Fann: Fan frustrations over Mariners’ offensive woes deep-rooted

Apr 11, 2023, 10:21 AM | Updated: 10:29 am

Seattle Mariners AJ Pollock...

The Mariners' AJ Pollock talks to umpire D.J. Reyburn on April 9, 2023 in Cleveland. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

We knew going into the 2023 season that the Seattle Mariners would be led by their pitching staff. On paper, Seattle’s top four starters rivaled any team in baseball, and its bullpen had the making of being one of the league’s best for a second-straight season.

Those arms were the primary reason the Mariners won 90 games and ended a two-decade-long playoff drought last season despite ranking 18th in runs scored.

But Seattle is off to an inauspicious 4-7 start despite ranking fifth in ERA. To make matters worse, starter Robbie Ray and reliever Andrés Muñoz are already on the injured list.

While egregious defense, baserunning blunders and other mental mishaps have played significant roles in a few of the early losses this season, the primary source of frustration among fans is Seattle’s anemic offense that ranks 19th in runs scored and 22nd in wRC+.

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Yes, it’s still early having played just 11 games, but it’s an all-too-familiar feeling for Mariners fans. I wrote last week why Seattle’s front office and ownership won’t get the benefit of the doubt while its payroll remains in the bottom half of the league despite outwardly expressing World Series aspirations in 2023.

The Mariners have gotten nothing out of its rotating DH spot (5 for 36 with no RBIs on the season) and rank 25th in average with runners in scoring position (.231). Those who are already getting impatient (I’m certainly including myself in that group) are likely jumping the gun a bit with 93% of the season remaining, but historical context is important here. This particular angst is deep-rooted.

Over the last 22 seasons (2023 included), the Mariners have ranked in the top half of the league in runs scored (15th or better) just five times. On only two occasions were they in the top 10, and not once did they crack the top five. Conversely, Seattle ranked in the bottom third (21st or below) 13 times.

Here’s the season-by-season look at where Seattle finished in runs scored:

2023 – 19th
2022 – 18th
2021 – 22nd
2020 – 22nd
2019 – 20th
2018 – 21st
2017 – 15th
2016 – 6th
2015 – 21st
2014 – 18th
2013 – 22nd
2012 – 27th
2011 – 30th
2010 – 30th
2009 – 28th
2008 – 26th
2007 – 12th
2006 – 21st
2005 – 22nd
2004 – 25th
2003 – 11th
2002 – 7th

I don’t blame you if you need to pause for a second, take a deep breath and rub your temples after reading that list. Being a Seattle Mariners fan isn’t for the faint of heart.

This current era of Mariners baseball is objectively more enjoyable than past iterations, and back-to-back 90-win seasons warrant a greater degree of patience. Margins for error are small and Seattle’s pair of extra-inning losses the last two days, while excruciating, should not send anyone looking for the panic button.

But patience from fans should be matched by urgency from the ballclub internally. It may be early, but there’s also no guarantee of climbing out of a sub-.500 hole the way Seattle did in 2022. The Mariners made the postseason last year due almost entirely to a 25-game stretch where they went 22-3 from June 28 to July 17, including a 14-game winning streak. Most of those 22 wins (14) came against some of the league’s bottom-dwellers (A’s, Angels, Rangers and Nationals).

There is likely to be far more parity across baseball this season. The American League is deep and only the Royals, Tigers and A’s are without playoff aspirations. There are even fewer theoretical “easy wins” to be found in the National League, which is relevant given this year’s balanced schedule where Seattle will play all 29 other teams.

It’s only too early until it isn’t, and I’d much rather err toward the side of concern amid a season with such lofty expectations.

“We would be disappointed if people didn’t expect us to be a contending club and to go out and win night after night,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk last week. “I don’t think that is what has caused us to play poorly for a week. We just simply didn’t execute.”

I spent all offseason lamenting the fact that Seattle utilized half-measures to fill out its lineup aside for the Teoscar Hernández trade. Thus far the team’s offensive output has justified those concerns.

I can tell you there’s zero joy to be found claiming victory amid defeat. I’d much rather be proven wrong.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Good News, Bad News, No News: Mariners through three series
Seattle Mariners Table Setter: 3 things to watch this week
Seattle Mariners Moves: Muñoz to IL, Festa optioned in ‘pen shakeup
Seattle Mariners Breakdown: Bob Stelton reacts to slow start

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