Last season, the Seattle Mariners posted a .444 win percentage at home. In 2014, they seem to be a much improved team, but their collective struggles at Safeco Field continue to plague any playoff aspirations the organization may have.
For a team heavily built around their starting rotation and bullpen, it would make more sense for the Mariners to find success in their home games. Safeco is widely regarded as a pitchers’ ball park with its dimensions, low elevation and the thick marine air that sometimes blankets the stadium due to its close proximity to Puget Sound and the ocean.
After falling 8-1 to SP Kyle Gibson and the Minnesota Twins at home on Wednesday evening, the Mariners are now 22-24 in games played within Seattle. That’s not a terrible home record, but it’s certainly not anywhere near as impressive as their 27-18 record on the road.
The pitching splits aren’t all that bad either for Seattle. Their ace, Felix Hernandez, has started nine of his 19 games at home and has a 6-2 record. Hisashi Iwakuma has a collective ERA of 3.07 this season. He has started eight games at Safeco where he has a 2.93 ERA this season, yet his record is 3-4. Meanwhile, on the road, Iwakuma has an ERA of 3.31 in five starts, but is a near perfect 4-0 with only one no decision. The M’s third best starter this year has been veteran Chris Young. He has a very impressive 2.24 home ERA and is 5-2 over nine starts. In his eight road starts, Young is 3-3 away from Safeco with a 4.04 ERA.
The Mariners’ three best starting pitchers have all made around equal appearances at home and on the road, so their strong ERAs should equate to more overall wins. Such is not the case. Iwakuma has been especially unlucky with run support at Safeco. Combined with poor home outings from the back end of their rotation, the above numbers would suggest the Mariners need to be more productive at the plate when playing their games in the Pacific Northwest.
As of July 8, in 45 home games the Mariners have scored 160 runs for an average of 3.55 runs per game. That places them in the bottom third of MLB rankings. Over 45 road games, Seattle has scored 205 runs, good for 4.55 runs per game. Those numbers rank them in the top third of league run production and adds an entire run to their per game average.
The Mariners currently have the best bullpen in baseball as well with a collective ERA of 2.44, so relief pitching is certainly not to blame. For some odd reason, the M’s have had difficulties crossing home plate at Safeco field. Competing with the dominant Oakland Athletics and the talented Los Angeles Angels in the AL West, there is little room for error moving forward.
At home in 2014, the Mariners have an average of 11.69 runners LOB to go with 148 RBIs. In away games, that average jumps up to 14.76, but the M’s have 197 RBIs. These numbers clearly show the Mariners aren’t getting enough men on base at home, and when they do, their hitting is less clutch. On the road they have a surplus of base runners at times, and their hitters do a better job of driving in runs.
If the M’s hope to continue to play for a wild card berth, manager Lloyd McClendon and hitting coach Howard Johnson need to analyze some things and find out why it is their ball club is experiencing such a drop off in offensive production within the friendly, familiar confines of Safeco Field.