Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Mariners and delicious pie

The Mariners are offensively excruciating. They are the baseball equivalent of a romantic comedy, just two hours of brutal, eye-gouging entertainment with Milton Bradley as the crazy girl who refuses to fall in love and Ken Griffey, Jr. as the sleepy hero who can't shake off his narcolepsy to teach the girl how to love. I can't take it anymore. I want to know why, I have to know why this team can't score. Thus far, they're the worst offensive team in franchise history so far and bordering on being the worst offensive team in the history of baseball. They couldn't outscore Eric Byrnes' beer league softball team (the Dutch Goose!) with corked bats and spiked drinks.

I've spent a quarter of the season tearing my hair out watching this team play (partially because, well, baseball is freaking boring without steroids ... I said it) and I'm determined to figure out what's wrong. It's not just that they can't score runs, it's that when they do score runs they trickle in like dew drops off the end of a lonely leaf.

They have the second-worst slugging percentage in Major League Baseball, they have the third-worst batting average in the league, the second-fewest runs scored, the second-lowest on-base percentage, second-fewest homeruns, third-fewest hits ... we're not talking about a little boat capsizing in a duck pond, this is the freaking Titanic of baseball deficiency. I'm frustrated, and when I'm frustrated I always do the same thing:

I make a pie chart.

Do you like my pie chart? I like my pie chart.

See how I made it all three-dimensional? No big deal ...

I went through every single game the Mariners have played this year and recorded the type of play that led to a run. Only 36 percent of the runs Seattle has scored this year have come off of extra-base hits!

When a team can't get extra-base hits, it incapacitates itself from offensive capitalization. What does that mean? It means that a baseball team needs to maximize the output of runs scored when baserunners are on base. The way you maximize that output is through extra-base hits. A single generally moves runners up one base, a double two, etc. So when 64 percent of the Mariners' run-scoring hits aren't extra-base hits, they are minimizing their run-scoring potential. Simply put, they're wussies.

And 26 percent of the Mariners run-scoring plays have come off of fielder's choices, errors, sacrifices, and walks. Those are all one-run opportunities. When the number of multi-run opportunities is essentially equal to the number of single-run opportunities, you're not going to score a lot of runs.

The 2010 Seattle Mariners! Believe big!

In the American League West, the Mariners are dead last, three games back of the third-place Los Angeles Angels who are having their own offensive crisis this year. But I wondered, how do the Angels score runs in comparison to the dreadful hitting of "Los Marineros?"

Again, awesome pie chart, I know.

The Angels score 46 percent of their runs off of extra-base hits, which means more than half of their run-scoring plays have the potential to drive in more than one run (as opposed to the Mariners' roughly 1/3rd chance). They are 10-percent more efficient at scoring runs than the Mariners are, and when Seattle has only given up 1.2 runs for every 1 run it has scored this year, there's massive potential for the Mariners to not suck so hard.

What should Seattle do about it?

I don't know, swing harder I guess.

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