Updated Jun 28, 2012 - 11:48 am
Mariners offense hits the brakes
The Mariners have appeared to have hit the brakes in regard to any kind of progress offensively for the better part June, and this has nothing to do with playing at home. Since the 5-4 road trip which included series wins over Texas and Anaheim and a 21-run game, the team has gone 6-12. The starting pitching had its stumble in this span, but as always, the offense has been the biggest culprit.
After losses in Arizona and San Diego, manager Eric Wedge expressed optimism in that he liked the way that his guys were swinging the bat. They may not have had much to show for it in the losses but he saw things in the swings, the contact and the approach that he hoped would lead to success. After Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the A's he wasn't as pleased with what he saw.
"Today was disappointing," he said. "I didn't feel like we made very good outs today."
"We've got to do a better job of making adjustments," he continued. "Not just from game to game, but pitch to pitch. Young players have got to recognize what they're doing to get them out and how they're pitching them early, middle and late, and make the according adjustment."
Wedge made similar comments when talking about Dustin Ackley in San Diego. Ackley needed to recognize what pitchers were doing to get him out and take that away from them. While Ackley went just 2-for-19 in the last week, he is hardly the only young player struggling. Kyle Seager, who has avoided long slumps for most of this season, is 2-for-20 in the last six days. Justin Smoak is 1-for-17.
Wedge once again pointed out that the veterans needed to be doing more as well. There is no question that these losses have been team efforts when it comes to the offense. I asked if there was anything he could do or consider at this point to shake it up, be it a lineup or roster adjustment.
"There is not a whole lot you can do in regard to shaking it up," he answered. "We have got guys up here that need to be up here. There are certain points of time where you do need to make a move but I don't feel this is the case for this particular group. I feel like this is what they need to do. Fight through this, figure it out and make progress, get better from at-bat to at-bat."
It is tough to watch and even tougher to be in the middle of. I am starting to see the struggles on the faces and in body language with some before and after games. It is easier for them earlier in the season but there is no early to fall back on now. They are going to have to push through this. All the better if they can do it at home. On that note ...
Some interesting thoughts on the home woes from John Jaso, who admitted after the game that it can be tough coming back home and seeing fly balls die in the outfield. While most say it is important not to change your approach from park to park, Jaso said that it is something he tries to do.
"The challenge is doing the best with it [the park]," he said. "So concentrate on hitting low line drives, ground balls and that is what will beat the other teams coming in thinking the fly balls will go out. I think it's kind of a mental thing, kind of a different approach swing."
I asked how much of this was an actual change of approach and how much was an awareness for the ballpark.
"This is a pitchers' ballpark so it is going to factor that way," he said. "I think the more important part would be doing things on the bases to help yourself out. If there is a ball in the dirt to the catcher you have got to be on second base. You are not going to get that two-run home run with a runner on first. You have got to get to second for that bloop hit or grounder through the infield. I think it is always looking ahead one step here, testing the outfielders' arms. Those home runs aren't going to be there that much here so I think it is being aggressive on the bases and trying to take what you can with what is given to you. You can't let those opportunities slip by."
I think we definitely could see more of this but of course you have to get on base before you can can do any damage there. I like Jaso's thinking. This approach is great for Jaso, Ackley, Ichiro, Saunders and Gutierrez for now and Ryan. It is tougher for the big guys. Montero and Smoak aren't going to be stealing bases. They can be smart on the bases but don't look for them to get anything extra. Their job is to drive in runs. I think this makes Smoak's struggles in particular more difficult. He's not a guy that can do the little things. You are not looking for him to shoot one through the infield. He has got to figure out how to hit those gaps. He of all players on this team has the toughest challenge ahead.
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