When Jerry Dipoto started to reveal his offseason plan for revamping the Seattle Mariners lineup, a lot of it had to do with controlling the basepaths. The team was going to walk more, strikeout less, steal bags, press the issue. Athleticism was going to win the day on both sides of the ball. We saw that basepath edge Jerry was looking to gain in the additions of Aoki, Leonys Martin, and the continuing development of Ketel Marte. We saw the the emphasis on plate discipline in hoping for a return-to-form from Iannetta. On paper, the lineup looked different in the ways Jerry had described. The current offense, twenty six games in, looks a bit different.
So far, the M's are tied for second-worst in the League with seven steals. The TOOTBLANin' hasn't just disappeared overnight, but hey, at least we aren't watching Austin Jackson searching for a stick with which to leverage himself out of quicksand with. To be fair, the three main baserunning threats, Ketel, Aoki, and Martin, haven't had the chance to really get in a rhythm on the basepaths yet. All three have had their slumps in this early season. It may come to be that base stealing becomes part of the program later into the year.
On to the walks. With a BB% of 9.0, the M's lead the AL. We've all noticed it. Nelson Cruz is grinding out AB's, as Nathan touched on yesterday. But so too are Iannetta and Seth Smith. No longer is there that sinking feeling when a given batter is 0-2. Now, maybe that's results-based feeling, but this team just seems to be pulling more from losing counts. In their favor is that the M's sit almost directly in the middle of the MLB in K% at 20.5. That puts them 7th in the AL, 18th in all of Baseball. Just below average with the strikeouts and the top of their class in walks, not a bad spot to be in. In contrast, the A's are striking out in only 19.2% of their AB's, the Angels only 14.3% of theirs. One of those offenses has been worth 0.1 fWAR and the other is the Angels.
Moving onto the bats, the Mariners are a top 10 offense in all of the MLB by wRC+ at 107. This is likely the best indicator of the overall quality of offensive production we can look at right now, and it's being weighed down by a bottom three BABIP and a team-wide batting average of .236. The three AL offenses currently above the M's in wRC+ are the Red Sox, Tigers, and Orioles. All three offenses sport BABIP's 60 points higher than the M's.
So how is the offense producing so well with an ISO of .164? It's bombs. The answer is bombs. The untold story of the Jerry Equation is that if you leave the yard, well, nothing else really matters. The Seattle Mariners 35 home runs sits only behind the Mark Trumbo lead Orioles (36) in the AL. Robbie has nine, Kyle six, Leonys five, Nelson and Seth both four. The bombs are coming hot and heavy and long may it continue.
The offense, as we've talked about before, has plenty of room to improve. There's plenty of reason to see why the steals could go up. The strikeout percentage is below league-average, but still above the 2015 MLB average. The BABIP won't stay down forever, as evidenced by Adam Lind's bloop single last night. The M's aren't even leaving the yard at an unmanageable rate. The team batting average won't stay south of .250 all year. Even without these aspects firing on all cylinders, the team still has the best run differential in the AL at +28. That's quality you can count on.
We need to talk. This offense just might be elite.