Looking Back on ’04

Dave · October 3, 2004 at 7:28 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Now that the worst season in Mariner history is over, we can look back at just what went wrong.

Offensive Ranks

Runs (698): 25th in MLB, 14th in AL
BA (.270): 11th in MLB, 6th in AL
OBP (.331): 19th in MLB, 10th in AL
SLG (.396): 27th in MLB, 14th in AL

Part of the offensive struggles can be assigned to Safeco Field, which played as the best pitcher’s park in baseball this year. It deflated run scoring 17.4 percent compared to a league average park. However, Safeco actually increased home runs and doubles slightly, and the glaring lack of power had nothing to do with the home park. The M’s simply had a roster of singles hitters with no power. Stick that kind of team in a park that is death to singles and you’re going to finish last in the league in runs more often than not.

Defensive Ranks

ERA (4.76): 21st in MLB, 8th in AL
BAA (.264): 12th in MLB, 4th in AL
OBPA (.336): 17th in MLB, 8th in AL
SLGA (.441): 24th in MLB, 11th in AL
Defensive Efficiency (.700): 6th in MLB, 2nd in AL

Considering how pitcher friendly Safeco was this year, you could make a case that the M’s were the worst team in baseball at preventing runs. While we talked quite a bit throughout the year about the defensive downgrades the team took, the majority of the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the pitchers, as the defense was actually the strength of the team. It just wasn’t the Greatest Defense Played in 50 Years level that we saw in 2003, and the falloff was noticable. We also need to remember that a majority of the extraordinarily poor performances were achieved by pitchers who were simply getting a tryout after the team was out of contention, so the overall numbers don’t reflect entirely why the team played so poorly the first two months.

The season can basically be summed up into thirds, I believe.


The offense vastly underperforms expectations, failing to score enough runs to win ballgames. The pitching staff is slightly above average but let down by a below average defense. The combination leads to many losses.


The offense and defense improve slightly, but the impact isn’t significant, as the pitching gets significantly worse. The small gains seen by the positional players are overwhelmed by the leap backwards taken by the pitchers.


Team officially gives up, plays a cast of replacement level players, results stop bearing any relevance to team that was built in offseason. Offense and defense take significant steps forward, pitching gets even worse, but overall effect is evened out by surges from everyday players.

If someone asks why the ’04 Mariners failed, the true answer is not any one thing. The inexplicable collapses by Scott Spiezio and Rich Aurilia certainly hurt. There was no backup plan for inevitable collapses by Ryan Franklin and Shigetoshi Hasegawa. The injuries to Joel Pineiro, Rafael Soriano, Julio Mateo, and Eddie Guardado exposed an overrated pitching staff. Nearly every single veteran experienced greater-than-should-be-expected decline. The team was bad from day one, going wire-to-wire in last place. There was no one reason, no singular hole to fix. The good ship Mariner sprunk leaks on all sides, and making it seaworthy again will be a challenge. That is why the next post is titled “Looking Ahead to ’05”.


15 Responses to “Looking Back on ’04”

  1. Steve on October 3rd, 2004 11:05 pm

    On defense you made no mention of double plays. By my reckoning, the Mariners turned about 40 more double plays last year than would have been expected, as corrected for gb/fb ratios. The team defense didn’t just help out the Mariners in the OF, the pitching got a big boost from the infield D as well.

    I haven’t run the comparable numbers for 2004, but I would be amazed if the Mariners were anywhere clost to last year’s performance in DP’s.

  2. itea on October 3rd, 2004 11:29 pm

    As an opinion, I don’t think the “collapses” of Aurelia and Spezio were either inexplicable or unexpected. Players in the decline phase of their career moving to a pitcher’s park after signing a free agent deal. I can explain that…

    – Itea

  3. Cap on October 3rd, 2004 11:58 pm

    Cameron being in NY no doubt had a sizeable impact on the CF-pertinant defensive statistics in 04. I thought that the CF play (before Reed played every day) declined the most as compared to any other position from 03 to 04.

    Another topic I should touch on regarding 04: I was pretty damn excited to witness all the player turnover during the season. After suffering through a stagnant lineup for 3+ years, it was a real nice change of pace to see guys like Bucky, Reed, Putz, Cabrera (although he was on the team to start the season, his playing time increased significantly enough to put him into this category), etc. I know that same lineup that I suffered through won a ton of games (in the regular season), but I was more excited about Mariners baseball in 04 after the M’s made a few moves to get guys playing time, and when they made the move to ship Freddy out and receive Olivo AND Reed! That trade still boggles the mind. Anyway, the thought of rooting for players who came up from the depths of the M’s organization appealed to me this season. Maybe it was because the lineup finally changed. Maybe it was because I love the underdog (and the M’s lineup was chalk full of underdogs in the second half). Who knows for sure. I do know that watching Bucky slam the hell out of baseballs sure was fun this year.

  4. stan on October 4th, 2004 1:30 am

    Dave, your post is sure to spark debate. A couple of things you said raised my eyebrows, to say the least. I hope I don’t sound too much like John Kruk, but anyway here I go without statistics to back me up.

    I simply cannot agree with your comment that defense was the strength of the 04 Mariners. If you are just referring to errors I think that misses the mark for a few reasons. The official scorer in Seattle simply does not give out many errors even when they are clearly deserved. Secondly, even when an error cannot be given (such as on a misjudged fly ball),the failure to get an out is clearly a defensive lapse. Randy Winn routinely got terrible jumps in cenerfield on fly balls all year long. Also I doubt Randy could even throw out a slow runner on a play at the plate on a base hit to center on a consistent basis. Ibanez was not a good outfielder when he left Seattle and he was not a good outfielder on his return. Neither Rich Aurillia nor Jose Lopez showed any range at short. Justin Leone could not make a simple throw across the diamond for the month or so he played at third. Neither Ben Davis nor Miguel Olivo could consistently block a pitch in the dirt or for that matter be counted on to catch a pitch that was not in the dirt.

    I agree with your point that the pitching was quite a bit worse in 04. I happen to think some of the pitching decline was attributable to the poor defense I have already mentioned. Sad as I am to say it, I think much of the decline is also the result of Jamie going from an all star, (to be kind about it), to a non all star. You mention that Safeco was an exteme pitchers park in 04, that actually enhanced doubles and homeruns. I wonder if the lack or range on defense and the decision to keep Franklin and Moyer in the rotation all year long aren’t a major reason for the increase in homeruns and doubles, rather than the park per se. Soriano and Pineiro’s loss to injury also didn’t help as you mention.

    Safeco has always seemed to me to be two different parks. When I see batting practice in July and August, balls are routinely launched to the far reaches of the stands in rightfield. Early in the year and in September the balls that reach the stands even in batting practice are mostly a few rows up in the lower deck. If Safeco is a pitcher’s park that enhances homeruns and doubles as you mention, then it must suppress singles and triples. Logically I can’t see how a park can suppress singles unless the outfield dimensions are so shallow the fielder dosen’t have much territory to cover. A surplus of foul territory could be a factor as well if the hitters in the line-up don’t have much power.

    Park effects obviously make a difference. I feel sure that a right hander pull hitter would lose homeruns in Safeco, which may make it difficult to get someone like Troy Glaus in Seattle on a short term contract. But I don’t think park effects can be considered in isolation to the actual line-up a manger puts on the field. In my ideal world, the Mariners would clone Ichiro times 9 in 2005 since Edgar has decided to retire. If they could do so I am sure Safeco would then be seen to enhance singles and suppress homeruns.

    I do agree with you that there was a widespread drop off in all areas of the Mariners play in 04. It will take more than one player to improve the team dramatically in 05, but here’s hoping that the Mariners will at least begin the process of righting the ship.

  5. big chef terry on October 4th, 2004 3:01 am

    Its a measure of how much your approach is off when you say defense was a strength of this team. This is a pitcher’s park. The slide from last year to this year in pitcher’s performance can be largely attributed to the horrific play at ss, 2b and cf. At the all star break 118 more doubles and triples had fallen in. That’s palpable. Rich Aurelia was a better ss than Jose Lopez, which is very scary. Please don’t cite to me how rf doesn’t measure the difference…same team, same staff…he takes bad routes to balls and slow breaks, which is apparrent visually. Signing some boppers to play at third and in center, will not mask the horrific play in the middle. Boone, Lopez, Winn and Olivo will not shoulder a + 81 win season. Not next year or the year after.

  6. Dave on October 4th, 2004 9:30 am

    It is possible, and in this case true, that the defense can be simultaneously much worse than in ’03 and still the best part of the team. What Stan and Terry are arguing is that the defense got worse; there’s no question that’s true, and we were the leading candidates at pointing this out during the offseason and early in the year.

    However, the defense also clearly outperformed both the offense and the pitching staff this year. That makes it the strength of the team.

  7. big chef terry on October 4th, 2004 10:24 am


    Defensively, that’s a terrible team….basic stuff, groundballs and flyballs that on average are caught on a major league are not caught. Pitchers have to get more outs…pitcher’s performance with men on, alone, is worse, let alone with men on that shouldn’t be on.

    Part of what’s being captured as bad performance on the pitcher’s part is terrible people at ss, 2nd base, cf and catcher. Guillen of Aurelia for Lopez was each sequence a step down. Boone has got old…He’s a minature Steve Garvey now and should not be an every day second baseman. Wilson is done and Olivo is not a major league catcher and his prospects as a 27 year old to get better are not bright. Reed can play and cover ground, but doesn’t throw well.

  8. Dave on October 4th, 2004 10:26 am


    I don’t know how to tell you this nicely. You’re 100 % wrong. There’s just no way around it.

    The Mariners turned more balls in play into outs than every other team in the American League besides Tampa Bay, and the difference between the two was miniscule. The ability to turn balls in play into outs is defense. The Mariners were good at that. Your opinions are simply contrary to the facts.

  9. big chef terry on October 4th, 2004 11:35 am


    At the all star break, 118 more doubles and triples had occured than the previous year…

    Are you attributing that to the pitching?

    Its again a measure of you can’t see what’s happening in front of you…

    Your description is a recapture of fielding pct…pretty lame at that…

  10. Dave on October 4th, 2004 11:50 am


    I can’t explain this to you any better than I have. The 2003 defense was one of the best ever. Obviously, the 2004 Mariners weren’t as good as the 2003 defense. Relative to the rest of baseball in ’04, however, the defense was still good. Measuring a team against an historic performance from a previous season isn’t an accurate way to guage defense.

    And I never once quoted fielding percentage. Feel free to re-read the post.

  11. big chef terry on October 4th, 2004 1:40 pm

    So dave, how many more balls in play in 2003 were there vs 2004…how many more doubles and triples? How many more singles?

    384 more total bases allowed by the pitchers. 117 of those were homeruns, so that leaves a net of 267 more bases than 2003. Just on singles, doubles and triples.

    I don’t know how to explain it anymore than that. A huge portion of that increase was due to the absolutely horrific defense they put on the field.

    Go to a game with somebody that knows baseball…

  12. Dave on October 4th, 2004 1:51 pm


    I’m not sure why you feel the need to both attack me and defend a position that is completely factually wrong, but that’s your perrogative, I guess.

    The Mariners turned 70 percent of all balls in play into outs in 2004. They turned 72 percent into outs in 2003. The 2004 defense was worse. No one is arguing this point.

    However, the 2003 Mariner defense was one of the best of all time. The league leader in turning balls in play into outs in 2004 was the Dodgers, who did it 71 percent of the time. While the differences may seem minor, over 6000 plate apperances, they add up.

    If you insist on holding the standard for “good defense” as the 2003 Mariners, every other team in baseball played “horrific defense” this year. If you actually take the rational position of evaluating a team within the context of their opponents and what a normal performance is, the Mariners were actually quite good defensively. Only 5 teams in baseball converted a higher percentage of balls in play into outs in 2004. If being 6th best in the majors is “horrific”, you may want to consider that your standards are a wee bit high.

    If you still don’t understand, well, good luck to you.

  13. big chef terry on October 4th, 2004 3:28 pm

    Actually the understanding problem is not with me…

    You gave a non answer…you can not attribute the increase in total bases to the pitchers.

    In no way does that capture the quality of the Ms defense. 384 more total bases is like having to deal with an extra cleanup hitter. Some of that is more homeruns, but the 158 more hits and 97 doubles are balls that are not caught, that were caught last year and have been caught since Griffey got here. No breakdown with Cameron and the parade of superior defensive ss from Vizquel, to Arod to Guillen.

  14. stan on October 4th, 2004 7:26 pm

    Turning a ball in play into an out is certainly one measure of defensive ability. I will take your word for it that the Mariners when compared to the rest of the league were better than average in that category. Even so, I would not call the Mariners a good defensive team.

    This obviously is anecdotal, but it sums up for me the futility of watching the Mariners play defense this year. Man on first and third, with less than 2 outs, and a fly ball to Randy in not very deep center. Randy rainbowed a throw to the catcher that could not be cut off but that did not actually have enough steam on it to reach the plate. The ball actually ended up rolling to the catcher who picked it up with no play at the plate or on the runner advancing from first to second. No error was called on Winn I guess because the official scorer ruled that the runner from first advanced on the non play at the plate. A ball hit into play resulted in an out, but there is no way that sequence was even close to being adequate major league defense.

    I saw that kind of play all year long. I don’t want to see it in 05.

  15. Bela Txadux on October 5th, 2004 1:47 am

    Two brief comments:

    Dave and big chef terry, I don’t see any inherent contradiction in your stated observations re: the 04 defense at all; the two positions are, basically apples and oranges. Dave, you say that the Mariners did a league-relative good job of turning balls into plays into outs. BCT, you say that of the balls that _were_ put in play, significantly more of them went for extra bases. Both could be, true, and I believe were true. Ibanez in left has very little lateral range, and is terribly slow going back on the ball; he tries, but. My recollection all year long was that Winn was playing a very shallow CF and LF, in part to compensate for his widely acknowleged terrible arm, but his poor breaks and reads meant that he couldn’t get back or over on many, many catchable balls. I can remember only one or two plays Randy made at the wall _all year long_. (Incidently, my biggest beef with Melvin’s deployment of personnel was his continued usage of Winn in center; the man CANNOT play the position, and I, personally, didn’t see any improvement in his breaks or routes all year long, comments on this blog notwithstanding). In other words, Ibanez and Winn were playing shallow, and getting to some soft flies that would have been bloop singles, but they couldn’t cover the alleys and almost never got back to make a play at the fence so anything driven hard was an extra base hit. It was not my impression that Cabrera was particularly well in the outfield either. Boccachica and Reed were the only positive improvements out there, and they had very limited playing time. I also have the feeling that more drives got through the first base area for extra base hits than I was used to seeing, especially after Ole O. got an exit pass. I think both of you are right: the Ms were good at cutting off _singles_ but below average at getting outs on the damaging multi-baggers. This is a case where defensive ‘efficiency’ doesn’t translate into defensive ‘superiority’ in my view.

    Second, “surprisngly poor performances by Aurilia and Spezio”??? Well, not really. Aurilia had ONE YEAR in the majors wildly out of context for everything else he has _ever_done, period, and that at the height of the ‘chemical era.’ Throw that year out. His year here is _right in line with reality based expectations_. I figured he’d do about like in ’03, but he ‘surprised’ me by being enough older that he more than bottomed out through his improved health. Aurilia was absolutely no surprise if one looks at what has happened in MLB over the last dozen years. And I hold this absolutely against everybody in the Ms front office who signed off on acquiring him: they had their heads in the sand on an obvious ‘situation,’ and burned themselves terribly.

    Spezio: why is it that nobody talks about his back??? Well, part of it is that HE never talks about his back voluntarily. He had an injury in camp which from the way folks were talking about it in hushed tones sounded like he was headed for a fused vertebrae; then he got a second opinion and rehabed it during the course of the year. The fact that he could play at all says that the second opinion was reasonably sound; the fact that Spezio had the worst year of his career at the plate and in the field suggests to me that his back was bad enough that he couldn’t play very well, no. He was in fact day-to-day twice in the last six weeks of the season for the stated reason of having ‘aggravated his back injury.’ My point here is that _coming out of camp_, Spezio had a major injury, and his poor performance shouldn’t be a surprise: we all knew he was hurt. —Except the front office did absolutely nothing to acquire any infield depth to compensate. Oh, they picked up Cabrera, but this was in the works as far as I could tell because the Ms had no depth to speak of in the infield OR the outfield, and needed an athletic player to come off the bench. The Ms did _very little_ to compensate for the team’s manifest deficits coming out of camp, and yes, I hold that against them, too.