The Inconsistent Offense

Dave · May 18, 2007 at 8:38 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Watching the team hit this year has been pretty frustrating for most of the season. On some nights, they look tremendous, attacking mistakes over the heart of the plate and racking up runs left and right. On other nights, too frequently, they look like a collection of schoolyard hitters who get themselves out chasing pitches out of the zone. Most of the frustration has been aimed towards Richie Sexson, but he’s not the only one leading an assault on the most outs made leaderboard.

But there’s one issue that hasn’t been talked about that much, and it’s at the heart of the Mariners inconsistency – this line-up is way too right-handed. The standard Mariner line-up features three left-handed hitters: Ichiro, Vidro, and Ibanez. They now hit back-to-back-to-back in the 1/2/3 spots and are then followed by six consecutive RH batters.

Here’s the Mariners regulars and their 2007 OPS vs right-handed pitchers:

1. Ichiro, .827
2. Vidro, .714
3. Ibanez, .649
4. Sexson, .658
5. Guillen, .634
6. Beltre, .697
7. Johjima, .799
8. Betancourt, .607
9. Lopez, .695

Yikes. If you’re a right-handed pitcher that dominates RH batters but has troubles with LH hitters (like, say, Bartolo Colon and his .578 OPS vs RH batters and .888 OPS vs LH batters), the Mariner line-up is a proverbial wet dream. Yea, you have to deal with Ichiro to lead off the game, but then you’re staring at a worst-case-scenario of a single from Turbo before you face the slow bat of Raul Ibanez, which is finally followed by six straight RH batters.

How easy is it to pitch to the Mariners in late game situations? Almost every team has a RH reliever that turns even good RH hitters into likely outs, and the good teams have guys like Scot Shields (.461 OPS vs RH batters) who turn right-handed bats into kindling. The M’s are kind enough to stack their RH hitters together, making for the easiest bullpen decision on earth for opposing managers.

Not surprisingly, the M’s are hitting .257/.318/.388 against right-handed pitchers this year, but when their heavily RH line-up has the platoon advantage, they’re bludgeoning left-handed pitchers to the tune of .293/.332/.481. The problem? The M’s have only faced 8 LH starters this year, and they’re now 6-2 in games when the opponent throws a southpaw at them. But they’re 12-16 when the opponent throws a right-handed pitcher.

Of their own accord, guys like Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, and Jose Lopez are valuable players. But when you assemble a team, you have to pay attention to building complementary parts. The Mariners have assembled a line-up of replicas. They’re perfectly built to beat up on guys like Kei Igawa and Nate Robertson, but by refusing to build any kind of effective platoons or balance the line-up with some left-handed power, the team has punted their offense against right-handed pitchers.

And there are a lot more right-handed pitchers than southpaws floating around.

The M’s have a dilemma to face – if they’re serious about contending this year, they have to rebalance the line-up. Getting Ben Broussard in the line-up against righties more often is a start, but he’s not going to fix this problem by himself. There’s no easy answers and no obvious spots to put a newly acquired left-handed hitter, but the lack of answer doesn’t cause this from being any less of a problem.

If the M’s keep running out this line-up, they’re going to feast on left-handed pitching and struggle mightily against right-handed pitching. And that’s simply not how playoff teams are built.


76 Responses to “The Inconsistent Offense”

  1. DMZ on May 18th, 2007 11:56 am

    Huh? It only says that he took grounders during the spring – not that it’s under consideration or anything. I’m not going to get worked up about it yet.

  2. Dave on May 18th, 2007 12:11 pm

    Look at some other teams around the league (I’m relying on
    Detroit is 3rd in the league in runs and they also have only 3 LH regulars (well, two lefties and a switchhitter).
    Boston is also not excessively left-handed, with two LH regulars and two switch hitters. They’re first in the league in runs.

    When one of your RH hitters is Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield, you can get away with some things that other teams can’t.

    Yes, the Mariners lack great hitters. But no one’s putting Travis Hafner on the trade block, so that’s not really a fixable issue. At least the M’s can attempt to take advantage of platoon situations to compensate for the fact that they lack great hitters.

  3. bakomariner on May 18th, 2007 12:26 pm

    isn’t hafner a free agent this coming off-season? he would be a dream DH in Safeco…

  4. msb on May 18th, 2007 12:28 pm

    At least the M’s can attempt to take advantage of platoon situations to compensate for the fact that they lack great hitters.

    platoon? huh? wha’?

  5. bakomariner on May 18th, 2007 12:35 pm

    the problem with a platoon is that hargrove doesn’t like them…it would be a good idea…but i doubt he cares what we think or thinks we know what we’re talking about…he’ll have time to reflect when he’s fired…

  6. Mike Snow on May 18th, 2007 12:38 pm

    Looking at Hafner’s service time, I think he’d still have one year of arbitration left. His contract is through this year, maybe that’s what you’re thinking of, but the Indians still hold an option for 2008. Can’t imagine they wouldn’t exercise it.

    I’d also be a bit leery of what kind of contract Hafner will command as a free agent. Given his age and profile, the Indians are clearly getting the best of his career, and I’m not sure his next team will get anything near their money’s worth.

  7. argh on May 18th, 2007 12:55 pm

    (Buries face in palms and goes “Why, God, why did you make me a Mariners fan?”)

    Turns out you got to choose — only problem was the other choice was jihadist suicide bomber. Still, it was a certainly a close call.

  8. darrylzero on May 18th, 2007 12:56 pm

    I think Hafner will be basically worth the money, even if he ends up being a little overpaid. I would love the Mariners to go after him if the Indians aren’t able to lock him up to an extension.

  9. wsm on May 18th, 2007 1:03 pm

    The Mariners have made this right-handedness a long-term problem too. If Guillen continues to hit as well as he has, its very conceivable that his option gets picked up for next year. And if Ichiro walks and is replaced by Jones we become even more right-handed. Best-case scenario in the outfield is that Guillen gets traded and Ichiro re-signs.

    One of the easiest ways to create a hole would be to trade Lopez and bring in a 2B that can switch hit and bat second (or leadoff). Luis Catillo will be a free agent and can do Vidro’s job better than Vidro can. Orlando Hudson could be available too. Lopez ought to have solid trade value if he can produce a 15-20 HR season in Safeco this year.

    Hopefully next year the team will use Vidro off the bench and use that DH role for a lefty slugger like Clement if they get shut out of the free agent market yet again.

    A more balanced lineup for 2008 might look like this:

    RF Ichiro (L)
    2B Castillo (S)
    3B Beltre
    LF Ibanez (L)
    1B Sexson
    C Johjima
    DH Clement(L)
    CF Jones
    SS Betancourt

    Vidro could get his veteran-status ABs at DH when Joh needs a day off.

  10. Dave on May 18th, 2007 1:07 pm

    It’s pretty unlikely that Clement will be ready for the majors next year (more on that in the next FF update), and if Raul Ibanez is hitting clean-up for this team next year, we might as well all quit.

  11. lokiforever on May 18th, 2007 1:12 pm

    I wonder if we could get Doyle back – He bats a nice left, can play left better than Ibanez who could DH…….oh wait that was the USSM plan all along, until Bavasi screwed it up.

  12. frenchonion on May 18th, 2007 1:20 pm


  13. awolfgang on May 18th, 2007 1:43 pm

    I’m stilled confused how my post about moving Ibanez to 1B, Sexson to DH, Vidro to the bench, and bringing in a AAA LH/OF with power, my reccomendation was Rick Ankiel, is considered hijacking. This is a thread about batting order and roster construction, right? Maybe I should have left off the suggestion of packaging Weaver and a prospect off to St. Louis to get Ankiel, If you have strict rules on posting let some of us rookie web guys in on the secret.

  14. Dave on May 18th, 2007 1:45 pm

    In the past, people have destroyed entire threads by turning them into baseless trade speculation posts. Especially near the trading deadline, we were unable to post anything without people taking the opportunity to give their suggestions for crazy trades.

    So we put the kabosh on roster construction, or not-so-affectionately called rosterbation, posts.

  15. awolfgang on May 18th, 2007 1:48 pm

    Thanks for clarification.

  16. Tom on May 18th, 2007 2:04 pm

    This is why boys and girls it is better to build your lineup out of a left-right rotation with the occassional switch hitter than just having all righties or all lefties.

  17. hub on May 18th, 2007 2:14 pm

    Brings us to an interesting question: Has there ever been a Major League game where one side batted ALL switch-hitters (excluding the pitcher)?

  18. dislocated on May 18th, 2007 2:25 pm

    WOW… great info! All I could think about when I saw J-Lo hit the warning track shot off of Lackey(even he thought it was gone) was about our lack of right handed power in a ballpark that demands it.

    It’s pretty frustrating as a fan that we all need we need left handed power, and we can’t even look to our farm system for help. If you’re running the FO don’t you consider left handed power prospects of high importance? Why haven’t we aquired any?

    That being said, and keeping away from wishing for trades, I think we are showing the worst-case scenario atm. Unfortunately it feels like Raul and Sexy are here to stay, so we need those two guys in particular to pick it up. They should be providing power against the RHP’s and if/when they get on track we should improve at least a bit in this category.

  19. dislocated on May 18th, 2007 2:26 pm

    lack of *left-handed* power… sorry

  20. JoeM on May 18th, 2007 2:31 pm

    RE: 61, unfortunately Doyle is injured again with deep bone bruise to the left knee retroactive to May 11th as of yesterday. His average is down this year in a very small sample size but his .728 OPS would be helpful in our lineup if only marginally.

  21. hub on May 18th, 2007 2:32 pm

    Its been said that the M’s Front Office chose Clement (ahead of other high-end RH prospects) BECAUSE he’s LH.

  22. em on May 18th, 2007 2:36 pm

    So what about Clement? How far away is he from being our 3/4-time DH and back up catcher?

  23. dislocated on May 18th, 2007 3:08 pm

    71– Ahhh… so maybe they do get it?

  24. Gomez on May 18th, 2007 3:19 pm

    Clement’s showing his power in spots during his stint in Tacoma. And his low average is mainly just the product of well-hit liners finding gloves.

    If I had to make a guess on Clement… assuming he shows consistency along with his significant power… you could bring him up in 2008, but he would still need another year of adjustment and development before you could begin to fathom the expectation of him holding down a key lineup role. And that assumes you’re willing to give him consistent playing time, and that’s no guarantee.

    And that’s just a loosely educated guess.

  25. dirk on May 18th, 2007 4:56 pm

    Ich L
    Yuni R
    Raul L
    Beltre R
    Broussard L
    Johjima R
    Guillen R
    Vidro S
    Lopez R

  26. Edgar For Pres on May 18th, 2007 11:27 pm

    Would a guy like Mike Lamb just be Broussard II?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.