Mariners April 2014

Table 1. April Summary
Series Record Runs Scored
per Game
Location
1 4 – 2 5.7 Away
2 2 – 3 2.4 Home
3 1 – 6 3.0 Away
4 3 – 3 4.0 Home

Characterizing the first month of the 2014 season for the Seattle Mariners seems to revolve around the concept of this team still trying to find its identity. With no long winning streaks but one significant losing streak, the team quickly forgot the great start to the season and finished the month below 500. Scoring 4 runs per game still seems to be the magic number for this team as it has been for the past few seasons. It is something I will continue to focus on throughout the season.

Table 2. Starting Pitching
Pitcher Games Started Average Game Score
Hernandez 6 64.0
Elias 5 51.4
Ramirez 5 43.0
Young 3 49.0
Paxton 2 65.5
Maurer 2 43.0
Beavan 1 43.0

King Felix arrived with a great beginning to the season. With continued talk of reduced velocity, his strikeout totals were up over the past few seasons and he had a great start to the 2014 season. James Paxton also got off to a good start but got sidelined with an injury. As long as Paxton was rolling, the loss of Iwakuma wasn’t hurting the team. But after only two starts, the team was dipping deep into the well to cover some games. Roenis Elias was a surprise at how well he opened the season. Having signed with the thought of being a fourth starter at best, he stepped up and had a good April.Looking forward, Iwakuma will be back in May. Paxton and Walker might be back by the end of the month, though that might be too optimistic. Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Elias are probably league average for a one through three starting staff. I expect the starting pitching to be fine in May.

Table 3. Batting
Batter Runs Created Runs Created
per Game
Cano 13.55 5.4
Seager 12.20 5.1
Smoak 10.77 4.4
Hart 10.67 5.0
Zunino 8.30 4.1
Ackley 7.67 3.4
Almonte 7.50 2.5
Miller 5.91 2.1
Saunders 3.55 2.8

As expected, Robinson Cano tops the runs created board. Kyle Seager was performing very poorly until the last series of the month when he co-won the American League Player of the Week award. Corey Hart is also producing well and hasn’t let Safeco Field intimidate him. After the top three, Justin Smoak seems to be contributing occasionally but not consistently. That means no change from him. Mike Zunino has shown improvement over last year and seems to be handling the catching role well. After the top five, there are issues. Dustin Ackley continues to have long stretches of no contribution. Abraham Almonte is not doing well as a lead-off hitter. At one point in the final week of April, he was tied for second in the league for strikeouts. Brad Miller has not continued his success of 2013 into this year and is no longer considered an everyday starter. Michael Saunders is playing part-time and just barely makes this list. Stefan Romero just missed the top nine and might get increased playing time. He doesn’t produce much but his consistency is better than others on this list. Run production by the team is still below league average. That will not change until there are more than three players creating more than five runs per game. I’ll be watching for the continued improvement of Zunino and the return of Miller. In addition, the team needs to find a better lead-off hitter.

Table 4. Batting Order
Order Runs Created
per Game
1 3.18
2 1.60
3 5.40
4 4.61
5 2.85
6 6.53
7 2.49
8 4.59
9 2.02

Just to emphasize the Mariners’ struggles at the top of the batting order, I added Table 4 which shows the Runs Created per Game by batting order. What I didn’t expect to find was the problem in the number two slot. This really solidifies the trouble the Mariners will have scoring since their top two spots in the batting order cannot seem to create runs. Increased run production should be a goal and altering the top two spots should be the top target.

Table 5. Fielding Position
Position Runs Created
per Game
DH 3.11
1 0.00
2 3.71
3 4.47
4 4.94
5 4.67
6 2.06
7 2.85
8 2.48
9 4.15

I don’t recall that I published Runs Created by Fielding Position in 2013. It is something that I remember watching, but a different coaching staff and a different roster make this year stand out. In particular, the outfield is something to behold and not in a good way. While right field is creating just over the magic number of four, left and center are dreadful. The strength of the team is in the infield, but the outfield isn’t helping. This needs to turn around if the team wants to reach 500 for the season. It is humbling to focus on a 500 record as a goal, but it can be achieved if the outfield starts producing.

Table 6. Relief Pitching
Pitcher IR IS High LI Low LI
Farquhar 5 1 5 7
Furbush 8 4 8 4
Medina 5 1 7 5
Wilhelmsen 4 2 4 7
Beimel 5 0 3 7
Rodney 1 0 7 3

Table 6 shows part of the current relief staff. I only included the pitchers with the most appearances. The acronyms are: IR — inherited runners; IS — inherited runners who scored; and, LI — leverage index. On the plus side, Joe Beimel has not allowed an inherited runner to score. In his ten appearances, seven were in low leverage situations. I would recommend he be brought into more high leverage situations. In fact, he might simply swap with Charlie Furbush who has allowed half of his inherited runners to score. In his eleven appearances, eight were in high leverage situations. Furbush may need to have his role altered until he can consistently get outs. I’m not sure what role Danny Farquhar is playing. He was the closer at the end of the 2013 season but is being used in more low leverage situations than high leverage situations so far. It seems that he too should have a more prominent role in the bullpen.

Table 7. Leverage Results
LI ERA WHIP K/9 K/BB IP
High 4.50 1.563 9.3 1.4 32.0
Low 2.72 1.273 7.4 2.1 46.1

I like looking at the bullpen results by leverage index to see how well they are performing in important situations. For Table 7, there is a very notable difference in outcomes between low leverage situations and high leverage situations. While I applaud the bullpen for their low ERA in low leverage situations, this isn’t a team that has created an offense which can come from behind. In high leverage situations, the bullpen is allowing too many baserunners, as seen in the WHIP, and consequently allowing too many runners to score, as seen in the ERA. An alarming indicator is the K/BB ratio in high leverage situations. There have been 24 walks in 32 innings pitched. Time to make a change. I would start with what I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Two small changes could have a helpful impact and not allow the team to lose games in the late innings.

For the month of April, the team was outscored 99 to 91 and their record was 10 – 14. The opposition had a better aggregate game score and a higher number of runs created. I’m looking forward to a few subtle changes in May. The bigger changes that are needed may need to come from a few players using the role they have been given to produce more.

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Author: dmcnic

Educated as an economist, I now work as an Analytical Professional for a manufacturing firm. I have have a second job as a part-time lecturer at the University of Washington in Bothell. While all baseball interests me, the Mariners are my home town team. Married with one dog.

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