At seven games below .500, the Mariners have problems galore. The starting rotation is a patchwork. The bullpen isn’t completely reliable, and worst of all they can’t score runs. None of the answers to these problems are simple. Some of them just have to be addressed in order of priority. The one thing that would make this team vastly better is to figure out what the is wrong with the offense and fix it.
Just for fun, let’s compare slash lines from last year’s team and compare them to this year
C Mike Zunino .229/.284/.416 .171/.236/.351
1B Justin Smoak .208/.282/.361 Logan Morrison .246/.324/.382
2B Robinson Cano .333/.379/.423 .243/.283/.326
SS Brad Miller .167/.243/.268 .228/.313/.411
3B Kyle Seager .260/.339/.446 .278/.329/.468
LF Dustin Ackley .226/.290/.331 .197/.241/.331
CF James Jones ..272/.318/.359 Austin Jackson .270/.313/.362
RF Michael Saunders .272/.321/.441 Nelson Cruz .322/.380/.617
DH Stefen Romero .213/.266/.367 Seth Smith .255/.319/.477
As you can see, it’s not like all the players on the 2015 team have fallen off a cliff and are utterly terrible. Some have. Hard to remember back to June of last year, but Mike Zunino was a better hitter than he would end up being in September and today. Would you rather have Justin Smoak fishing for his potential, or Logan Morrison? Brad Miller in 2015 is much superior to last year. Michael Saunders was a good player, but about to reinjure his shoulder, suffer an infection and illness, missing most of the rest of the year. Nelson Cruz is having one of the best offensive years in the game.Smith is a vast improvement over any Mariners DH from last year.
But if you look down the list at Robbie Cano, that is the biggest offensive discrepancy. It’s not just that Cano is scuffling. Cano was, arguably, the glue that held the 2014 team together. They frequently scuffled to score runs, but he seemed to do so much with a timely single, gave himself up to score a run. He was a run producer and a run scorer. By this date last year he scored 26 runs. this year with Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Logan Morrison hitting behind him, Robbie has scored only 22 runs.
Most important, Cano was a huge influence in the clubhouse. He taught new guys to play the game the right way. He practiced with them. He taught the young guys how to hit with the “net drill.” It’s hard to help others when scuffling. it’s tough to be the clubhouse leader, the example, the enforcer of rules and tradition, when not having success on the field.
Finally, Cano’s struggles affect the the success of others. I am seeing the slow decline of Cruz’s effectiveness as pitchers are free to work around him. Without Cano on base, Cruz is faced with swinging at borderline pitches, nothing close to his wheelhouse. His power numbers and Kyle Seager’s are beginning to suffer.
I don’t pretend for a moment that fixing Robinson Cano is an easy task. He’s a pro, and he’s excelled at this game for many years. I believe he thrives on success, and if it was as simple as flipping a switch or waving a magic wand it would have been done long ago. I do believe the team will struggle to score as long as Robinson Cano struggles. The 2014 team was Cano’s team. They’ll improve offensively when he does. .