Power is Mariners’ biggest need — and more important than you think

Jan 30, 2022, 2:38 PM | Updated: 8:41 pm
Mariners Mitch Haniger...
Kyle Seager congratulates Mitch Haniger after a home run against Cleveland on May 15, 2021. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Even though the Mariners won 90 games last season for the first time in 18 years, they went into the offseason with clear needs to address if they want to get over the hump and into the postseason in 2022.

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One of those needs was an ace. Well, they signed the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, Robbie Ray, so you can check that off the list.

Maybe a veteran contact hitter with positional flexibility? Adam Frazier, 2021 National League All-Star, come on down.

What about somebody to add thump to the lineup? Oh, and don’t forget, Kyle Seager and his 35 home runs aren’t coming back.

That one is very much still a question mark. Power was already in the conversation for Seattle’s biggest need before its two aforementioned additions prior to the MLB lockout, and it now most certainly stands as the Mariners’ most important hole to fill whenever the lockout ends and a final sprint to the offseason begins.

The Mariners know going into 2022 that they need to score more runs than they did last year. They tied for 22nd in the majors in runs scored per game at 4.3, which was .23 less than league average. Seattle also had MLB’s most wins in one-run games with 33, and it’s generally considered foolish in baseball to expect a strong one-run record in one season to continue into the next.

So how can the Mariners boost their run production and turn some of those one-run games into more decisive victories? As pointed out by Mariners Radio Network producer/engineer/play-by-play announcer Gary Hill, a known stat guru who also hosts the official Mariners Pod, the answer is home runs.

On the most recent edition of the Mariners Hot Stove on 710 ESPN Seattle, Hill put together a segment diving into just how important home runs have become in the majors, sharing these important numbers about the state of the game along the way:

• In 2021, the combined MLB batting average was .244, the lowest since 1972. On-base percentage was .317, the third-lowest since 1972. And teams averaged 8.68 strikeouts per game, the second-most in MLB history.

• Runs, however, have stayed steady. In 2021, teams scored 4.53 runs per game, which is more than 27 of the MLB seasons since 1972. The biggest reason is that home runs per game, home runs per at-bat, and the percentage of hits that are home runs are all “as high as they’ve ever been,” per Hill.

• Of the teams in the top 10 in home runs in 2021, only two weren’t also in the top 10 in runs scored. And in the playoffs, of the 37 games played, only two were won by a team that was outhomered by its opponent.

Now where do the Mariners sit in all of that? They had 199 home runs, tied for 13th in the majors and just one homer above league average. Mitch Haniger led the way with his career-high 39 homers, but not far behind was Seager’s 35. They were the only M’s to break the 20-homer mark, with Ty France third on the team with 18.

Frazier is the lone offensive addition the Mariners have made thus far, and don’t expect him to give Seattle’s power numbers a boost. He had only five homers between 98 games with Pittsburgh and 57 with San Diego last season, and the six-year veteran’s career-high is just 10. That leaves a lot of ground for the Mariners to make up just to get back to the 199 homers they had in 2021 with Seager, and to really be a playoff contender, they’re probably going to need to find their way closer to the 220 mark.

So where can the Mariners find those homers? Listen to the podcast below or at this link from the Hot Stove where Shannon Drayer and James “Boy Howdy” Osborn discuss after Hill’s segment, which starts about 17 minutes in. And be sure to catch the Hot Stove from 7-8 p.m. each Tuesday night on 710 ESPN Seattle.

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Power is Mariners’ biggest need — and more important than you think