There were two stretches that probably stand out in every fan’s mind as the stretch that cost us a playoff spot: The eight game losing streak starting April 15, and the five games in a row they lost towards the end of the season.
In the end, it comes down to the Mariners needing to increase their run production.
During that stretch in April, the M’s scored 18 runs–just over 2 runs per game. Three of those games during that span were decided by two or less runs.
If the Mariners are going to make a serious push towards a playoff spot next year, they’re going to need to address a few issues. More than a power hitter, the M’s need a clutch hitter–someone that can produce with runners in scoring position. The Mariners drove in 600 RBI’s last season, which was good for 19th in the MLB this year.
How are the Mariners going to get more people in scoring position, you ask?
To answer this, simply look at the Kansas City Royals.
They played excellent small ball during the regular season, and are currently leading the American League Championship Series 3-0 against the Baltimore Orioles, a team that averaged a home run every 27 at-bats.
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The Royals had the eighth most sacrifice flies last season, as well as leading the league in steals and stolen base percentage.
The Mariners are a team built very similar to the Royals on offense: good speed, and not a whole lot of power. The Royals were last in the league in home runs, and the Mariners were 14th.
With the speed that the Mariners have, they should have stolen way more steals than the 96 they ended up with, a far cry from the 153 bases the Royals stole.
More sacrifice flies and bunts will lead to having more runners in scoring position, which when accompanied by clutch hitting, scores more runs.
Throw in a couple of hit-and-runs over the course of a game, and the Mariners are scoring runners from first on singles. Some of the one- and two-run losses then become opportunities to win in extra innings (though the Mariners were only 4-7 in one-run games this season). Bunting runners over will also help the M’s take advantage of the excellent speed they currently have, without the need, necessarily, for an additional power bat.
ESPN’s expected win/loss record for the Mariners last season was 92-70, five games above what they ended up at. With a little more aggressive playcalling by coaches, the Mariners have a much better shot at making the playoffs in 2015.