Once again, for what seems like the umpteenth in a row, my post is going to start out with something along the lines of “Well, that didn’t go very well.” Because, well, it didn’t. The Mariners lost yesterday in their day game to the Astros, but it was not an ordinary loss. They gave up double digits to the ‘Stros for the second time on the year, falling 10-3.
Starting pitcher Joe Saunders continues to struggle outside of Safeco Field, as he gave up a very loud 8 runs and struck out only 2 batters in 5 innings of work. That brings his season line to a disappointing 6.33 ERA, 5.02 FIP and 4.95 xFIP in 5 appearances. He has yet to give up a run at home though, with all 19 of his earned runs coming on the road. He has always done well at Safeco, so success there is to be expected. But a 12.51 ERA on the road leaves something — maybe about 8.5 less runs given up a game — to be desired. But this post isn’t about Joe Saunders.
Meanwhile, as Anthony talked about, there has been a change in the lineup. Robert Andino has been named the new starting shortstop, with Brendan Ryan moving to the bench, at least for now. While Ryan has been awful at the plate — .143/.210/.143 — it isn’t like Andino has been much better, or that he has fought valiantly and earned this chance with his .188 wOBA and 18 wRC+. And on top of that, his defense is no where near what Ryan’s is. It is just another perplexing and frustrating move by Eric Wedge. Especially since Raul Ibanez continues to be run out there on a regular basis, while sporting .216 wOBA and 38 wRC+ of his own, and being arguably the worst defensive outfielder in the league, as evidenced here, here and here. So any hope of instilling a system in which you have to earn your ABs and produce to see your name is the lineup is gone as soon as you let Raul play every day (even with the injuries). But this post isn’t about Wedge’s decisions.
There were one or two small bright spots in the overall embarrassingly bad game. Dustin Ackley picked up three hits — his second 3-hit game in three days– and brought his triple-slash up to .230/.260/.270. So while he still isn’t hitting for any power, and is walking at an abysmal 2.7% clip, he has his average above where it ended last year. (Hint: this is why batting average by itself is not a great stat). He does have a 5 game hitting streak, and is hitting .351/.351/.405 over his last ten games, which is definitely an encouraging stretch. On top of that, Justin Smoak hit his first homer of the year. I didn’t see it live, but I heard it on the radio just as I got in my car, and Rizzs said it was a line shot. And upon watching the replay, he was right. He is steadily improving himself, with his wOBA and wRC+ up to .284 and 84 respectively. Improvements from the young guys are definitely uplifting, and we all hope they continue. But this post isn’t about the improvement of the kids.
What this post is about is the overall struggles of this Mariner team. The M’s now have the second worst run differential in the Majors — worst in the American League — at -37. That means they have given up 110 runs, while only scoring 73. Yes, the Marlins, who basically traded away their whole team this year, have a run differential that is only 7 worse than the Mariners. And the aforementioned Astros, who everyone was calling a Triple-A team, have a differential that is 5 runs better than the M’s. And they have put up 37 of their 88 runs on the season in their 4 wins over Seattle.
That kind of production — or lack thereof — cannot keep happening if this team plans on succeeding at all. I would argue that run differential is a little more telling for the future than record because when you score or give up those runs is what determines your record. Whereas the run differential is just bare runs against vs runs scored, and the situation is not important. And their run differential is probably even scarier than their record because it probably suggests their record ‘should’ be even worse. For comparison, the M’s had a -32 run differential last year, which was actually halfway decent when you see that there were six teams with a run differential of -100 or worse.
All of the other things I talked about may not have been the main idea of the post, but they were certainly aspects of it, and play a role in deciding why the main point — run differential — is what it is. Their play over the month, particularly yesterday, has been disappointing. Both as a team and the players individually. Wedge’s lineup decisions and just managing in general have been extremely confusing, and have probably resulted in more than a few head-scratches. And both have been infuriating in so may ways and on so many different levels.
The season is still young, and anything can happen. There has been improvement from some of the kids, and Michael Saunders is due back at the end of the week. But what has occurred so far is certainly not encouraging in the slightest, and what looked to some like a possible turn-around season has lost some luster. But don’t let it lose all of it’s excitement just yet. I mean, how about that Kyle Seager?