BY Adam Lewis 08:40AM 06/30/2015

Low OBP sinking Jack Z’s Mariners tenure

After manager Lloyd McClendon predicted the Mariners would score 700 runs this season, they’re on pace to score 544. A low team OBP is holding them back.

Mark Trumbo has been a bust since joining the Mariners, exacerbating the club’s OBP problems. / Arizona Diamondbacks

When the Seattle Mariners sent backup C Welington Castillo, reliever Dominic Leone and  prospects to the Arizona Diamondbacks June 3 for DH Mark Trumbo and LHP Vidal Nuno, the trade was panned by those who looked at Trumbo’s on-base percentage and winced.

Sure, Trumbo can hit the ball out of the ballpark, but his OBP had eclipsed the .300 mark just one time in the 29-year-old’s big-league career.

With a long, powerful swing, Trumbo is the all-or-nothing hitter that so rarely has success in Seattle. Plate discipline and a high strikeout rate are his biggest weaknesses.

In other words, he fits right in.

Reaching base at an average clip has eluded every Jack Zduriencik-built roster since he was hired to replace Bill Bavasi.

Since 2009, the GM’s first year at the helm, the Mariners have finished last in the American League in OBP every year, except 2013, when they were 13th. From 2010-12, they were last in the major leagues, a three-year stretch of offensive futility that must have felt like the low point.

Seventy six games into 2015, the 34-42 Mariners are, you guessed it, last in the AL in OBP, at .293. The league average is .314, according to Baseball Reference.

This offense was expected to be much better. After acquiring reigning MLB home-run king Nelson Cruz and setting supposed platoons in both outfield corner spots, manager Lloyd McClendon said the Mariners should score 700 runs this season, a respectable number in an era of defensive shifts and dominant pitching.

If they aren’t the worst offense in baseball, they are the most disappointing. And it doesn’t appear they’ll seek more help from outside the organization before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“Our thought is the club is pretty much in place,” Zduriencik told The News Tribune last week. “We need to get them to produce. We’ll see what happens. Nobody would ever say no.

“But we brought in (Mark) Trumbo. So now, you look at the lineup, and it’s a formidable lineup.”

Yet the Mariners are on pace to score 544 runs after scoring 634 last season. No one player is to blame. But it’s easy to point to the Trumbo acquisition to expose the flaw of overvaluing power while undervaluing getting on base.

That is the backbone of Oakland GM Billy Beane’s Moneyball theory: Sluggers are overrated, walks aren’t. 

In 20 games since joining the Mariners, Trumbo is hitting .151 (11-for-73) with a .184 OBP, three walks and 21 strikeouts. It’s a small sample, and Trumbo, a serviceable hitter over his career, isn’t likely to continue to look as if he’s swinging with his eyes closed.

There is a human element to Trumbo’s struggles. Having your life uprooted is never easy, regardless of profession or pay scale.

“Getting traded (Arizona) in the off-season was a lot easier than in-season,” Trumbo told The News Tribune. “Guys have to do it all of the time, but it’s not the easiest thing in the world.”

Either way, it’s hard not to second guess the deal. Castillo provided the Mariners a legitimate option to rest an overworked C Mike Zunino (.234 OBP) a day or two per week while Zunino tries to break out of his career-long hitting funk. Backup C Jesus Sucre, hitting .043 (1-for-23), provides no such luxury.

Castillo, meanwhile, is off to a hot start with the Diamondbacks, hitting four homers and driving in 11 runs while posting a .901 OPS in his first 14 games. Because of course he is. That’s what ex-Mariners often do.

The current group is under-performing at an alarming clip. Playing his second year of a 10-year, $240 million deal, 2B Robinson Cano has a .281 OBP with four homers and 24 RBIs.

Left fielder-turned-reserve Dustin Ackley has a .259 OBP to go along with a .199 batting average. CF Austin Jackson is a touch over .300 in the former category while providing little in the way of power (three homers, 13 RBIs) or speed (seven stolen bases in 13 tries). Backup infielder Willie Bloomquist, 37, has a laughable .159/.194/.368 slash line and doesn’t have the arm strength to play shortstop, yet somehow is still on a major-league roster.

The Mariners are tied for fifth in the AL in home runs, thanks in large part to Nelson Cruz’s 19, yet the offense continues to underperform — last in the majors with a .230 batting average, 29th in runs per game (3.36).

Zduriencik is right when he says that players need to start lives up to their career averages. But he also needs to look in the mirror.

Seven years of bad offense is no fluke.


  • Sam Base

    The 2nd half of the season will decide Jack Z’s fate. It’s either going to be fascinating or ugly as hell.

  • jafabian

    Jack doesn’t get sabermetrics despite his claims. Nor does he understand player development or player personalities and what works within the clubhouse. I question if the poor offense might stem from a questionable atmosphere around the players because they should be playing better and aren’t and it’s Jack who assembled the team. If Jack returns next season it’s because of the extension he signed, not because he earned it.

  • dingle

    Jack Z’s trade for Trumbo is a fireable offense. What a dumpster fire of a roster. It’s hard to drive in runs when there’s nobody on base.

    Who the hell gives this guy 7 years?

    • Lodowick

      Ha-ha! It’s a dumpster fire without the fire. Speaking of firing…

      • dingle

        Of course, his decision had to be approved up the chain of command, so some other idiot signed off on it as well. The deal never should have made it near Z’s desk, much less past it–and that’s on Jack.

    • JimC

      That’s such a beautiful turn of phrase, I wish I had used it.

  • Rj Smith

    It’s going to be funny to watch the production of Wellington Castillo & Mark Bumbo….. I mean Trumbo the rest of the season. The M’s are on the wrong side of this deal so far, not surprisingly…..

    • coug73

      Wellington Castillo looked athletic and more than capable catching. I was sorry to see him go.

      • Rj Smith

        Yeah he is a major upgrade over that abnoxiously awful Sucre. I’m sure he would have struggled offensively in Seattle though just like everybody else.

  • Lodowick

    Jack really has an eye for talent. Apparently there’s a couple of boys down in Euphrata he’s interested in. Mike Spackle and Joe Bondo. Only problem is Mike hasn’t drawn a walk in five years in the minors and Joe has recently been declared legally blind. But apparently Jack’s flying down tonight to take a look at them.

  • Hitman

    Jack Z should of been gone yesterday. Used to be a big Mariner’s fan. Won’t be back till they get rid of that fake GM!!!!

  • JimC

    And now Jerry Dipoto is available. Just sayin’

  • notaboomer

    13 hr/ 61 rbi & 356/490/846 slash line for a guy already in Ms org but idiots won’t let him play. guess who?

  • 2nd place is 1st loser

    Everyone is calling for Jack Z’s head on a platter, and nobody should argue against that feeling. The problem with that lies with the ownership on two levels, first off who hired Jack? Howard and his band of brothers, they also Hired Bavasi, they ran off Pat Gillick and Lou Pinella. Anyone see a pattern? The second is this group signed Jack to an extension last year, if they dumped him as they should do that would be admitting they’ve made a mistake. They have a history of making mistakes, or at least not admitting to them. I believe that Jack will be shown the door along with Lloyd, however there in lies the problem. Who’s gonna hire the next GM?