Friday, June 12, 2009

A third of the season played, half the games won.

It was getting pretty ugly for a while. The month of May was not kind to the Seattle Mariners as their offense got even worse and they dropped from first to third in the AL West. Adrienne Beltre continued a terrible hitting slump while Griffey's numbers trended downward. Russel Branyan and Ichiro had been the only decent hitters in the line up; the former crushing the ball the latter hitting consistently and more frequently with extra bases. The last time I wrote I argued that Beltre and Jose Lopez would not stay this bad forever, and they've finally seem to "caught fire". Consequentially, Seattle has gone on a nice little tear-- going 10-4 over the last two weeks and winning four series in a row. Conveniently, the Texas rangers have cooled off a little from their hot start and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim continue to struggle. That means with the Mariners now at .500, they're just 4.5 games back from Texas.

Pitching and defense have been great, you can't ask them to do any better. The team is 21-8 when they score four runs or more. Scoring runs is the trick. Like the Cubs, situational hitting has been dreadful. At one point in May, Seattle was 0-24 with runners in scoring position. Nothing says choke more than a stat like that. Yet, I remain cautiously hopeful if Beltre and Lopez continue to show improvement at the plate. I'd like to see Griffey hit a little more, but his offensive contributions are better than what his batting average would indicate. A better measure of a hitter's contribution is OPS: on base percentage + slugging. So with that in mind, before Griffey went on a mini slump at the end of May, his ability to draw walks and occasionally hit homers and doubles gave him an OPS of around .800-- which is a decent posting for your average major leaguer. Griffey should also get some credit for "smart" at bats. In the rare occasions he's got runners on-base, Griffey is often able to pull the ball down the right side or put it up in the air in the OF to move the runners over. So while I'd like to see him connect with the ball a little better, he's doing okay at contributing to the offense.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with the team as we approach the All-Star break. How close will we have to be to the division leader to keep management from trading away our payroll before the deadline? As soon as it appears that we're falling out of contention, I wouldn't be surprised to see the M's shopping around Erik Beddard and Beltre to some contenders in exchange for some prospects. But for right now, the team is winning and that is the most exciting thing for a baseball fan.

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