Dissecting the Mariners’ putrid offense, and how it might be fixed

The Seattle Mariners’ 2015 season has been a big disappointment through the first half of the season, as the team is eight games under .500 and 7.5 games back of the first place Astros. Seattle has failed to live up to the expectations created throughout the off-season, they were widely projected to be the division champions and a World Series contender. Instead, they’ve struggled to get on base throughout the season, and to score runners who have gotten in scoring position…really, they haven’t hit the ball well at all this season. So what are the Mariners doing wrong offensively, and how can that be fixed?

Trumbo is a symptom of the problem, not the solution. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson -- KOIN)

Trumbo is a symptom of the Mariners’ problems in 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Seattle’s biggest problem as a team is their astounding inability to get on base. In 2015, the team has posted a OBP of .296, the third worst in baseball and second worst in the American League. The team’s in ability to draw is a big contributor to its low OBP — Seattle walks in 7.4% of its plate appearances, while striking out in 21.6%; the M’s aren’t swinging at a ton of pitches outside of the strike zone (only 29.8%) but they are making contact with the 62.4% of the pitches outside of the zone they do swing at. As a result, pitchers are often given multiple chances to induce a strikeout…and they often do.

Newly acquired 1B/DH/LF Mark Trumbo is a prime example of the Mariners inability to get on base as he has been awful since he came over from Arizona. Trumbo is hitting .219/.255/.305 since coming over to the AL, while striking out in 28.2% of his plate appearances and walking in 4.5%. His numbers only confirm the eye test, which has etched several strikeouts (with RISP) that have cost the Mariners a chance at big innings.

While Trumbo’s struggles are frustrating to fans, he is a symptom of the larger problem with the way that this roster is constructed…not the roster’s entire problem. That problem is the pursuit of right-handed power that is able to hit home runs in spacious Safeco Field. Over the last three years, the Mariners have acquired Michael Moorse, Corey Hart, Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino (2012 Draft pick), and now Mark Trumbo to try increase the team’s power from the right side of the plate…while completely ignoring the fact that you need more than one guy — i.e. Robinson Cano — to consistently get on base to try to hit doubles and knock in runs.

To fix the offense heading into the second half, Seattle is going to try and find someone who can get on base while continuing to cut down on the number of pitches they swing at outside of the zone (the M’s are 10th in the AL in o-swing%). If the Mariners are able to cut down on the number of pitches they swing at outside of the zone, they should be able to reduce their contact rate on those pitches…which, in theory, should lead to more walks and an increase in their OBP.

During the rare occasions the M’s manage to get runners in scoring position, the roster has been awful at converting them into runs. Seattle is hitting a putrid .209/.294/.339 in 794 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, posting a wRC+ of 76 (24 points below league average). Despite these awful stats, Seattle has been surprisingly efficient at scoring runs with RSIP as they’re only leaving 3.35 men in scoring position per game (good for 12th in baseball).

Seattle’s biggest offensive problem in 2015 has been their inability to get on base. If the M’s new hitting coach can help the team fix that problem, and that’s a big if, then the Mariners should get more opportunities to score runs.

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