Apr 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Dustin Ackley (13) during the game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeated the Mariners 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners: Bright Spots In What Has Been a Dark Stretch

Feb 25, 2014; Mesa, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Corey Hart (27) warms up during camp at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that wasn’t fun.

As you all well know, the Mariners were just swept by what is probably one of the worst teams in baseball, en route to their current six-game losing streak, on top of having lost eight of their last nine games. Rough stretch, rough stretch.

Overall morale surrounding the team following this patch of despair has substantially weakened, and understandably so. Even with a banged up roster, with some small sample size struggles, losing every game against the Miami Marlins is not an easy pill to swallow. Most of the frustration is justified.

But as is the case in any extreme set of games, whether it be extremely positive or extremely negative, there are overreactions. Those that are ready to throw in the towel on the season, and make broad, unreasonable declarations about teams, or players, or events. Even those who are usually level-headed can get caught up in the anger and feel the urge to give up, or say that the Mariners are currently, have always been, and will always be bad. Don’t speak in such absolutes. Stop. Don’t.

Because while the past week or so has been anything but reassuring, there are some bright spots, glimmers of hope, scattered into the pile of garbage that is Mariner baseball as it currently sits. Just because the team as a whole has been pitiful, doesn’t mean a) Everyone on the team is also pitiful, or b) that the team actually played as pitifully as the outcomes suggest.

For one, Dustin Ackley and Corey Hart have both been pleasant surprises to this point in the year. There were those (me) who had faith, irrational as it may have been, that one or both of these guys would perform well this year. Ackley looked like a changed man in the 2nd half of last season (126 wRC+), and Hart has long been a productive hitter, posting wRC+’s of 124 and 137 in his last two seasons.

Both obviously came with their concerns, and to most, those concerns outweighed the signs of success. For Ackley, it was the fact that apart from the 2nd half of 2013 and his rookie season, he had been a huge disappointment, with a 75 wRC+ in 2012, and even an 84 wRC+ in 2013, despite the hot 2nd half. But to this point, he has a 104 wRC+ and is showing a much improved approach at the plate.

He did have a down week however, and may be coming back down to earth after a hot start, with a 42 wRC+ over his last seven games. But, he also carried a low .250 BABIP and .045 ISO, and had to play three games in Marlins Park, where only Giancarlo Stanton can hit with sustained success. What a stupid park that is.

Overall, his small sample size plate discipline numbers look great, and it looks as though he really has turned a corner. He is even hitting second tonight, rendering a portion of my post on Lloyd McClendon‘s comments on Ackley’s spot in the order useless.

Hart had a few concerns of his own. His right knee, his left knee, and the fact that he would be coming from a notorious hitters park in Milwaukee, to Safeco, where hopes, dreams, and hard hit balls from right handed hitters go to die.

So far, he has looked healthy, if a little slow and awkward at times, and has managed to produce offensively, above even his Milwaukee numbers. The power numbers, where much of his production has come from, are certain to regress some. But at the same time, he currently holds a .270 BABIP, well below his career mark of .312. While it doesn’t seem likely that he will reach that .312 point this year, it is safe to assume it will creep up closer toward the league average of .295-.300.

He currently holds a team high 151 wRC+, with a 167 at home, though he only has 16 plate appearances at Safeco, so it’s too early, and too unreasonable to think it will sustain. He did hit two dingers in the home opener though, so that’s fun. I was excited.

Unfortunately, that is about as far as the surprisingly good individual players go, except for Felix Hernandez, who has always been, and will always been awesome. Remember when I said to not speak in absolutes? Throw all that out the window when talking about the King.

But! There are some things that suggest the team as a whole has played better than a 7-11 record normally indicates. For one, the Mariners are currently 27th in the Major Leagues with a team BABIP of .272, which means, among other things that will only dampen the mood (low line drive % and less hard hit balls means lower BABIP. Damn, I mentioned it), that the M’s have been a little unlucky on offense this year. 28% fewer balls in play are going for hits than what is generally close to league average. And on top of that, the team that swept them — the Marlins, remember them? — have been the luckiest son’s of guns on the year, with a team BABIP of .339.

And what’s more, is that over the last seven days — which is the closest I could get to the three-game series without doing way too much work — the Marlins BABIP’d .349 as a team, with the Mariners at an even lower .265. Again, it isn’t all luck, but I definitely remember seeing more than a few hard hit balls that went right at someone, or a good play was made that isn’t made if the ball is a foot further right, etc., so luck is at play to some degree.

Perhaps what gives me the most reassurance though, is their run differential, and subsequent Pythagorean Record. The Mariners have scored 67 runs, and given up 68. That certainly doesn’t look like a run differential indicative of a 7-11 record. And using pythag. record, we can estimate what their record “should be” based on said differential.

Doing so gives us an estimated winning percentage of 0.493, or just under 9 wins over 18 games. So the Mariners run differential pegs them as a roughly .500 team. Some of that is because they blew out the Angels to start the season, but the runs scored and allowed are still there, it’s just been about when they’ve happened.

You can even break it down even further and see how close some of the games have been. Sure, there are some blowouts in between, but: 2-3, 4-8 (because of a grand slam, could easily have been 4-5), 6-8, 2-3. Those aren’t drastic losses, they just feel like it because of the fashion in which they happened. Losing a lead at the very end sucks.

These are just things to keep in mind. There are plenty of reasons to hate the word “Mariners” right now, but there are also reasons to remain…not optimistic, but reasonable. Calm. Not as if the world is going to end. The M’s may not be a particularly good team; but they also aren’t as bad as they’ve looked of late, and that’s something you can hold on to.

Tags: Seattle Mariners

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