Last season, as the Mariners toiled in offensive obscurity for the third consecutive season, the common complaint was a simple one: this isn’t a major league lineup. And to be fair, it really wasn’t. That wasn’t any more evident than in the third, fourth and fifth spots in the order. The team wasn’t slugging the ball enough, wasn’t driving in enough runs, and the middle of the order took the fall.
In 2012, Kyle Seager was the Mariners most common No. 3 and 5 hitter. Jesus Montero was the most regular cleanup guy. Since Ichiro, the second-most common 3-hole guy, was traded midseason, I’ll consider Seager the No. 3 hitter and Justin Smoak, who Seager edged out in the 5-hole by five games, the No. 5 man. Here are the numbers for those three guys in 2012.
3. Seager: .259/.316/.423, 20 home runs, 86 RBI, 13 SBs in just a tick under 600 ABs
4. Montero: .260/.298/.386 15 home runs, 62 RBI in a little over 500 ABs
5. Smoak: .217/.290/.364 19 home runs, 51 RBI in 483 ABs
OK, so a few things jump out here. Smoak’s crappy batting average is probably the first. The M’s just did not have a 5-hole hitter last year plain and simple. Another thing that definitely stands out are the overall OBPs and slugging perecentages the three of them put up. Smoak’s is good relative to his average, but his average sucks. Montero hit .260 but he only got a 38 point boost in OBP. Even Seager has a fairly low OBP for how good his HR and RBI numbers were. The slugging percentages are bad, especially in Montero and Smoak’s cases. To illustrate just how bad, here are the numbers from the 2013 Mariners three through five hitters, Seager, Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez.
3. Seager: .290/.353/.487 15 home runs, 44 RBI, 3 SBs in 359 ABs
4. Morales: .281/.339/.468 14 home runs, 54 RBI in 342 ABs
5. Ibanez: .264/.313/.576 24 home runs, 54 RBI in 269 ABs
Raul Ibanez is outslugging 2012 Justin Smoak by 212 points! He also has five more homers than him in 214 fewer at-bats. That’s called an upgrade. Morales is definitely an upgrade to 2012 Jesus Montero as well. Twenty points in average, forty in OBP, 84 in slugging plus almost as many home runs and RBI in 150 fewer at-bats. Even Seager is an upgrade of 2012 Kyle Seager. The average is 30 points higher, the OBP is up 37, he’s slugging 54 points higher and he’ll probably hit seven to eight more homers. His RBI number will likely stay the same or even drop, but he’s having such a radically better season that it won’t matter. Plus, Morales and Ibanez are picking up the slack in earnest.
It’s crazy how much better this lineup looks just one year later and it’s a testament to a solid 2012 offseason by Jack Zdurencik. However, the Mariners still aren’t winning more games, in part due to their shaky pitching for a majority of the first half. If they can get that together, the middle of the lineup could carry this team to a late surge in 2013.