell you about the positive side of streakiness. I’m going to give you the details regarding the best 30-game stretches by Mariners players who have appeared in at least 70 games. Franklin Gutierrez’s best 30-game stretch this year would have to include four games from spring training. Poor fellow. I’ll start with the worst of the streaks and work my way up. For each streak, I’ll show OPS, the standard batting line (AVG/OBP/SLG), as well as HRs and RBIs
#7) Dustin Ackley: May 2nd – June 5th
I’d have to say that this is the least exciting of the streaks I plan to mention. It’s a pretty sad thing to realize that Ackley’s best 30-game streak during 2012 still resulted in a below league-average OPS, especially when you recall that he had a 30-game streak in 2011 where he batted .327/.389/.593. That’s more than a .200 difference in slugging % between those two streaks. This 30-game stretch includes the May 4th game that saw Dustin take the leadoff spot on a more permanent basis, as well as the trip to Colorado and the 21-8 pantsing of the Rangers.
#6) Jesus Montero: June 29th – August 13th
Many Mariner fans came into the season with exceedingly high hopes for Jesus. My buddy Anthony and I both predicted that Montero would finish the year with a batting average hovering close to .290 and upwards of 20 home runs. With less than 20 games remaining, it’s clear that Jesus will not reach these levels of success. But he has been consistent, and the month of July game us all a glimpse at what this 22 year-old can really do. This 30-game stretch included two 4-game series against the LHP-heavy Royals, and we all know what Jesus does to southpaws. He smites them.
#5) Justin Smoak: May 11th – June 14th
This was the stretch of 2012 when it looked like Justin Smoak might finally be approaching the kind of production that so many scouts and coaches told us he was capable of. He won AL Player of the Week after his 2 HR performance in the 21-8 victory at Texas. This streak brought his OPS all the way up from .492 to .709. However, it's clear now that this was not sustainable and it looks as though Justin’s career in the Majors may be coming to an abrupt end.
#4) Casper Wells: June 13th – July 22nd
This 30-game stretch started immediately after Casper’s first recall from AAA. Wells is one of those guys who seems to be on Wedge’s blacklist. It took a while for Casper to earn consistent playing time, and as soon as his production levels started to return to earth Wedge pulled him back to the bench. I for one, believe that Casper has shown enough to merit a longer look as a full-time right-fielder. Maybe he just needs a good nickname. I remember seeing him wearing glasses in a few M's promotional videos, so perhaps we should start calling him "Specky".
#3) Michael Saunders: May 21st – June 23rd
Saunders has come literally out of nowhere this year to become one of the M’s most consistent offensive threats. As of right now, Saunders OPS is .301 higher in 2012 than it was in 2011. That tells you enough right there. If I had the time, I would like to dive further into the data and find when the last time a player with at least 175 PAs in each season has made that big of a jump. This 30-game stretch included a nine-game road trip that saw Saundo bat .487 with 2 home runs in 39 ABs.
#2) Kyle Seager: May 18th – June 20th
This stretch in May and June included Kyle’s “promotion” to the 3rd spot in the M’s batting order and two of his five career 4 RBI games. To tell you the truth, Seager has performed at so consistently for the entire year that I didn’t expect to find a 30-game stretch this impressive. I hope that Seager can continue to build on this year’s success, and if he does there could be multiple all-star appearances in his future. Of course that’s a pretty big if, but I’m getting pretty desperate for an every-day player to cheer for and Kyle seems like an easy guy to like. Not that I know him personally. But he gave me a kind nod when I told him he was having a great year during pre-game warmups recently, and he also my wife's favorite.
#1) John Jaso: July 8th – August 22nd
I have been impressed with Jaso’s approach to hitting since Wedge first let him play in what was probably late April. I jumped on the FreeJohnJaso bandwagon as soon as I could. Originally, I didn’t really know much about John and was really only excited by the fact that he was NOT Miguel Olivo. But he quickly earned my respect and soon became known by M’s fans for his clutch late-game hitting and his unparalleled plate discipline. He’s drawn walks in 15.7% of his 312 plate appearances this year, nearly double the league average of 8.0%. For those interested, Olivo has drawn walks in 1.5% of his plate appearances this year. One of our catchers draws a free pass more than 10 times as frequently as our other catcher. But Olivo hits for power, right? Jaso has an ISO of .173 during 2012, compared to Olivo’s .146. I don’t have the data to back this up on-hand, but I’m willing to say that this 30-game stretch of Jaso’s was one of the best streaks in all of baseball this year. One of my two previous articles I’ve written about the M’s this year was all about Mr. Jaso, and what a great story he’d been so far in 2012. Well, I wrote that article two days before this streak began