Shocked by the Mariners’ offense? Don’t be
By Mike Salk
So this is what it can look like?
Four games into the baseball season and the Mariners are unrecognizable. It shouldn’t be that surprising, but it is. It is, in fact, shocking.
In two games, the much-maligned offense banged out 26 hits and 15 runs. They didn’t need too many long balls, either. They did the old fashioned way: they got contributions from nearly every spot in the batting order.
Blown away? Don’t worry about it. You aren’t alone.
But if you are, then you haven’t been paying attention.
Eric Wedge told you his team would hit. He’s been saying it the whole spring and even told me and Brock on Friday that he was sick of repeating it!
Through four games, Chone Figgins and Ichiro have combined to go 13-for-34 with four runs scored, three extra-base hits and seven RBIs. (AP)
This team can hit.
But that’s impossible, you say. I’ve watched them play for three years now and they simply CAN’T hit!
Look again. This isn’t the same lineup you came to know and loathe. These aren’t the same players. Dustin Ackley is in his first full season. So is Kyle Seager. Jesus Montero is a rookie. Justin Smoak is healthy for the first time since he was a one-man offensive show last May. Those four players constitute the future core of this ballclub and they are not the same guys you’ve been watching in futility.
The Mariners changed their gameplan while you were looking the other way. They ditched the aging designated “hitters” and former replacement-level players in favor of young athletes with upside. They stopped running the bridge players out there and started playing the future.
Right now, it’s working.
Of course, they’ve gotten some bonus hitting from an unexpected source, Chone Figgins. After watching him hit below .200 in the spring and look no better in Japan, Figgins was a candidate to be booed at the home opener. But something clicked for him last week. He scorched a pair of triples in the final Cactus League tuneup, then personally dismantled A’s pitching over the weekend.
In two games, Figgins was 6-for-11 with four RBIs, two extra base hits, two runs scored and a stolen base. He saw lots of pitches. He put together good at bats. And most shocking of all, he hit the ball hard. He seemed to square up more balls in those two games than he did all of the last two seasons! Figgins was the gnat that Jack Zduriencik envisioned when he first brought the diminutive Angel to the Northwest. He got under the skin of the A’s pitchers — a welcome change from his two-year stint in the Seattle doghouse.
Will it continue? No one could know. But confidence has a way of producing results and Figgins certainly seems confident right now.
The Mariners offense is not likely to score seven runs every night and it will have some nights where it resembles the stinkfest we all watched for two seasons. But it will also have weekends like this one in Oakland. The young players will show why their potential is significant, even if they are short on experience.
It is still incredibly early and there are plenty of question marks. We have only seen two starters and they have only faced the A’s. The bullpen looks shaky getting to the ninth. But there is good reason to be positive.
This Mariners team can hit. That is to say, they have players that are quite capable of succeeding in the major leagues.
Now that we know they can do it, we’ll have to watch to see how often.