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Mariners-Dodgers: Seattle getting home runs, but little else on offense

4/15/2015

The Seattle Mariners face the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night in the ninth edition of Major League Baseball’s Civil Rights Game. The game is the first to be held in conjunction with Jackie Robinson Day, marking the 68th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier.

Here are some of the statistical storylines the broadcast crew will likely be talking about starting at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and WatchESPN.

Mariners' pitching is struggling early in season

Seattle starting pitchers had the third-best ERA in the American League in 2014 (3.48). This season, their ERA is 6.00, and their opponents’ slugging percentage is .475, compared with .374 last year.

Tajuan Walker (0-1) allowed nine earned runs in 3 ⅓ innings in his season debut Friday against the Oakland Athletics, who did most of their damage against his fastball. Athletics batters were 6-of-9 in at-bats ending on a fastball against Walker. They swung at 17 fastballs and missed twice.

After striking out 26 batters in 27 innings in spring training, Walker had five swing-and-misses Friday on 31 pitches the Athletics swung at (16 percent). The MLB average for miss percentage last season was 23 percent.

Home runs -- but not much else

The Mariners have 13 home runs in eight games, tied for the most in the majors and their most through eight games since 1999 (16). Still, Seattle is 11th in slugging at .385.

The Mariners have the second-worst on-base percentage in the majors at .255. They have walked in 5 percent of their plate appearances after having the fifth-worst walk rate in baseball last season at 7 percent.

The Mariners averaged fewer than four runs per game in each of the six seasons before this one. The only other team in baseball with such a streak is the Houston Astros.

Have Dodgers’ defensive-minded moves paid off?

The Dodgers are seeking to win three consecutive NL West titles for the first time in franchise history. In fact, they have never made the postseason in three consecutive seasons.

The Dodgers’ decisions to move Dee Gordon, not re-sign Hanley Ramirez and import Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick appear to have been with an improved up-the-middle defense in mind.

Ramirez and Gordon combined for minus-14 defensive runs saved last season at shortstop and second base, whereas Rollins and Kendrick combined for +11 in that statistic at those positions.

This season, though, the Dodgers have totaled seven errors through eight games, tied for sixth-most in the majors.

Positive signs on offense

The Dodgers have 35 extra-base hits this season, second-most in the majors. They lead the majors with a .232 isolated slugging percentage, which measures extra bases per at-bat (essentially slugging percentage minus batting average).

Dodgers starter Brett Anderson (0-0) will face the team against which he has had perhaps his most success. He is 7-4 with a 1.81 ERA in 14 career starts against the Mariners (the most wins and starts he has made against one team).

Anderson’s 1.81 ERA against the Mariners is his second-best against any opponent (minimum three starts). The only team against which Anderson’s ERA is lower is Cleveland (0.96 in four starts).

Watch for Anderson to try to exploit his slider. Five of the seven swings-and-misses Anderson got in his first start came against his slider. Three of his four strikeouts were against that pitch.

Jackie Robinson Day notes

Major League Baseball first recognized Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, 2004.

On this season’s Opening Day rosters, 8 percent of the players were African-American or African-Canadian. More than 65 percent of them are 30 or younger, and 14 percent of the players on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list are African-American.

There is one African-American general manager (Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks) and one African-American manager (Lloyd McClendon of the Seattle Mariners) in the majors.

In the NBA, three general managers and eight head coaches are African-American, and in the NFL, it’s seven and five, respectively.

Thanks to a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, 1,450 students from 44 states and Washington, D.C., have attended college. The foundation awards 50 to 60 scholarships per year.