The cries can be heard for miles around. The Mariners go out of town, score 40 runs in a series, come home, and struggle to avoid shutouts. Immediately, a thousand voices shout in agony, and they grow louder with seemingly every at bat.
"MOVE THE FENCES IN!"
Look, I love the long ball as much as the next guy, and it is frustrating going to the ballpark just to see how inept the Mariners can be this week.
But the problem isn't the fences. Yeah, the game would probably be slightly more entertaining, a few more fans would go home with souvenirs, and the Mariners would be losing 3-5 instead of 2-4. Because (insert name of visiting team here) is probably more likely to benefit from those new dimensions than the Montero-Ackley-Smoak-Seager-Saunders Mariners.
Don't get me wrong; I'm satisfied with the development of these players, but none of them are looking like 40+ home run guys. They aren't Miguel Cabrera, or Albert Pujols, or Prince Fielder, or Josh Hamilton. This team is built on players that project to have solid averages, strong plate command, and the OCCASIONAL dinger.
(more after the break)
Yeah, Smoak came close a few times this past week. But even though he hit both to the deepest parts of the park, the defense was there to catch them. My point is this: Smoak, and the rest of the team, have failed to really hit the ball on the screws.
Because of the long fences, the outfielders have more ground to cover, and finding grass out there should be far easier than in smaller bandboxes. If he had really hit that ball, it would have made it to the fence before the outfielder did. It might have gotten there on a hop, but it would have cleared any runners that might have been on base, instead of being nothing more than an out. Short of that, his shots were just really, really long pop-ups. He got under the ball, and that's something that the entire team has been guilty of for most of the year. I have to imagine everyone has noticed the weak pop-ups the team has hit, especially in clutch situations. For whatever reason, squaring one up has been beyond this team. (And the few times it has happened, it has been straight at the defense).
And just for clarification, the ball doesn't need to head over the fence to represent good contact. If Smoak hit it in the same direction but had the head of his bat just a little higher, he would have coasted in to second base with an easy standup double... Or he would if he had the speed of any normal human being. (I'm KIDDING Smoak, you know I love you).
If it's not mechanical (which I find hard to believe considering the number of hitters it is affecting) it almost has to be mental. I mean, the cool Puget Sound air probably doesn't help, and who knows if there's something distracting about the park outside of the cavernous outfield, but it's just as likely that our Mariners are convincing themselves that they can't hit here. Or they're psyching themselves out, trying to hit a home run when the bases are loaded. That is a tall order in Seattle.
The most frustrating thing is that they are all getting the occasional pitch to hit. But their execution is poor enough at the moment that Saunders is the only one making them pay. I'm no psychic; I have no way of knowing what's going through Dustin Ackley's head when he takes a fast-ish fastball down the middle of the plate for a strike two. I remember him talking to the media after he got called up last year, mentioning that his approach was based on looking for a fastball he could take care of, and taking care of it. That hasn't been happening. (In fact, there appears to be something very wrong with Ackley's stance right now, but I digress).
Anyway, I'm at the game tonight, and I'm hoping to see the M's perform with a little more authority at the plate. There's been a lot of talk about getting the young guys to swing the bat like they mean it. That will come from experience and confidence. I'm hoping that the sweet spot shots will follow.