If the Seattle Mariners were to send out for the Tuesday (May 18) game the same lineup that finished the 8-4 loss in Oakland the night before, the club could very well be making history. It could mark an unprecedented occasion this late in a major-league season (and it'ês getting pretty late when a team is 10 games below .500 in mid-May) for a manager to send out six position players each hitting below &mdash well below, in some cases — .200.
Anybody still puzzling about the collapse of a club that won 85 games last year? Hard to explain languishing in last place six and a half games back while boasting one of the strongest four-man starting rotations in baseball? Check batting averages after the stormy-Monday malaise against the A's:
Chone Figgins, still inexplicably sitting (if not hitting) in the two hole, was at .185. Ken Griffey Jr., nothing but a T shirt-promo opportunity anymore, was at .182, followed by: Matt Tuiasosopo, a capable triple-A hitter, .156; Casey Kotchman, .183; Josh Wilson, .184; Josh Bard, .167.
An opposing pitcher sees that lineup and, when he finishes laughing, pencils in "perfect game."
The above half-dozen on Monday managed a pair of singles in 21 at-bats, giving the Afflicted Six a combined batting average of .095 and a "slugging" percentage to match. The stats fall into the "pathetic" range for National League pitchers (former M's lefty Jamie Moyer, seven years older than Griffey, 40, is hitting .167 for Philadelphia).
Remarkably, the Mariners are merely second-to-last in major-league team batting average but the .230 team mark easily could sink below Houston's .227 (skewed because it includes pitchers' batting averages) if changes don't come soon. Left with the present lineup, the M's could challenge the century-old low mark of the 1910 White Sox, who hit .210 as a team.
The irony is that the M's once again have a player leading the majors in hits. Ichiro — duh — has 56 on his way to another probable 200-hit year. Down the lineup, Franklin Gutierrez continues to be a dependable third-hole guy. That's where the fun stops. The M's have been death from the fourth batter on down.
Management shouldn'êt be surprised. G.M. Jack Zduriencik noted during the preseason that a lot would have to go right for the '10 M's to prevail in the American League West division. With just about everything about the offense going wrong, the brain trust seems to have picked up the play book from the '08 implosion when, in rapid succession, execs jettisoned from the Bad Ship Mariner the batting coach, the field boss and — watch out, Jack — the general manager.
Injuries, physical and emotional, have kept heretofore everyday players Jack Wilson and Milton Bradley away from the field. M's execs have long since seemed to believe that the catcher position shouldn't contribute to the team's offense and, accordingly, none of the three who have caught this season have hit for squat.
Now it's as though Zduriencik et al have extended the offensive free pass to the first-base spot, the dodge about Kotchman being: yeah, he only hits a buck something but on defense the buck stops at first base.
The saddest aspect of the young season has been the spectacle of excellent starting pitchers, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Doug Fister and Justin Vargas, squeezing from their towels the sweat from seven solid innings, while watching from the bench in horrified fascination as their "hitters" and relievers can't sustain a win they rightly deserve.
Then again, they shouldn't be surprised. Teams that hit .230 don't win much, which is why the M's have lost seven of their past 10 and are on pace to go 60-102.