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Nelson Cruz has been struggling when the Mariners need him most

They need September 2016 Nellie, not whatever this version is

Seattle Mariners v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

“Don't fade on me / You come out of the blues all them times by yourself

Nothing lives for nothing / And that goes for pain and goes for everything else.”

I really didn’t want to write this. Nelson Cruz has brought me so much joy as a Seattle Mariner and current struggles do not negate past success.

Exhibit A - Game 161 of 2016:

Exhibit B - Hitting a dinger into a pool of manta rays:

Exhibit C - Call Today:

.gif by Matthias Ellis

I could probably do the whole alphabet, but I’ll stop there.

Cruz has surpassed every expectation I had for him when he joined the team. He refused to decline as many power hitters do around his age.

Well, until now. Maybe. It is September, after all, and he has suffered through a few minor injuries this season, and for all we know he could be injured right now and just trying to grit through it until the team is truly finished.

Either way, his recent steep drop-off in production during a time when the team has needed it most has been hard for me to ignore or stomach. Eye test-wise, he hasn’t looked like his usual mighty self at the plate, but let’s look at some numbers.

Let’s give him a solid 3 weeks of plate appearances first dating back to August 18.

Okay, that’s passable. 14 hits (9 singles) and 2 home runs. Not typical Cruz power numbers, though.

Last 2 weeks, dating back to August 25:

/tugs at collar

Granted this is 12 games worth of data, but wow that’s not good. Even worse than I was suspecting. 8 hits (7 singles) and zero home runs.

And finally here are the stats from the last week, which I know is an absurdly small sample size, but we’re talking about recent struggles here. Avert your eyes if you’re already queasy.

4 hits, all singles, in 26 plate appearances.

Anyone who has been watching knows Cruz has been struggling, but now you know just how badly. Since the team has so many other broken pieces, most of us have been able to fixate on other issues, but remember about how locked in Cruz was down the stretch last year?

Cruz in September 2016. Daaaaang.

The trio of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Cruz did everything they could to try to drag the 2016 team to the playoffs kicking and screaming, and Cruz’s demigod-like power is what was driving the whole operation. The team desperately needs some semblance of that again.

If it’s revealed that he’s been battling a nagging injury down the stretch, maybe we won’t have to worry so much about him for next season, which is the final year of his current contract. But, if not, maybe time has finally caught up to Cruz and this precipitous decline of his power hitting is going to follow into next season. Let’s hope it’s the first one.