During Ken Griffey Jr.’s heyday with the Mariners (mid-to-late 1990s), a lament always existed about the black hole the club had in left field. Lists of these largely ineffective laggers were compiled and commented derisively upon on as the Mariners trotted out the likes of Jeffrey Leonard, Greg Briley, Kevin Mitchell, Eric Anthony, and on and on.
Turns out, the men who played left field while Griffey roamed center, were practically Hall of Fame hitters compared to this year’s group. And last year’s group. And the 2009 group before that.
When you watch this season’s already-revolving door in left, you are witnessing the worst- hitting group of left fielders in franchise history, ranked by collective batting average.
Milton Bradley hit .218 before the Mariners cashiered him. Ryan Langerhans hit .173 before the Mariners disposed of him. As a group, Seattle’s 2011 left fielders are batting a combined .182 — 36 points below Seattle’s 2010 left fielders, the second-worst group of left fielders in franchise history.
Seattle’s six lousiest groups of left fielders, according to combined batting average:
1994, .240 (49-63): Seattle used six players in left, Eric Anthony receiving the most starts (62). But since Anthony hit just .237, the Mariners threw Keith Mitchell and Brian Turang into the mix. Mitchell hit .265 in 27 games (not bad), but Turang negated that by batting .167 in 20 games.
1984, .240 (74-88): The Mariners trotted out nine left fielders in 1984, principally Barry Bonnell (70 games), Steve Henderson (52), Phil Bradley (48) and Gorman Thomas (34). Bonnell and Henderson hit respectably, .289 and .277, respectively, but Bradley batted .228 and Thomas .160.
1993, .224 (82-80): Mike Felder, who hit .220, received the most games in left, but the following also got time, much to everyone’s dismay: Greg Litton (.292, 11 games), Dann Howitt (.256, 16 games), Mackey Sasser (.202, 26 games), Henry Cotto (.204, 23 games) and Marc Newfield (.111, 5 games). Howitt provided one of the season’s top highlights, a grand slam off Nolan Ryan on Sept. 22 in the Kingdome.
2009, .219 (85-77): Three of the Mariners’ 2009 left fielders, Wladimir Balentine (.227), Endy Chavez (.273) and Ryan Langerhans (.205), are already out of baseball. Bill Hall, currently batting .230, is barely hanging on in Houston. Seattle’s fifth 2009 outfielder, Michael Saunders (.217) is barely hanging on with this year’s Mariners.
2010, .218 (61-101): Led by Milton Bradley (.244 in 73 games), four players received the majority of games in left. By far the most intriguing: Eric Byrnes, who once failed to swing on a squeeze play and soon thereafter found himself playing in a Carlifornia beer league.
2011, .182: Behold a group en route to becoming the worst (batting) collection of left fielders in franchise history. Two, Milton Bradley (.218) and Ryan Langerhans (.173) are already highway. What’s left will never lift a Cooperstown eyebrow: Carlos Peguero (.156), Michael Saunders (.178), Mike Wilson (.091).
The best batting year for Seattle’s left fielders was 1985, when the unit, led by Phil Bradley and Ivan Calderon, combined to hit .313.