BY John Hickey 09:20AM 07/11/2011

Hickey: Mariners in free fall at the break

Losing the final five games of the first half made the brutal point that a bad offense is actually getting worse.

First baseman Justin Smoak has, like his teammates, hit the skids in the final days before the All-Star break. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

If there is a team that needs the All-Star Game break to take a step back and purge the system before the season resumes, that team would be the Mariners.

For a month and a half the Mariners played at a level that suggested Seattle could be a contender in the American League West. In the final five days before the break, the Mariners gave away all of that.

It wasn’t just that they were 0-5. It wasn’t even that the two teams in front of Seattle in the standings, the Rangers and Angels, went 5-0. It wasn’t even that the Mariners went from 2½ to 7½ games out of first.

It was that the problems that have dogged the Mariners were no closer to resolution. The offense, despite new personnel and lineups, remained terrible, scoring nine runs in the five games. Despite that, Seattle should have, or at least could have, won two or three of those games, including Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Angels.

Before the game, manager Eric Wedge talked about his high level of confidence that the Mariners will hit well in the second half. The man has faith in his convictions; you have to give him that. But the reality is that the Mariners have, for the second season in a row, the worst offense in the game.

Last year the Mariners scored 298 runs before the break; this year they’ve scored 299, but it took two more games to do it. The Mariners’ home run total (55), batting average (.225), on-base percentage (.290), slugging percentage (.332) and OPS (.622) are all notably worse than they were a year ago – and last year’s team scored 100 fewer runs than any team in the American League.

Things are actually getting worse. Since June 6, the Mariners have averaged 2.53 runs per game over 32 games. In the first 59 games, they averaged 3.73 runs per game. The fall-off comes despite benching the unproductive Jack Cust and Chone Figgins and despite the fact that (since a day off  June 10 Ichiro) is looking a bit more like his old self – a .313 batting average after a stretch from May 12-June 9 when he hit .162.

Justin Smoak, the first baseman the team looks to for power, hasn’t homered since June 12. Franklin Gutierrez is healthy, but hasn’t found his stroke and is, like Figgins and rookie outfielder Carlos Peguero, hitting under .200.

Catcher Miguel Olivo and utility man Adam Kennedy have been reasonably clutch – it was Kennedy Sunday who drove in the only Seattle runs with a two-out, two-run single in the first inning – but neither is the core of a potent offense.

The Mariners have scored one or no runs 12 times in the last 32 games. They seem thoroughly over-matched, although Wedge doesn’t see it that way.

“I love the way we’ve competed,’’ Wedge said on one hand, but shortly thereafter he says, as it seems like he says every day: “We need to be more consistent offensively.’’

Trouble is, the Mariners are being consistent. What they need to be is productive.

Is it time to make a deal for some hitters? It’s past time. But the Mariners need to have something to deal. Their best chip in that pool, left-handed starter Erik Bedard, is on the disabled list.

Wedge said Sunday that Bedard, just now starting to play catch again, won’t start in the club’s first two series after the All-Star break and is problematic for the third, in Boston June 22-24.

Many contending clubs are looking for pitching. Some may be willing to pay handsomely for it – a year ago, the Mariners dealt lefty Cliff Lee to Texas in a deal that brought Smoak and new starting pitcher Blake Beavan, and two other prospects. But with the oft-injured Bedard’s health in question, Seattle will be hard-put to find a team willing to part with top-end prospects.

The team has gone out of its way to bring up some kids. Dustin Ackley has been the team’s most productive hitter the last three weeks, Greg Halman is hitting .305 in limited play, and fellow rookie Kyle Seager got his first big league hit Sunday. Beavan is 1-0 in two starts with a 2.03 ERA. A rookie who has been with the club all year, Michael Pineda, was added to the All-Star roster Sunday.

It’s the veterans who haven’t gotten it done,. If that doesn’t change, the second half will wind up being ugly indeed.


YourThoughts

  • Nick

    It was Civic Stadium in the 80s and 90s.

  • Cruddly

    I don’t know who needed this game more — the Huskies — to stop the bleeding and set the course right, or the Cougars — to save the coach’s job, and just to win a damn game.  I guess the Huskies, since they were headed in the wrong direction and falling fast.  This win propels them into the post season with a little momentum.  Let’s just hope they don’t end up playing Nebraska in some god awful bowl on ESPN 19 where the stands are half empty and the temperature hover around 35.

  • headoutofsand

    Aw, why does Art or any of the rest of us need to “eat our words” over a missed prediction?  Even the supposed know-it-alls who set the lines in Las Vegas don’t have that great a winning percentage, overall.  And that gets to the heart of why none of us should get all cuckoo when our “favored” team ends up losing.  It’s one thing to step out on the ledge when the Huskies of 1985 lose to 37-point underdog Oregon State.  But, when 6-point favorite Washington lost to the Beavers a couple games ago, I truly wasn’t left with my mouth agape, as experience has taught some of us a 6-point spread isn’t all that far from a toss-up.  Dennis Erickson is out of a job today in large part because his favored Sun Devils lost to WSU.    
     
    As a related side-issue to this, if you bet on football games for any length of time, you’ll lose.  The agony of sitting through all the ups and downs of a 3-plus-hour game before knowing if you won or lost is hard enough on a person’s health, and that’s even if you win.  When you lose, well, it’s the depths of hell.  Those of us who left the betting life are much better off — we’ve discovered the games themselves are entertainment enough.  

  • TrytoBlockBIGRED…..

    It wouldnt be shocking if RGIII goes #1…. Matt Barkley is probably going to be the qb within drafting range. RG3 is legit, Luck is ready now, and Barkley looks like a steal from picks 7-12. Where the Hawks sit now, the cost to trade up to top 5 is too much. I would rather make a run at the wild card than “whiff for griff”            Even @ 5-7, the league is FINALLY getting “punched in the mouth” by a very physical team. I love how big and nasty Carroll and Schneider are building this team. GO SEAHAWKS!!!

    • Mattdangoscheer

      That’s what I’m talkin bout!

  • Bayviewherb

    Actually, there are probably 6 or 7 great QB prospects out there. One wonders though, if Luck didn’t have that pro-like offensive line, if he would still look that good?