Offensive arrow pointing up

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners are winning games against lefty starters, despite the stated deficiencies. But the team's struggle against righties is just as important.

One of the biggest concerns coming into the 2014 season was the team's lefty-heavy lineup. It was generally considered that this team could hold its own against right-handed pitching, but get carved up by lefties. So far, that simply hasn't been the case, going to 11-5 against lefty starters.

This doesn't fit the narrative.


There's been some fortunate breaks involved. Once games have gotten into later innings, the W/L record starts to fall apart as a measure of success. The offense is deficient against lefties, ranking 26th among all offenses. The Mariners have a 80 wRC+ against lefties, and a 90 wRC+ against righties. .646 OPS vs. .690 OPS, if you're into that. Even when it's broken down, it hardly looks like the big difference the Mariners put forth in 2013, but a lot of that is simply because they aren't hitting right-handed pitching either.

wRC+ vs. LHP wRC+ vs. RHP
2013 81 97
2014 80 90

90 wRC+ versus right handed pitching ranks 22nd in baseball, but it's clearly well below what this team should be capable of. The M's are supposed to have a big advantage against righties by stacking the lineup, but the collapse of Brad Miller and slow start from Robinson Cano have played a big factor in their failure to date.

Despite all the roster turnover from 2013 to 2014 (and the additional turnover this team has already witnessed by subtracting Abraham Almonte), the offense is simply worse than it was in 2013, but only so far. It isn't some glaring deficiency against a type of pitcher that's holding them back, it's that they haven't been able to hit anybody*. But as anybody in Seattle knows, when the weather starts to heat up, balls finally start flying out of Safeco. The home/road splits (81 wRC+ at home vs. 89 wRC+ on the right road) are nearly as bad as the lefty/righty splits, and that's even with the park adjustments built in.

The offensive arrow should be pointing up from here, obviously. Dustin Ackley began his turnaround this weekend after his positive April finally started to pay dividends. Kyle Seager began his a few weeks ago, and if Brad Miller isn't far behind, Nick Franklin will be, even if the improvement isn't significant. Corey Hart and his .250 BABIP is going to be better than he's been, and so will Robinson Cano once the power returns. Michael Saunders is better than this. Even WFB stands to improve. Justin Smoak is pretty much exactly who everyone thought he was, and Mike Zunino has settled into an all-or-nothing type hitter. Stefen Romero is carrying a reverse split. Zunino and Hart aren't showing big gaps between pitcher handedness, even as they favor lefties. James Jones is  the only hitter carrying a BABIP doomed to fall.

The arrow points up for almost every offensive player, regardless of what kind of pitcher they're facing. Overall lines will improve. There may be a point in this summer when the gap between pitcher-handedness increases to a glaring level, but right now the issue is just offense, period. Not some scrambling search for another right-handed masher. The first order of business should be getting this team to hit against everyone, period. Then, as the months roll on and if the Mariners can hang with the contending crew, they can add a lefty-masher better than Stefen Romero who's actually been a righty-masher.

As the offense begins to normalize and the staff gets healthy enough to replace Brandon Maurer, the Mariners will be better on paper. For now, they've earned this 20-18 record despite their fortunate hitting with RISP, as Larry Stone notes. Over time, things will end up as they should. They almost always do. We'll see if should is good enough.

*Cesar Ramos hahahaha

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