I’m a simple man, really. Given all the complexities of baseball, the proper lead-off, the shift, the size of the glove you field with, weight of the bat, and so on, there’s really only one thing I need. It’s the power tool. It’s the reason I wouldn’t be that mad if the M’s had decided to make Khris Davis their left fielder at the deadline, why we all fell in love with Dae-Ho Lee. It’s, if we’re being honest, likely the main reason why the number 24 is being retired in Safeco this weekend. We all want to see a ball blasted into the upper tank. To see the very limits of the game broken. Well, folks, the 2016 Mariners have absolutely obliged.
In 2016, the Seattle Mariners offense currently leads all of MLB in the amount of runs they score via the bomb. As of last night, when the Mariners scored all three runs by solo home run, the M's have so far scored almost 53% of their runs by leaving the yard. While behind both the Blue Jays (155) and Orioles (158) in number of home runs, Seattle has managed to hit 151 dingers in just 106 games. That means that the M's are swatting big boy blasts every .122 player games, up nearly 50% from .082 HR/player game last season, and nearly just the same increase since 2013, the high water mark of the previous ten years at 0.84 HR/player game. The 2016 Mariners are, by far, the most home run dependent offense of the past ten years, however, that isn't necessarily indicative of something bad.
Currently, the Mariners are tied with the Cardinals for the 2nd-best wRC+ in all of baseball (107 wRC+). They trail only the Red Sox and their unworldly team wRC+ of 117. The home runs certainly have helped push the M's towards the upper echelons of MLB offenses, but the entire league has been buoyed by an abundance of home runs. In fact, if you go back ten seasons, thirteen of the first fourteen offenses by HR/player game are from this year. The only exception is the 2010 Blue Jays who averaged .117 HR/game. Before them sits the 2016 O's, Jays, M's, Red Sox, Rangers, Tigers, and the Indians. After the '10 Jays, you have to go another seven spots to find a team not in '16. This year, there are bombs everywhere. So what makes the M's offense special, if home runs are every where?
Well, for the first time in a long while, the Mariners are hitting home runs and have runners on. On top of leading MLB in the percent of runs they score via home run, the M's also lead MLB in RBI/HR at 1.72. In the offseason, Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais spoke a lot about making runs on the basepaths acquiring players like Norichicka Aoki and Chris Iannetta in hopes that men would be on base whenever the bigger bats in the lineup came due. Well, those two players aside, the plane has sort of worked, and while this is by no means a small-ball squad, the M's average nearly two runs for every time they leave the yard.
It becomes difficult to categorize this season among others of the recent past. When the 2016 Rockies are a top-15 team in HR/player game over the past ten seasons, what does this level of performance really mean in this season? It's hard to say, especially with more and more rumbling that the ball this year is maybe juiced (for what it's worth, I think there's no question it is). What is important to note, among all the Mariner home runs, is that they aren't occurring with the bases empty, as the M's average essentially 4.7 runs/game. That puts them on pace for about 750 runs this year.
That ain't bad.