In this wonderful new millennium, there have been twelve teams
in the American League that scored 900 or more runs. With the
exception of the 2008 Texas Rangers, they all had 90 or more wins.
That Ranger team had 79 wins and actually gave up more runs, 967,
than they scored, 901. During the same time period, there were 56
seasons when a team scored 800 to 900 runs. Of those 56 seasons, 14
resulted in sub-.500 records. Twenty five percent.
From 2000 forward the Mariners have gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. They were league leaders or near the top in terms of runs scored in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Fourth, first and sixth, respectively. Look at the run totals, because it is startling: 907, 927 and 814 compared to league averages of 857, 787 and 778 runs for full season. Even if they did not lead the league they were above average. So it is possible and there is precedence for building a team that can consistently score runs, as opposed to a pitching and defensive first kind of team.
Fast forward to the last three years, the Mariners in 2008, 2009 and 2010 scored 671, 640 and 513 runs in those years, as contrasted to the league averages in the same year of 774, 781 and 721. From a league perspective the ’08 and ’09 seasons were virtually identical. The 2010 season has a huge decline in runs scored. Startling in its size, it represents a decline just over a third of a run per game, second only to the decline league wide from 2000 to 2001 of .43 runs per game.
Contrast the whole league in 2000 versus 2010. Almost 2,000 more runs at just under 12,000 runs in 2000 scored to just above 10,000 in 2010. The Mariners fall from grace has been more precipitous going from a high of 927 in 2001 to a low of 513 last year. 414 runs less, 2.56 runs less per game. In the last eleven seasons of American League Baseball the most a team has increased runs scored from the previous season is 236 from the 03 Tigers to the 04 Tigers. What happened to affect that team? In 2003 it was Dimitry Young against the world and he tried with a season where his OPS was .909, while in 2004 Carlos Guillen, ex-Mariner given away for nothing, had a monster year with an OPS of .921 and he had help with Ivan Rodriguez chipping in a .893 OPS and Carlos Pena a good year at .810. A much more offensive team.
Without invoking an unproven argument about steroids or anything else, clearly the there has been a big change in the game with the decline in the number of runs scored. It is what it is. What hasn’t changed is that a team must amalgamate three to five good players to be able to score runs. A simpler description would suggest that you must have players, you can’t just run anybody out there.
Above the decline in runs scored from 2001 to 2010 was noted,
414 fewer runs, while the change in the game was also happening. So
maybe that is inaccurate to cite that decline, that is the Mariners
team is caught up in larger forces beyond their or any individual
team’s control, so to speak?
So what has happened in the last three years? Perhaps that’s more relevant? From 2007 to 2010 the Ms scored 794 runs, 671 runs, 640 runs and the 513 runs mentioned earlier. That is a cumulative decline of 281 runs. Things have gone from right at league average in 2007 to .64 runs below league average in 2008, to .87 below league average in 2009 to 1.29 runs below league average last year. “Terrible, terrible times” to quote Hank Aaron.
Many sabremetricians that write about the Mariners suggest that
it was a perfect storm of a year and things will bounce back maybe
significantly this year. If the Tigers example is prologue, they
added players that could play at a high level that would ultimately
propel them to the World Series. Is there the prospect that could
happen with the Ms? There has been some turnover, it is possible to
suggest that Justin Smoak will be here for a full year and the
September performance makes one optimistic. Jack Cust from Oakland
is probably on the down part of his career and Chone Figgins should
rebound, despite being a slow starter almost every year. Miguel
Olivo was a huge bust here once yet, he might prove better
offensively than what has been here.
The Mariners generally lack players that would play on a bigger stage with top level clubs. That might change over the next few years as the minor league season kicks in. Teams that score lots of runs win games consistently. Teams that score lots of runs have four or five good hitters. Maybe one or two great hitters.