SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 21: A detail of the scoreboard after starting pitcher Philip Humber #41 of the Chicago White Sox threw a perfect game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on April 21, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. This was the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
After a depressing, historically bad 2011 season, the Seattle Mariners aren't looking like a whole lot has changed so far in 2012.
It is tough to know what rock bottom is for the Seattle Mariners.
Some people will say that it is being the first team in major league history to have a payroll of over $100 million and lose 100 games in a season. Some people will say it is the decade and counting of missing the playoffs. Some people will say it is the six different managers in as many years. Some will say it is last Saturday's game when the Mariners were on the wrong end of a perfect game in their home stadium.
The depressing part (or fun! Because it helps individualize everyone's Mariner experience) is that each and every Mariners fan has a wealth of options to choose from. And with each and every passing game, it looks like 2012 will be another year to throw onto that burning pile of excrement known as Seattle Mariner fandom.
That may sound a bit severe. But consider what has happened in the past five games. The Mariners blew a seven run lead one game. The Mariners blew one of Felix Hernandez's finer pitching performances in quite some time. The Mariners got perfect gamed. All that is left for the Mariners to do is to lose a game because they forgot they could have nine players on the field at a time.
The worst part about it is that 2012 was supposed to be the year of hope. The Mariners slogan is "Ready to play" after all. It doesn't exactly inspire the confidence to beat the Texas Rangers for the AL West crown, but it at least makes them sound like a middling club full of functional players. The Mariners brought in Jesus Montero - the one of the more hyped young bats not named Bryce Harper. The Mariners shuffled the line-up around to try and maximize what it could from its young hitters. Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and Montero were supposed to combine to form this trio that would allow, for the first time in a decade, a Mariners fan to lay a foundation of hope and not be blindly drunk or mentally unstable to be taken seriously.
Things just don't seem to be working like they were supposed to. Through 17 games, the Mariners are second to last in the majors with an OBP of .274. They are tied for the fourth worst batting average in the league. Pretty much the only team doing worse across the board hitting wise are the Pittsburg Pirates. Only two regular contributors have an OBP higher than .300 (and Ichiro is barely making that list at .301).
Not a single regular starting soul is really pulling much of their weight. Ackley is hitting a .242/.286/.333 line. Smoak is hitting a .203/.242/.322 line. Montero is the top of the pack with a .255/.275/.404 line. Brendan Ryan is currently leading the team in OPS at a respectable .703. Brendan Ryan was also signed for his defense.
Pretty much, for all the talk of change, hope and how this was the year that the Mariners were going to start doing things right - things haven't gone right. After Chone Figgins' great start to the season he has regressed and taken up the national pastime of striking out far too often. Miguel Olivo is such a train wreck at the plate (both offensively and defensively) that it is getting harder and harder for Eric Wedge to find anyway to force him into the lineup. Injuries to Franklin Gutierrez and Mike Carp have forced more playing time for players that possibly could use less.
Granted, we are only 1/10th the way through the season and that ever burning optimistic idiot that makes up my Seattle Mariners conscious tells me so everyday. We are still officially at a "small" sample size. When this becomes a standard sample size is anybody's guess. Smoak can have another four hit game and bump that average up 20 points in the process. That idiot is so loud saying dumb things like that, and to silence that idiot - I fall on the depressing reliability of statistics.
Just because the Mariners as a team right now are hitting .223 doesn't mean they will hit .223 all year. But last year, the Mariners were a historically terrible team at the plate. And comparing just the March and April from 2011 to this year doesn't provide a lot of hope. By the end of April 2011 the Mariners were hitting .235/.316/.339 as a team. In 2012, the Mariners are at .223/.274/.342. Granted, the BABIP is a bit lower this year at .264 compared to .279 but that isn't a large enough discrepancy to blame it on bad luck and line drives not falling. A couple of statistics are quite discouraging: 1) the Mariners are striking out at 19.9% so far compared to 18.7%, and 2) the Mariners are walking at a rate of 6.4% so far compared to 10.6% last year.
Remember all those maddening times when the Mariners were just swinging at every first pitch they saw like the team was made up of eight Vladimir Guerreros and one Miguel Olivo? Remember Yu Darvish's debut - when the Mariners were busy battering him up like crazy but instead of putting the boot firmly on the neck Ryan and Olivo ended the inning after collectively watching five pitches. The Seattle Mariners are doing pretty much everything bad they have done in recent years.
For a campaign drawn up on hope, Jack Z better start praying to whatever baseball in the sky is shining down on him and hope that his players start to hit - because remember, this is pretty much Jack Z's year. The line-up is no longer littered with the scarred remains of Bill Bavasi's terrible decisions, and Jack Z has pleaded with a rapidly diminishing fanbase to have faith, stay the course, and that the team will get there. With each passing day, each inept at bat, each depressing King Felix loss, it is starting to look more and more clear that this team will not get there. Rebuilding is a brutal road to be on as a sports fan and the Mariners have looked like the bridge to nowhere for quite some time now. Jack Z had convinced many people otherwise this year, but the fog is starting to clear on 2012 and it isn't looking very good.
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