Looking Back on ’04
Now that the worst season in Mariner history is over, we can look back at just what went wrong.
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.
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”.