Situational hitting is just hitting
Quick pointer to Geoff’s very long post about the M’s situational hitting woes.
There is no one answer here. But one fact seems indisputable: this entire team needs work in some aspects of situational hitting. A team that’s the worst in the league at knocking baserunners in should adopt no less of an attitude.
I dispute that that’s a fact. They need to work at hitting, not “some aspects of situational hitting”. The M’s suck at advancing runners because they suck at hitting. They’re at or near the bottom any way you want to sort the teams. They don’t hit for average, they don’t get on base, they don’t hit for power. It’s Ichiro, Branyan, Gutierrez, and a collection of average-to-sucky guys.
Teams that don’t hit don’t hit with guys on base. There’s no approach, no spring training drills, that teams that can’t hit can use to become way more awesome with runners on. Advancing the runner with a bunt is generally a wash because you’re giving up an out, and you know the rest of this argument. And conversely, teams that hit don’t have to figure out why they’re not scoring enough runners, because they score because they’re hitting… tada! Triumph of the obvious.
There’s some variation, of course, because the sample size for hitting is huge and the sample size with guys on second is small, and leans heavily on hitters who are up when the good hitters are on, and so on and so forth. But you can predict a team’s hitting with men on next year with this year’s hitting better than you can with this year’s hitting with men on.
None of which is to say that this isn’t painful. But the correlation between hitting and hitting with runners on is nearly perfect. There’s no need to overthink this, or for the team to (as they did in past years to disastrous results) go find a guy they think is a good situational hitter.