July 2014 will go down as one of the most frustrating months in Mariner history.
As months go, it was a pitching gem:
- 2.57 ERA
- 2.7 BB/9 and 8.9 K/9
- Slash-line-against of .206/.271/.322
- Only four games with more than 4 earned runs allowed
And yet the month ended with an 11-14 record, and with control over the Coveted Second Wild Card slipping away.
The reason, of course, was that the offense scored fewer than three runs 14 times in the month, and the record in those games? 1-13.
In other words: the bad month was directly attributable to not scoring runs. As in: not scoring runs at all.
Let’s first scan the breakdown:
And they started off the month scoring 13 against the Astros!
Take away that 13-run game, and the Runs-per-Game total drops to 2.5! And the OPS drops to .618.
But some other things are evident from that table:
- Doubles and triples were not a problem. In fact, doubles-per-plate-appearance were higher in July than in the prior three months. If you take doubles and triples together as non-HR-XBH, the Mariners have been super-consistent, running between 4.7% and 4.9% of PAs every single month.
- BABIP was not a problem. As you can see, BABIP ran a bit above-average in July, as it did in June. The M’s were not getting an inordinately-low number of singles due to bad fortune. On the other hand, that very thing did happen in April and May, and you can see the lower batting averages as a result. But there was no similar run-scoring purge in those months.
- Very interestingly, opposing teams were virtually error-free. I wouldn’t ordinarily put that column in the table, but it was so stark this time that it needed to be part of the conversation. That’s something pretty much out of the Mariners’ control and seems to be an element of bad fortune. But even if you assume that’s “normalized” … nine or 10 more baserunners over the course of a month aren’t going to tilt the balance all that much (though it sure didn’t help).
- Walks were not much more of a problem than usual. The Mariners are near the bottom of the pack in BB-rate, but they also were in April and June and managed to score runs in those months. In May, for whatever reason, they decided to run a league-average BB-rate, and that helped make up for the low BABIP in that month. But in June and July they sank right back down below 6% (MLB average is 7.8%). In June they overcame that; in July they didn’t.
- Which brings us to … pretty much the whole shooting match was a lack of home runs. You may or may not know that a “slugger” HR-rate is 4% or higher, and MLB average is (in 2014 anyway) 2.3%. The worst MLB team this year is Kansas City at 1.6%. The Mariners in July: 1.3%.
So now we know what the problem was. Let’s see if we can figure out who was responsible.