Why can’t the Mariners hit at home?
By Shannon Drayer
There’s no place like road. There’s no place like road. Luckily, after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Angels, the Mariners find themselves back on the road. Home has hardly been friendly for Mariners hitters and I am not talking about the fences. The Mariners flat out can’t hit at home and it is puzzling.
This isn’t about home field advantage. The league average splits are nearly equal for hitters. The Mariners’ hitters are far from league average, however. At home they are hitting a dismal .197/.280/.312/.592 with their average and on-base percentage nearly 50 points lower than league average, their slugging percentage 101 points lower. Their road line is almost on par with league average, however, coming in at .249/.295/.396/.691. They strike out at about the same rate at home as on the road and walk a little bit more. There doesn’t seem to be a radical change in approach on the road, so what gives?
I am not sure I have answers here but let’s look at some individuals. Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley probably have the most consistent approaches on the team and their hitting styles should fit Safeco Field well, yet neither are immune to the split woes. Ackley comes in with a .222/.300/.278/.578 line at home and a .261/.315/.400/.715 on the road. The slugging percentage stands out in particular. All three of Ackley’s home runs have come on the road and he only has two doubles in 19 games played at Safeco Field. That number should be higher. His walk and strikeout rates are both higher at home and I am not sure what this indicates.
Seager’s splits are the most dramatic. He’s hitting .304/.330/.511/.841 on the road and just .212/.288/.364/.651 at home. A 190-point difference in OPS between home and road. Sure, the fences may have something to do with that, but not much as Seager is not trying to hit home runs. But how do you explain a nearly 100-point difference in average?
More oddities. Michael Saunders has two doubles at home, nine on the road and just one RBI at home. Most regulars have nearly the same number of walks at home as they have on the road, although most have played at least six more games on the road.
Biggest oddity? Brendan Ryan hits much better at home, both for average and power.
I don’t have answers. Believe me, Eric Wedge and the Mariners are looking for them. Just throwing some things out there after talking to a couple of folks around the team, but could the fences be getting into their heads? Could there be pressure to perform at home. Are opposing pitchers more aggressive at Safeco Field and is that tougher for young hitters to deal with? Maybe they don’t like home cooking. Not for nothing, but the Padres have an extremely young team and big ballpark and their home/road splits are only slightly less extreme than the Mariners’.
It is not a huge sample size but nonetheless a concerning trend. The Mariners need answers to their hitting woes at Safeco Field and they need to look beyond the fences.
Addendum: Okay. Just as I am finishing this post I go back to double check a number on a separate database and the opposition’s splits come to my attention. In 21 games at Safeco Field this season the Mariners have hit .197/.280/.312/.592. Terrible line, right? Well, their opponents have hit .219/.281/.326/.607. How much of this is pitching (on both sides) and how much is something else? I have been looking at opponents, past splits, league trends and a ton of other things and I now officially have a headache. I will ask more questions over the next couple of days but for now, have at it.