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Despite offensive surge, Mariners have a lefty problem

By Gary Hill

It has been a spectacular offensive month for the Mariners. They have pushed 109 runs across home plate, which is tied for the second most in Major League Baseball in July. They have already secured a higher run total than in any other month this season:

April/March: 95
May: 107
June: 95
July: 109

The Mariners will try and add to their impressive total with six games remaining this month. The Mariners maintain the second-best OPS in baseball in July at .808 and have swatted the most homers in the game with 29. They have drawn the third-most walks (73) and have the seventh-best batting average (.267).

Youth and veterans have merged to form a formidable and fierce one through nine. However, the new combination has left the Mariners vulnerable to left-handed pitchers. Seattle's new lineup has been incredible productive, but is extreme lefty heavy:

Brad Miller (L)
Nick Franklin (S)
Raul Ibanez (L)
Kendrys Morales (S)
Kyle Seager (L)
Justin Smoak (S)
Michael Saunders (L)
Mike Zunino (R)
Dustin Ackley (L)

There are three switch hitters in the typical Mariners lineup, but only one of them is stronger from the right side this season.

Franklin

Against lefties: .217/.358/.396, 1 HR, 11 RBI
Against righties: .291/.371/.513, 6 HR, 20 RBI

Morales

Against lefties: .296/.376/.448, 3 HR, 15 RBI
Against righties: .271/.321/.470, 12 HR, 42 RBI

Smoak

Against lefties: .189/.277/.230, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Against righties: .298/.401/.503, 9 HR, 22 RBI

The last three lefty starters the Mariners have faced have only yielded two earned runs in 21 innings. The Mariners scored more earned runs off of Jon Lester (five) than they have against fellow lefty starters Scott Kazmir (zero), Erik Bedard (one), Felix Doubront (one), Martin Perez (one) and Derek Holland (two) combined in July.

7/24. Scott Kazmir: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
7/20. Erik Bedard: 6 1/3 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 10 K
7/10. Felix Doubront: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
7/8. Jon Lester: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
7/4. Martin Perez: 5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
7/3. Derek Holland: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 K

They have also not scored off of a lefty reliever since Independence Day. Lefty relievers have thrown 14 straight scoreless innings.

Lefty starters in July: 2.15 ERA, 37 2/3 IP, 30 H, 9 ER, 15 BB, 43 K
Lefty relievers in July: 2.25 ERA, 16 IP, 14 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 18 K
Total: 2.38 ERA, 53 IP, 44 H, 14 ER, 20 BB, 61 K

For the season, the Mariners have the second-worst batting average (.228) and fifth-worst OPS (.662) against left-handed pitchers.

Is help on the way?

Jason Bay has hit better against southpaws this season, but he alone is not nearly enough to balance out the inequities against lefties.

The man the Mariners are missing the most in this regard is Michael Morse. Morse has crushed lefties during his career and this season has been no different.

Morse against righties: .225/.287/.384, 6 HR, 11 RBI
Morse against lefties: .304/.364/.594, 5 HR, 12 RBI

His numbers are particularly appealing considering Endy Chavez was used as an outfield platoon partner against Kazmir on Wednesday. Chavez is a lefty himself and is hitting just .224 with one extra-base hit off of left-handers this season.

Franklin Gutierrez would also help the cause a great deal thanks to his .292/.350/.483 career slash line against lefties. At this point it is impossible to count on him due to his various health issues, but he would have tremendous value to this team even if he only started against lefties.

The conclusion is that the Mariners' offense has been great in July despite the weakness against lefties. They do have in-house solutions that can help ease the struggles with the most important being Morse. He took three at-bats Wednesday night for the Tacoma Rainiers and could be ready to go when the Mariners face their next lefty starter.

On Friday Seattle will face Minnesota's Scott Diamond for the second time this season. He blanked the Mariners for six innings while scattering four singles last month. He will be the only lefty starter the Mariners will face in the four-game series against the Twins.

Well wishes for Wedge

Finally, I would like to add my voice to the chorus sending best wishes to Eric Wedge and his family. It is a relief he is home and resting and I am looking forward to seeing him in the dugout in the very near future. I recommend the video Shannon Drayer produced on the subject, which is excellent.

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