Reading this title, I’m sure any Mariners fan would respond with, “It’s the offense, of course.” While this is definitely true, I want to take a step further back and look at the bigger picture. After another heart-wrenching loss yesterday afternoon, the M’s have now lost their first two series following the All-Star Break – a trend that this team cannot afford to continue. Worse than that, four of those games were decided by one run (and three of those are losses). I decided to go back and count the one-run games the M’s have played this year, and I found that they have a 12-17 record in those 29 games. This, too, is a trend that this team cannot afford to continue.
If Seattle wants to be in the playoff race, these are the games that the M’s need to win. Why? Because of the way this team is built. Strong pitching plus weak offensive output equals a lot of close games. In fact, nearly 70% of the Mariners games have been determined by three runs or less (70 of the 101 games played). Seattle is 32-38 in those games, which means that they are 21-10 in games that determined by four runs or more. The Mariners need to win the close games if they want to be playing in October because they don’t have the consistent offense to blow teams out by 4+ runs.
More than anything, it’s those one-run games that really are the kryptonite, mainly because they can go either way. To win these games, a team must have a great bullpen (check), grit (probably still a check), timely hitting (uh…not so much), and a bit of luck (not making the playoffs for over a decade qualifies for unlucky). You know your team doesn’t hit well in scoring situations when they are out-hitting opponents 225-213 in one-run ballgames but only have a .414 win percentage to show for it. Throwing luck out of the window, this timely, situational hitting is what the Mariners MUST improve to win these close games and stay in playoff contention.
And management knows this. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik just acquired Kendrys Morales (pictured above), who played for Seattle last year, from the Minnesota Twins for reliever Stephon Pryor. Morales has not had a great year so far, but we know what he is capable of. His .277 batting average led the team last year along with his 80 RBIs. He will, no doubt, be used as the primary DH in a lineup that has struggled to find production from that spot (current designated hitters Corey Hart and Logan Morrison have batted .212/.211, respectively). Seattle tried to re-sign Kendrys this past offseason but they couldn’t agree on a contract – and he didn’t seem too interested in coming back. Even if Morales doesn’t pan out, the Mariners didn’t give up much to get him, so it’s low-risk and possibly high-reward.
Either way, the Morales move alone will likely not be enough to make the Mariners a playoff team. Look for the Mariners front office to follow this move up with another one. This lineup still desperately needs a right-handed bat in the outfield. With the trade deadline one week away, it will be interesting to see what Jack Z does to improve his offense – and hopefully the timely hitting too. One more bat (or two?) may be what puts this team over the hump and into the playoffs come October. We’ve been talking about how awesome it is that the M’s are “buyers” in the trade market this year…it’s time for them to start buying.
The M’s kryptonite isn’t just offense in general. It’s timely hitting and being able to win the close, grind-it-out games that are often the definition of playoff baseball. Remember, Seattle’s lineup is out-hitting their opponents in one-run games. But it’s about turning these hits into runs. If they start winning these games more consistently with some timely hitting then that will go a long way towards their playoff hopes.
For those who forget what playoff baseball feels like…here is a little reminder below.