The Seattle Mariners' Offense Is Becoming One of Baseball's Best
With Memorial Day weekend behind us, how has the Seattle Mariners' offense performed through their first 50 games of the season?
The "water cooler" answer is that they've been one of baseball's best, but hopefully you don't stop reading there.
The Mariners rank in the top-10 in several offensive categories, including owning the fourth best Offensive Runs Above Average (Off), according to FanGraphs.
|Stat||Amount and Rank|
|Home Runs||77 (1st)|
They also have hit the most home runs as a team with 77, and are led by Robinson Cano with 15. Coincidentally, Cano is tied for third for the most home runs hit by an individual player so far this season, with his latest tater came on Sunday.
Hitting bombs and blowing bubbles. Just a normal day for @RobinsonCano.
VIDEO: https://t.co/1FMbD5jJed pic.twitter.com/LEu0kWxS9Q
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 29, 2016
Cano is having an excellent season, but he has had some help in making the Mariners' offense as good as it has been.
Currently, the league average for Weighted on Base Average (wOBA) is .316. Seattle has seven players with a wOBA of .350 or better, again led by Cano with a .395 wOBA.
It should be noted that two of these players have fewer than 90 plate appearances this season (Dae Ho Lee, who we'll get to later, and Franklin Gutierrez with 80 and 85 appearances respectively), but the rest all have at least 158 plate appearances.
Out of these seven players, only one has an Isolated Power (ISO) of below .213, which is significantly above the current league average of .157. Putting this further into perspective, just 27 hitters posted an ISO of better than .211 last season.
Although the Mariners are hitting a ton of long balls as a team, which helps create a high ISO, they surprisingly have fewer doubles (72) than home runs, and the third fewest of any team. A lack of doubles isn't really cause for concern, especially when leading baseball in home runs, but their home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB) is somewhat worrisome.
Inflated Home Run Total?
The Mariners own a 16.7% HR/FB, which is the highest in baseball. However, they are only hitting fly balls at 34.1 percent of the time, which is in the middle of the pack, ranking 16th most. Their high HR/FB ratio wouldn't be as concerning if they were hitting lots of fly balls, but since they aren't, chances are their ratio is inflated right now.
That said, the Toronto Blue Jays led baseball with a 15.0 HR/FB in 2015, so Seattle having a ratio that is slightly higher suggests it's possible that this total can be sustained. (The 2012 New Yankees were the last team to post a HR/FB ratio of 16.0 or better.) The Blue Jays did hit the seventh-most fly balls last season, though, so again, look for some of the Mariners' fly balls to start turning into outs.
However, even if their home run total begins to drop, there is room for improvement elsewhere. Of the five teams ahead of them in total runs scored, none of them have a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of lower than .304. Seattle's BABIP is just .288 and below the current league average of .297.
It may not seem like much of a difference, but with five players owning a BABIP of .283 or lower, including the .255 BABIP of Lee -- their rookie from Korea -- this high scoring offense could soon become even more powerful, especially if Lee gets additional playing time.
Currently in a platoon with Adam Lind, Lee has seen limited playing time this season, but has performed well when in the lineup. His .280 ISO is second best on the team, his .361 wOBA is fifth-best, and his seven home runs are fifth-best. In comparison, Lind has a .163 ISO, a .303 wOBA, and six home runs.
Lind does have a significant advantage when it comes to making solid contact, as his hard-hit rate (Hard%) of 41.0 ranks 16th best among hitters with at least 140 plate appearances. Lee's Hard% is 32.8, which ranks 137th among hitters with at least 80 plate appearances. The solid contact hasn't translated into success yet for Lind, and if it doesn't start to, his platoon with Lee should soon end.
As a left-handed hitter, Lind is often benched when the team faces a lefty on the mound, but considering Lee is hitting righties better than southpaws (.415 wOBA to .325), perhaps he should earn more starts, especially since he's shown he's capable of crushing the ball like he did on Monday.
Nothing like an old-fashioned Funk Blast. #GoMarinershttps://t.co/NdzMbRHRc6
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) May 30, 2016
Our model loves the Mariners, as their 1.49 nERD is third-best in baseball. Between a strong offense and a stingy pitching staff, Seattle owns a run differential of +65, which also ranks third-best. They are currently a half-game behind the Texas Rangers for the division lead, but already having one of baseball's best offenses and with room to improve, they should remain in the thick of the playoff hunt all season.