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The Seattle Mariners and their utter offensive ineptitude in losses

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It's not surprising that the M's were a much better offensive team during victories than they were in losses. It is, however, a little surprsing how big the difference was.

Otto Greule Jr

After a lot of extensive research this morning, I have determined that, on average, teams in Major League Baseball play much better offensively when they win compared to when they lose. This is shocking stuff. In fact, it might just be the hottest take on the internet since Trent Dilfer privileged us with his wisdom a few weeks ago. You're welcome.

Anyway, of course this is true. Teams that win score runs! And you usually have to get some hits and have some guys on base and display at least a modicum of offensive prowess to do this. It's certainly possible to pull out a 1-0 victory, but a win is a lot easier to secure if you're able to put crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

Unfortunately for the Mariners in 2014, they routinely struggled to push men across the plate; in almost 40% of their games they scored 2 runs or fewer. By now, most of you have probably read something about the M's being 79-22 when they scored three or more runs. (This is a winning percentage of .782; the Angels, who won the most games in all of baseball in 2014, had a winning percentage of .761 when they scored 3+ runs.) Seattle's losses were usually triggered by a seemingly-random onset of offensive malaise; one day they would smash 14 hits en route to seven or eight runs... and then the next they'd suffer a four-hit shutout at the hands of Miles Mikolas. Their wins were so good! But their losses were frustratingly bad, generally filled with an endless string of ugly swings and uglier at bats. The 2014 Seattle Mariners really seemed like a different team when they lost. To see if this difference was actually as dramatic as it felt, I compiled some win vs. loss offensive splits for the Mariners (and for all of the other teams to serve as a point of comparison).

First of all, to look at offensive output, I'm simply using OPS as my metric because it's a pretty good measure of a team's/player's offensive contributions, and it's one of the easier stats to sort by on baseball-reference (fangraphs doesn't have win vs. loss splits, which surprised me a little). The average OPS for a winning team in 2014 was a bit above .800, compared to an average OPS below .600 for the losers. This represents more than a 220 point difference between the victors and the vanquished. For comparison, that's the same difference between hitting like the 2014 versions of Starling Marte and Allen Craig (who appeared to have played with at least one arm tied behind his back this year). I didn't feel like including an ultra-bulky table with 30 rows in it, so I've just listed the teams with the largest and smallest differences between their winning and losing OPSs.

Rank Team 2014 OPS OPS in W OPS in L OPS Difference (W-L) OPS Difference (W/L) Relative OPS in W Relative OPS in L
1 SEA 0.676 0.807 0.515 0.292 156.7% 119% 76%
2 BAL 0.734 0.844 0.564 0.280 149.6% 115% 77%
3 OAK 0.700 0.815 0.554 0.261 147.1% 116% 79%
Average MLB 0.700 0.809 0.588 0.221 137.6% 116% 84%
28 MIA 0.694 0.783 0.612 0.171 127.9% 113% 88%
29 TBR 0.684 0.767 0.606 0.161 126.6% 112% 89%
30 NYY 0.687 0.760 0.607 0.153 125.2% 111% 88%

Look, guys. It's the Mariners. I guess my feelings re: the M's being terrible offensively in losses are pretty well-founded. In 2014, the M's were the Harvey-est of Dents with an OPS difference of almost 300 points (!) between their wins and their losses. Although they had a league-average OPS in their victories, their team OPS when they lost was by far the worst in the league (the Padres were second at .531). This microscopic number was largely an artifact of getting shutout a franchise-record 19 times this year. Unfortunate stuff. I do find it interesting that Baltimore and Oakland rounded out the top three in largest disparity between their winning and losing OPSs. I would've thought that consistency might've been a bit more important for a playoff-bound team. Then again, the Mariners almost reached the postseason and they regularly embraced their inner Mr. Hyde.

To see how individual M's hitters faired in wins vs. losses, I've compiled these same stats for the Mariner hitters with at least 100 PA this year.

Name 2014 OPS OPS in W OPS in L OPS Difference (W-L) OPS Difference (W/L) Relative OPS in W
Relative OPS in L
Abraham Almonte 0.540 0.540 0.540 0.000 100.0% 100% 100%
Austin Jackson 0.527 0.635 0.367 0.268 173.0% 120% 70%
Brad Miller 0.653 0.796 0.490 0.306 162.4% 122% 75%
Chris Taylor 0.692 0.817 0.499 0.318 163.7% 118% 72%
Corey Hart 0.590 0.646 0.538 0.108 120.1% 109% 91%
Dustin Ackley 0.692 0.833 0.517 0.316 161.1% 120% 75%
Endy Chavez 0.688 0.832 0.493 0.339 168.8% 121% 72%
James Jones 0.589 0.673 0.499 0.174 134.9% 114% 85%
Justin Smoak 0.614 0.735 0.484 0.251 151.9% 120% 79%
Kendrys Morales 0.632 0.761 0.459 0.302 165.8% 120% 73%
Kyle Seager 0.788 0.941 0.600 0.341 156.8% 119% 76%
Logan Morrison 0.735 0.929 0.495 0.434 187.7% 126% 67%
Michael Saunders 0.791 0.937 0.627 0.310 149.4% 118% 79%
Mike Zunino 0.658 0.800 0.472 0.328 169.5% 122% 72%
Robinson Cano 0.836 0.951 0.697 0.254 136.4% 114% 83%
Stefen Romero 0.533 0.707 0.273 0.434 259.0% 133% 51%
Willie Bloomquist 0.643 0.797 0.400 0.397 199.3% 124% 62%
Team Totals 0.676 0.807 0.515 0.292 156.7% 119% 76%

There isn't anything particularly surprising in this table. No one averaged worse offensive numbers during wins, and most players performed significantly worse than league-average (.588 OPS) in defeat. That being said, there are a few things I'd like to point out:

  • Now we all finally know what Lloyd saw in Almonte at the beginning of the season. Such consistency! No real deviation in performance between wins and losses. Having a dependable presence at the top of your batting order is one of the most important aspects of baseball, RIGHT?
  • Robinson Cano was, unsurprisingly, the most consistent starter on this team. Although he was much better in wins, he was the only Mariner to maintain a respectable OPS (.697) in losses. A lot of bitter Yankees fans like to whine about how Cano only gets hits when his team is already winning. However, his relative consistency for the Mariners this year seems to disprove this assertion.
  • The least consistent Mariners "regular" in 2014 was Logan Morrison. Although his .929 OPS in wins reflects very well on his potential to be a massive offensive contributor, his .495 OPS in losses is completely and utterly unacceptable. I don't know that a successful, more consistent campaign from Morrison in 2015 is necessarily required for the Mariners to succeed next season, but it would certainly make winning a hell of a lot easier.
  • Stefen Romero is clearly an Animorph who turns into a slug during Mariners losses. Or maybe he's a slug who morphs into a semi-competent MLB hitter during victories? Either way, his .273 OPS in defeat is beyond atrocious.

There were lots of jokes about the Mariners sometimes running out their B-team this season (typically when facing lefties), and while this certainly felt somewhat true, the numbers don't necessarily support the idea that they suffered as a result of these meager lineups. (For example, in games started by Sucre, Romero, and Chavez, the M's had winning percentages of .577, .611, and .596, respectively, compared to a season-long winning percentage of .537.) When this team struggled offensively, just about everyone fell off of a cliff. Although this is true for every MLB team, the Seattle's cliff appeared to be a lot higher with a lot more pointy rocks at the bottom.