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The 2015 Mariners: A tale of woe and bad base running

Leave it to this team to make you miss having James Jones on the roster.

You are not safe.
You are not safe.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Mariners won 11-8. They mashed 13 base hits (six for extra bases) and put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard throughout the game. It was great! One of the offensive leaders in this game was Mr. Brad Miller, who reached base twice, drove in three runs, and was responsible for putting the M's up for good in the top of the third (giving them a 7-5 lead). Unfortunately, a less good part about his offense last night was the fact that he was thrown out while attempting to steal second base... twice! Two TOOTBLANs in a single game is pretty ridiculous.

Going into last night's game, Brad had a BsR value of 0.7, which was actually the highest of any Seattle Mariner. (BsR is a player's base running value; basically, a player gets credited for stolen bases/tagging up on fly balls/going first to third and dinged for being caught stealing/failing to advance/grounding into double plays.) After being caught stealing twice, Brad's BsR now sits at -0.1. The team's new leader is recent call-up Ketel Marte, which speaks volumes about the Mariners ability to move about the bases in 2015. (It's been downright ugly.)

For reference, an everyday player who is good at base running will have a BsR of 2 to 3. An excellent base runner will be above 8 and a lousy base runner will be below -3. 0 is average.

Marte's current BsR of 0.5 would tie Dave Magadan's performance back in '93 for the very worst "best" BsR in Seattle Mariners history (min. 100 PA). Ketel does seem to be pretty competent on the basepaths, so this number could tick up during the remaining 27 games, but if he gets caught stealing a few more times there's a real chance that the M's could set a new record low for worst "best" baserunner. This season has been so fun.

As a franchise, the M's have generally been pretty middling when it comes to running around on the bases. They have had some gentlemen who were particularly fleet of feet (e.g., Julio Cruz and Ichiro Suzuki), but putting together a team of good base runners has never been a real priority for this franchise. The M's have averaged a team BsR of -0.4 per year and have been ±5 BsR in the majority of their seasons. However, that's not the case this year!

As this graph clearly indicates, the Mariners have been TERRIBLE base runners in 2015. They are on pace for a team BsR of -19.3, which is 56% worse than their next crappiest season! That is pretty miserable.

Their struggles this season are largely related to the fact that the M's have been bad when it comes to swiping bases. They've attempted 97 stolen bases on the year, which is right around average, but have the 26th worst successful stolen base percentage (62.9% compared to a league average of 70.6%). In fact, their top-three base stealers (Austin Jackson, Brad Miller, and Logan Morrison) have combined for a below average stolen base success rate (69.4%), which is very much less than ideal. They should probably just stop trying to steal at this point, but Lloyd is gonna Lloyd and the Mariners are gonna Mariner. What can you do?

In addition to being caught stealing at an alarming rate, the Mariners haven't been particularly good at avoiding grounding into double plays (they're league average in this regard, but Cano and Seager have both struggled with this all season). There have also been a fair number of questionable calls by Rich Donnelly, sending runners home on plays where they had very little chance of scoring. And then, of course, there are all of the other TOOTBLANs this team seems to roll out every second other third day. According to the TOOTBLAN tracker (which appears to look at non-CS outs on the basepaths), the Mariners have had the ninth most TOOTBLANs in MLB this season. The team "leader" is Robinson Cano, who has eight. One of those many base running mistake was this gem:

Cano has a BsR of -6.0 this season, which is the seventh worst out of the 155 qualified players in baseball. He sits right between Kendrys Morales (-6.1) and Pablo Sandoval (-5.9). That's not exactly the type of company you want to keep when it comes to base running ability.

All of these aforementioned shortcomings have combined to produce one of the worst base running teams in 2015 and what will almost certainly be the worst base running team in Mariners history. There are many reasons for Seattle's woes in 2015 - bad base running is just one of them.