Any way you slice it, this was a bad month for Mariners hitters. Despite crossing the 50-win threshold before the All-Star break, they scored fewer runs and accumulated fewer fWAR than any other team in the majors. Of 25 games, 11 were decided by one run, during which the Mariners cobbled together a 5-6 split. They averaged 2.92 runs per game, a number that would be just under 2.5 runs without their 13-2 blowout in Houston on July 1.
By the trade deadline, this is how things shook out in the AL West:
It's a long way to fall for the Mariners, who ranked third in the division with 117 runs, 101 wRC+, and 3.8 fWAR during June. Although they finished with a worse win-loss record back in April, they never hit the bottom of the division -- or the league -- in runs and value.
Before we get too entrenched in the M's hitting woes, let's look at some of the high points of the month.
These were the Mariners' five top performers in July:
It's no surprise to see Cano and Seager at the top of the list, both of whom have sustained high levels of production from month to month and who ranked fifth and seventh, respectively, in fWAR on the AL leaderboard in July.
The biggest overall improvement, however, was made by Dustin Ackley. He put together his best month since last August, batting over .300 and jacking up his numbers from a .165 average, 28 wRC+, and team-worst -0.4 fWAR in June. His transformation was so complete that Lloyd McClendon handed him the leadoff spot (over everyone's favorite, Endy Chavez) and Jack Zduriencik fielded an offer from the Yankees as the trade deadline approached.
As for the rest of the list, Michael Saunders was taken out by an oblique injury 10 games into the month, depriving the team of one of their more consistent hitters, while Mike Zunino struggled to lift his average above the Mendoza Line for the second month this year. Zunino's hard-hitting approach boosted him to a team-best 17 home runs in July, but the catcher also swung hard for 20 strikeouts in 73 plate appearances. He has still not drawn a walk since June 29.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Mariners' biggest takeaway from July happened off the field. Zduriencik acquired four players following the All-Star break: 16-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Brayan Hernandez (signed by Director and Coordinator of International Operations, Tim Kissner and Emilio Carrasquel), Padres' outfielder Chris Denorfia, Tigers' outfielder Austin Jackson, and Kendrys Morales. While Hernandez has a long road ahead of him before he reaches the big leagues, and Morales is still getting warmed up after missing spring training, Denorfia and Jackson could be enough to keep the Mariners in the hunt for a wild card spot. After all, as Larry Stone pointed out last week, the Mariners are 49-17 when they score at least three runs in a game (51-17 through the end of July).
Now, for the ugly stuff. These were the M's five worst contributors in July:
Currently, only three of the Mariners listed above are playing in Seattle. Corey Hart succumbed to a recurring knee injury on July 31 and was placed on the 15-day disabled list, while James Jones was demoted to Triple-A with Stefen Romero to make room for the Mariners' new acquisitions. Hart was only with the club for 20 games in July after missing the entire month of June on another DL assignment. He couldn't get back up to speed in a month's worth of games, and barely improved on his May totals with a .202 average, five walks, and three extra-base hits.
Jones, who hit his stride in June with a .292 average and 12 stolen bases, faced some regression in his third month as a major-league starter. He nearly doubled his strikeout rate with 30 whiffs and made only three stolen base attempts in 23 games. Of the Mariners' three squabbles over instant replay in July, Jones found himself on the losing end of the decision twice. Despite the 25-year-old's tumultuous month, McClendon made it clear that both he and Romero would be recalled in September after a month's work in Tacoma.
The remaining three -- Morrison, Chavez, and Miller -- have all struggled with consistency over the summer. In June, Miller kept company with Cano and Seager, batting .298 with a 141 wRC+ and 1.0 fWAR. Although Miller kept his walk rate steady and chopped his strikeout rate nearly in half, his power evaporated and left him with three extra-base hits and a .052 ISO.
Moving forward, the Mariners still have a tough road ahead of them if they want to remain competitive for a postseason berth. Denorfia and Jackson, though useful additions to the roster, won't be enough to buoy Seattle's chances. Not only will the club need a healthy Michael Saunders and Corey Hart (if he can even provide any production value at this point) and sustained hot streak from Dustin Ackley, but they'll need Miller and Zunino to reclaim some of their lost power, too. Is that too much to ask from this club? Perhaps, but it has to be the starting point if the Mariners intend on playing through October.
Your turn: What is the key to the Mariners' success in August? What do they need to do to stay competitive?