No. Well, that was easy. Enjoy your day!
It is not difficult to understand the Mariners quest of offense this winter. The M’s haven’t scored runs for years – due as much to a dearth of talent than the cavernous ballpark in which they play. Seattle’s front office wants runs and, after a slew of moves this winter, runs they shall have.
The Mariners doubled down on the offensive emphasis, bringing in countless DH/3B types in addition to changing the dimensions of their picturesque stadium. The goal was a team able to bang with their division rivals in LA and Texas, two prolific offenses. Early on during Spring Training, the results are pretty good.
Seattle is killing the ball during the early days of Spring Training, hitting multiple home runs in eight straight Cactus League games. Totally 25 home runs through just 12 games, they have the best fake offense during the ongoing fake baseball season. Mission accomplished! The Mariners are fixed!
The Mariners are not going to hit multiple home runs per game across large swaths of the regular season. Shocking, I know. Hitting in Seattle against big league pitching is not quite the same as hitting in the Arizona desert against spring training cannon fodder. I’ll give you a second to scoop the little pieces of brain now coating your monitor, having BLOWN YOUR MIND.
There are positives for the Mariners to glean from this tiny run of spring success. While Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez hitting the cover off the ball is, if nothing else, hilarious, it won’t actually help the Mariners win too many extra games in reality.
Franklin Gutierrez is a whole other matter. The artist formerly known as Death to Flying Things is red hot here in early March, hitting three home runs in just 15 plate appearances. Gutierrez is both the symptom and the cure for many of the M’s problems.
Offensively, Seattle ranks as the worst outfield in baseball over the past three years. Their 84 wRC+ is 30th in baseball since 2010, hitting just 140 home runs in that time. As a group. That is just 16 more than Jose Bautista in the same time frame. Injuries and illness sapped Guti’s strength and effectiveness over the last two years, getting into just 132 games, contributing less than nothing at the plate (68 wRC+).
Three spring homers are just three spring homers but if Gutierrez swings the bat closer to league-average and Michael Saunders continues making strides (Saunders has three spring homers for the Mariners also, not to mention one he hit yesterday representing Canada in an exhibition game against the Milwaukee Brewers), maybe the Mariners can count on their outfield to do more than drag them down.
Adding Mike Morse and Kendry Morales is sure to help the offense, joining Ibanez and Jesus Montero in the DH/1B rotation. Those upgrades are pretty minor considering none of those hitters are especially great.
Even if/when Kyle Seager regresses, the Mariners would have to seriously falter to score runs as infrequently as they did in 2012. This spring outburst notwithstanding, PECOTA only projects the Mariners to score 656 runs on the season, up from…619 last season. A modest increase, one projected without the benefit of knowing how “new” Safeco plays. So the offense looks slightly better. But will they win more games?
Not in the short term. Even bringing up the overall quality of their outfield, they remain more than a couple decent/surprise seasons from Saunders and Gutierrez away from contention. It is the prospect depth the Mariners will use to build for the future, boasting four top pitching prospects among their best young talent. Is Franklin Gutierrez part of that future? No, but Michael Saunders might just be.
The Mariners goal for 2013 seems clear: attempt to put on a better show. Prove to their fans (and possibly themselves) that they can sore runs in their former offensive graveyard. Better but still not good – the Mariners way for many, many years.