Ted Williams – if he were alive – would tell you that the most important thing about hitting is picking a good pitch to hit. It’s commonly accepted wisdom that hitters will get more pitches to hit in good counts like 2-0 or 3-1. In fact, Josh Donaldson’s 2-run homerun off of Erasmo Ramirez on Saturday was a 2-0 pitch. Sample-size of one aside, my concern for the Mariners so far this season has been their performance in hitters’ counts.
In the last four home games entering today’s match against Oakland, the Mariners were 4-for-25 with a double, a home run, and nine walks against the Angels and A’s when the at-bat reached either 2-0 or 3-1. That’s not a recipe for success. Willie Bloomquist is a career .319 hitter through a 2-0 count, with an OBP of .513. The Mariners this week hit .160 with a .382 OBP.
I find it hard to say that you should “tip your cap” to the opponent when you get in favorable situations and don’t cash in.
Aside from that, the Mariners have missed a couple of opportunities to get into the opposing bullpens, especially in the losses. An 8-pitch second an 11-pitch third put Sonny Gray at 38 pitches through three innings, already staked to a 3-1 lead, and pitched comfortable the rest of the way. In their game against Garrett Richards, they allowed the Angels relievers to not see much of the game by providing the starter with a 9-pitch sixth and a 10-pitch seventh.
I understand that you’ve got to change your strategy at some point if a pitcher is throwing dimes – sometimes the best pitch you get in at bat is the first – but in that 9-pitch sixth against Richards, each batter saw 1-and-0 before they hit a ground ball. The 10-pitch seventh started with a 4-pitch walk to Corey Hart before Seager and Ackley both were put out on the first-pitch.
This offense is going to have to turn it around and actually punish the pitcher for putting them in a poor position, or the hot start they had against the Angels will stall in a hurry.