The Big Bat Theory

hunky. - Otto Greule Jr

After spending the Winter committed to improving the offense, the front office needs a do-over.

Last season, the Mariners had a chance to finish April with a winning record, but after two stinkers versus the Toronto Blue Jays and one extra-inning loss versus the Rays thanks to Brandon League, they instead settled for an 11-13 record. At that time, Ichiro and Michael Saunders were the most valuable position players for the Mariners, both registering 0.6 WAR. Munenori Kawasaki had more plate appearances than John Jaso and Miguel Olivo dazzled ADHD fans by walking just twice in 84 trips to the plate.

But that's all the past, right?

The off season was all about big bat, run-producing goons and we indeed saw Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales and company go all Ragnar Lothbrok on Spring Training pitchers. The club had a well documented change of heart on the "fair dimensions" of Safeco Field, moving the fences in ostensibly to aid in run production and free agent attraction. The latter clearly didn't work out, but now that it's the end of April, let's take a peek at the run production progress. I think you know where this is going, so feel free to avert your eyes.

The Mariners are 12-16. They rank 24th in the league with a team wOBA of .301 (for the non-geeks, a good description of wOBA can be found here). 24th is good because it's ahead of six other teams. It's bad in almost every other way. The Mariners own a team slash line of .240/.304/.378. If chicks dig the long ball, then the ladies are probably happy with the new offense as they're tied for 10th in home runs with 28, ahead of the likes of the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals. They are like the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals in no other way other than having access to similar equipment. They are in the bottom third of all teams in walk rate and in the top third in strikeout rate. They average 3.32 runs per game, second worst only to the Miami Marlins.

Is this an improvement over 2012? It kind of depends on where you look.

In April of 2012, the team was hitting .238/.288/.375. If getting on base about ten more times floats your boat, then get your dancing shoes on -- otherwise, that's damn near a mirror image to the team they're running out there right now. Consider this:

Runs/Gm K% BB% wOBA ISO HR
2012 3.87 19.3% 6.4% 0.290 0.137 22
2013 3.32 21% 7.6% 0.301 0.136 28

So they're striking out more walking more, and although they've hit six home runs more than they did in 2012, their power is actually coming in behind where they were in 2012 and they're scoring far fewer runs. Terrific.

Maybe they've been getting a bit of a raw deal on balls in play. Just maybe. The Mariners have put somewhere in the vicinity of 700 balls in play this month. If we accept that BABIP becomes relatively stable after 820 balls in play and if we like the math on expected BABIP enough, then you could say a few of their hits ought to have found a place where someone wasn't standing. Their current BABIP is just over .280 and their expected BABIP is fully .313. So there's your nugget of optimism.

There's fretting about Chone Figgins not working out when he really should have and then there's signing guys that you really, as Vincent Vega might say, "should have better known better."

If they could manage to replace this guy with someone league average, it would help:

Ibanez0002

Or maybe this guy?

Ibanez0004

Oh, wait - same guy! Problem solved!

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