Following the Mariners’ 10-3 loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field, Lloyd McClendon characterized the game as “the worst we’ve played all year,” adding, “I can’t imagine a better time for the All-Star break.” McClendon could have also chipped in another obvious thought — that the club’s fan base needed a break from the Mariners as much as the team needed one from baseball.
The beleaguered souls who unwisely invested their emotional dollars in the Mariners witnessed something damn close to historic in a first half that thudded to a 41-48 close, representing a 7.5-game deficit in the AL West. We’ll get to the near-historic part in a bit.
The Mariners lost 14 series in the first half, posting a 2-12 record in the final games. Had they won a just a handful of series-enders, those preseason playoff predictions that now look so dumb would still look good.
The Mariners also lost 27 times in the first half in games decided by two or fewer runs. Had they won only a third of them, they would be in playoff contention instead of a half-game out of last place in the wild card standings. The Mariners certainly had their chances, illustrated best by these seven:
- April 26 (4-2 to Minnesota at Safeco Field): Went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight.
- May 5 (5-4 to Angels at Anaheim): Went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position (Dustin Ackley left three) and stranded eight.
- May 13 (4-2 to San Diego at Safeco Field): Went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.
- May 21 (5-4 to Baltimore at Camden Yards): Went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 13 on base.
- June 4 (2-1 to Tampa Bay at Safeco Field): Went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10.
- June 5 (1-0 to Tampa Bay at Safeco Field): Went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.
- July 8 (5-4 loss to Detroit at Safeco Field): Went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position (Ackley 2, Kyle Seager 2) and stranded 11.
If the Mariners had cashed in those games, they would start the second half 48-41, a half-game behind the Angels (48-40) for the division lead. They didn’t. With the game there for the taking, the Mariners almost always gagged.
The Mariners hit .209 in the first half with runners in scoring position. It’s one thing to rank last in the majors in an offensive category, as the Mariners do in this one (they also rank last in team batting average at .236), but quite another to rank, even with the second half to play, as the worst RISP team in 46 years and the fourth-worst in history.
Dismal with RISP:
|1969||Padres||Preston Gomez||.201||Expansion team finished 52-110|
|1968||Mets||Gil Hodges||.204||Rotation had Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan|
|1963||Senators||Mickey Vernon||.207||Ex-Sea. mgr. Chuck Cottier hit .205|
|2015||Mariners||Lloyd McClendon||.209||Morrison .111, Ackley .116
|1981||Mets||Joe Torre||.210||Went 51-62 in strike-shortened season|
|2015||Reds||Bryan Price||.210||39-47, 4th place in NL Central|
|1967||Dodgers||Walter Alston||.211||Ex-Sea mgr. Jim Lefebvre hit .261|
|1968||Angels||Bill Rigney||.212||Finished 67-95, 36 games out of first|
|1972||Padres||Preston Gomez||.213||Finished 58-95, 6th in NL West|
|1972||Mets||Yogi Berra||.213||Hit .225 overall with a .639 OPS|
If the 1963 Washington Senators – now the Texas Rangers – hadn’t hit .207, the Mariners would be the worst RISP team in nearly 50 years of American League play. Of course, the Mariners still have plenty of time to leap past the Senators, 1968 Mets and 1969 Padres, in what would be an epic underachievement.
Only four other editions of the Mariners have batted below .230 with RISP over a single season: 2011 (.222), 2010 (.226), 2013 (.228) and 1983 (.229). None of those clubs improved appreciably in the second half. Note that GM Jack Zduriencik presided over all but the 1983 team.
The Mariners begin second-half play Friday against New York at Yankee Stadium. After three in the Bronx, the Mariners play four at Comerica Park in Detroit before returning to Safeco Field July 24 to start a three-game series against Toronto. The Mariners do not have another day off until Aug. 6, meaning 20 games in the next 20 days.