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The Mariners and the conundrum of runners in scoring position

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A glaring issue that has existed this year in losses has existed most years for the past decade.

The caption on the photo read Dustin Ackley grimaces after striking out with the bases loaded. Fitting.
The caption on the photo read Dustin Ackley grimaces after striking out with the bases loaded. Fitting.
Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Ah runners in scoring position. It is a topic this season that has come up over, and over, and over again this season. And although the Mariners are finally starting to turn things around and attempting to cover ground with the AL West leading Astros, it seems worth noting that if the Mariners ever plan on seriously contending this year, they are going to have to learn how to hit with runners in scoring position.

For the most part, the Mariners are going to have to learn how to hit as a team first, where their team average sits at .237 -- fourth worst in the league. Thanks in large part to Nelson Cruz, the Mariners are fourth in the league with 60 home runs. Unfortunately, well over half of those home runs have been solo shots. For some reason, the Mariners, with runners in scoring position, are just flat out terrible. How terrible you probably don't want to ask? Tied for third-worst in the league with an average of .223.

Now, to be fair to the Mariners, their batting average with runners in scoring position is depressing because their batting average as a team is also depressing. But if the team wants to get better in the standings, they also need to get better at getting guys across the plate, because no one likes to watch pitchers lose games 2-1.

Weirdly enough, when you look at guys in the lineup, there are a lot of players who are doing alright with RISP. There are also a lot of players who should basically retire from baseball if a man is on second and it is their turn up to the plate. Here is how the team looks this season (as of Wednesday) with runners in scoring position.

player PA H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG SO BABIP
Nelson Cruz 57 17 3 0 3 20 .340 .421 .580 14 .424
Mike Zunino 52 10 4 0 1 9 .227 .314 .386 18 .346
Robinson Cano 48 9 1 0 0 10 .209 .271 .233 12 .281
Kyle Seager 45 11 1 0 3 21 .289 .378 .553 4 .250
Logan Morrison 42 4 1 1 0 8 .118 .286 .206 5 .138
Brad Miller 37 9 3 2 0 9 .300 .405 .533 8 .391
Dustin Ackley 27 1 1 0 0 4 .040 .037 .080 8 .053
Seth Smith 23 5 2 1 0 7 .294 .391 .529 4 .333
Austin Jackson 19 3 0 0 0 1 .167 .211 .167 5 .231
Rickie Weeks 17 5 1 0 1 8 .357 .471 .673 4 .444
Chris Taylor 12 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .083 .000 4 .000
Willie Bloomquist 11 2 1 0 0 3 .182 .182 .273 1 .200
Justin Ruggiano 7 2 0 0 1 2 .286 .286 .714 3 .333
Welington Castillo 6 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 0 .000
Jesus Sucre 2 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 0 .000
Hisashi Iwakuma 1 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 1 N/A

There are a couple of depressing repeat offenders in there. Mike Zunino, Robinson Cano, Logan Morrison and Dustin Ackley have all struggled offensively this year, as we all have seen. All four are basically varying degrees of lame ducks at the plate when the pressure is on. And unfortunately, for the Mariners, those players are four of the top seven most common players in these scoreable situations.

It isn't just as easy to pull those guys aside and say listen, I know you are in a funk but for crying out loud just be a better hitter. Historically, over the past decade, the Mariners have been a pretty awful team with runners in scoring position. Here is how they've fared over the past decade, and where that ranked them within the league.

BA w/ RISP rank Team BA rank
2014 .262 9 .240 28
2013 .228 28 .237 29
2012 .239 25 .234 30
2011 .222 29 .233 30
2010 .226 30 .236 30
2009 .235 30 .258 25
2008 .263 20 .265 14
2007 .255 27 .268 16
2006 .290 3 .280 6
2005 .259 23 .271 7

2006 seems so long ago. Hell, even 2014 seems a lot long ago if you look at that chart. Those are some sobering numbers. For whatever reason, things started to click last year at the plate when it mattered most for the Mariners. As a result, we were one day away from making the playoffs. Otherwise, it is hard to extrapolate too much on the past decade. The Mariners were terrible with runners in scoring position in 2010-2013 and that is absolutely no surprise because the Mariners were terrible at just about everything offensively. But seemingly, even when the Mariners bats start to click, like in 2005 or 2007, things don't click enough to drive home runs.

There have been different coaching staffs throughout the past decade, so it seems hard to blame it on the coaches being systematically terrible at coaching how to hit in pressure situations. Is there some sort of funky cloud that hangs over the Seattle Mariners' clubhouse like a fart that won't go away? Do the players have some sort of allergy to the endorphins released in pressure situations when combined with the scent of pine tar? I don't have a lot of explanations, other than that the Mariners need to figure it out sooner than later if they want to be realistic contenders.