- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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From my friends at ESPN Playbook: Seattle hasn't had a drop of rain in 45 days and is approaching its record drought of 51 days, set in 1951. Coincidentally -- or not! -- the drought began the day Ichiro Suzuki was traded to the Yankees.
Yankees fans would probably suggest Ichiro has cursed the Yankees. Since Ichiro's first game in pinstripes on July 23, the Yankees are 19-21 and have seen their lead fall from seven games to zero.
The Mariners have had an interesting second half, going 30-20, tied with Tampa Bay for the third-best record in the AL since the All-Star break, behind Oakland and Baltimore. Are they potentially a team on the rise? They still don't score many runs -- only Toronto and Cleveland have scored fewer in the second half and they're still last in the AL in runs scored on the season. But Hisashi Iwakuma has provided a big boost to the rotation alongside Felix Hernandez and the bullpen has been stellar.
Of course, some of the run-scoring deficiency is due to Safeco Field's extreme park effects this season. The Mariners are hitting .216/.289/.322 at Safeco, but .246/.298/.399 on the road. Mariners pitchers allowed a .224/.283/.331 line at Safeco, but .266/.327/.448 on the road.
This makes it difficult for the Seattle front office to evaluate its talent. Jason Vargas, for example, has a respectable overall line of 14-9, 3.80, but the splits break down to 2.52 at Safeco, 4.84 on the road (with 25 home runs allowed). He's an ace at home, where his fly balls go to die, and nearly unusable on the road. Dustin Ackley has an unimpressive line of .232/.301/.333. He actually hasn't for average at home or on the road, but eight of his 10 home runs have come away from Safeco. Kyle Seager is slugging .502 on the road and a miserable .298 at home (13 of his 16 home runs are on the road). Even Felix Hernandez has a sizable split -- 2.18 ERA at Safeco (.528 OPS allowed), 2.92 ERA on the road (.648 OPS allowed).
While Safeco has always been a pitcher's park, it's never played so extreme. Seattle did get unseasonably wet and cold weather early in the season, at a time when much of the country was setting record or near-record temperatures. Even in July, every state except Washington experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
In the chart to the right, you see the Mariners' home and road OPS total (B-h and B-r) and their OPS totals allowed (P-h and P-r). While Mariners pitchers have allowed a lower OPS at home every year of Safeco's existence, there were actually a couple seasons where Mariners hitters performed better at home. In 2008, the Mariners' road OPS was nearly identical to what it is this year -- .695 versus .697 -- but their home OPS that season was 110 points higher than it is now.
I don't know if the Mariners will move the fences in for 2013. I do think it makes sense for a few reasons: For one thing, fans are bored with low-scoring game after low-scoring game (well, except when King Felix is pitching); also, it makes difficult to attract free-agent hitters; and I mentioned the difficulty in evaluating your players. Even with all our Sabermetric knowledge, extreme park effects can do weird things to hitters. Maybe Ackley and Seager have been psyched out by Safeco; or maybe there's sort of a reverse Coors effect that goes on (Vargas is worse than he should be on the road, because he can get away with certain pitches at home).
Aside from all that, it's at least been a fun second half for Mariners fans. If they can find a way to add a couple bats (a first baseman and corner outfielder, to start with) and find another arm for the rotation next year as they wait for Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton to develop, maybe they can turn into the 2013 version of the A's or Orioles.
From my friends at ESPN Playbook: Seattle hasn't had a drop of rain in 45 days and is approaching its record drought of 51 days, set in 1951. Coincidentally -- or not!