Stecker: Is cold weather a factor in Mariners’ recent slow starts?

May 3, 2023, 3:24 PM | Updated: 5:45 pm

Seattle Mariners Teoscar Hernández...

Teoscar Hernández celebrates his home run against the Cardinals on April 21, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Sometimes, the Seattle Mariners start the MLB season off hot, but it seems like more often than not they start off cold.

And at least when it comes to recent seasons, it turns out the weather for Seattle’s early-season games correlates to that hot and cold trend.

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I figured I’d look into the weather of the early months of recent M’s seasons because it’s been downright pleasant in Seattle the past few days, with sunny skies and temperatures reaching the 70s, and the Mariners haven’t been able to enjoy the warmth here. Instead, they’ve been on a road trip where they had series in chilly Philadelphia and Oakland sandwiched around a three-game respite in Toronto’s climate-controlled Rogers Centre.

Things got especially bleak Tuesday when they were hitless into the eighth inning against the A’s in 54-degree weather that included spurts of rain, though the Mariners were able to pull out a 2-1 win over the majors’ worst team.

When the Mariners have been in Seattle this year, it’s generally been miserable weather. And when they return Friday to T-Mobile Park to begin a six-game homestand, they’ll bring the cold back with them, too. Forecasts have Seattle rainy and under 60 degrees over the weekend, then inching up to a high of 64 degrees for the homestand finale on May 10 against the Texas Rangers.

Could this stretch of cold weather have something to do with the M’s struggling on offense early in the season, something they also did last year during an identical 13-16 start before going on to end their long postseason drought?

As it stands, the Mariners have played 29 games entering Wednesday’s game in Oakland (forecast: high of 57 with rain), with 11 of them taking place in temperatures under 50 degrees, 19 total under 55 degrees, and just six over 65 degrees (including the three under the roof in Toronto). Through those 29 games, the M’s are 13-16 and have largely struggled offensively.

I know what your question is right now.

“So? Correlation does not imply causation, dude.”

That’s true. And I’m not gonna say you need to believe weather is why the Seattle Mariners have disappointed a month into what many (including myself) have called the most anticipated season in team history. There are a lot of factors for that we can point to. They look at least a bat short, and if you were frustrated by the offseason they put together, you’re probably going to think that’s the biggest reason. I’ve also already written (with insight from Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk) about how T-Mobile Park’s league-worst park factor may be hindering offseason efforts to sign hitters.

All these and more are probably factors, and I think if you want to come up for an explanation for a second straight 13-16 start by the Mariners, knowing how the weather they have played in compares to the hot starts they had in the two previous regular seasons is worthwhile in helping you come to a conclusion.

So here, take a look:

2019 Seattle Mariners (18-11 start)

Average temperature: 62.2 degrees
Longest stretch of sub-60 degrees: Six games
Number of games of at least 60 degrees: 15 games
Runs per game through 29 games: 6.3
Full-season runs per game: 4.7
Final record: 68-94

2021 Mariners (16-13 start)

Average temperature: 60.4 degrees
Longest stretch of sub-60 degrees: Three games (twice)
Number of games of at least 60 degrees: 16 games
Runs per game through 29 games: 4.1
Full-season runs per game: 4.3
Final record: 90-72

2022 Mariners (13-16 start)

Average temperature: 58.3 degrees
Longest stretch of sub-60 degrees: Nine games
Number of games of at least 60 degrees: 12 games
Runs per game through 29 games: 4.1
Full-season runs per game: 4.3
Final record: 90-72

2023 Mariners (13-16 start)

Average temperature: 54.4 degrees
Longest stretch of sub-60 degrees: 12 games (also a 10-game stretch)
Number of games of at least 60 degrees: Six games
Runs per game through 29 games: 4.2

So, is this anything? I think so. Am I saying this is why the offense has mostly fallen flat early on the past two seasons? No, it’s definitely not the only reason, but it sure can’t help.

Hitting in the cold is hard – harder than pitching is – and to play games for such a prolonged period early on in 50-degree weather has to be a grind. Add that to the fact that the Mariners always have the worst travel in the league because of how far away they are from every other MLB team, and I think you could understand why the M’s have been worse off out of the gate in recent years when stuck in colder weather.

It is interesting to me that the offense for the 2019 Mariners team that came into the season with no expectations flourished early on in a much warmer first month of the season, especially when you see how the back-to-back 90-win M’s teams in 2021 and 2022 both averaged 4.1 runs per game in colder weather. (It is worth noting, though, that MLB used a much more hitter-friendly baseball in 2019 than it has since 2021.)

What really stands out to me, though, is that the current Mariners have played not just a 12-game stretch in temperatures below 60 degrees, but also a separate 10-game stretch. That sounds brutal, especially if you also consider just how mentally tough slumps can be on hitters, particularly in a year with big expectations for their team like 2023 is for Seattle.

I would never say the reason the Mariners have started slow the past two years is because they’ve been stuck in cold temperatures in April. But I would also never say it isn’t at least a factor. After all, when you throw together a bunch of little factors that maybe don’t look like much by themselves, in the words of Carl Weathers, baby, you got a stew going.

The answers to questions about baseball teams are rarely black and white. There are usually a number of factors that go into them. And for me, the cold weather the Mariners have been mired in is just another to consider.

The full breakdown

Temperatures for the first 29 games of each of the last four full Seattle Mariners seasons

2019: 72 (dome), 72 (dome), 61, 58, 64, 54, 66, 63, 44, 54, 63, 77, 74, 82, 53, 56, 53, 50, 54, 54, 62, 77, 64, 63, 68, 65, 68, 56, 56

Average: 62.2 degrees

2021: 54, 53, 60, 51, 54, 47, 67, 47, 48, 61, 61, 63, 64, 69, 70, 63, 63, 59, 46, 58, 71, 50, 77, 73, 73, 73, 65, 57, 54

Average: 60.4 degrees

2022: 45, 48, 53, 57, 63, 62, 48, 51, 44, 47, 52, 52, 49, 55, 57, 60, 72 (dome), 72 (dome), 72 (dome), 72 (dome), 72 (dome), 72 (dome), 73 (dome), 73 (dome), 72 (dome), 52, 50, 47, 47

Average: 58.3 degrees

2023: 54, 45, 47, 44, 45, 50, 48, 41, 45, 52, 67, 76, 77, 56, 51, 48, 48, 46, 48, 52, 59, 54, 57, 54, 55, 68 (dome), 68 (dome), 68 (dome), 54

Average: 54.4 degrees

More on the Seattle Mariners

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Mariners designate Tommy La Stella for assignment
Bob’s Mariners Breakdown: Making sense of tough first month
ESPN’s Passan: Mariners ‘in for a long season’ if Julio stays at this pace
Drayer: How Bryce Miller fits into Seattle Mariners’ rotation plans

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Stecker: Is cold weather a factor in Mariners’ recent slow starts?