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Sunday, May 30, 2004

Bob Melvin Is Turning Japanese (I Really Think So) 

Here's a snapshot of where the Mariners rank in the American League in the major offensive statistics:

Runs: 202, 13th
Average: .262, 12th
Slugging: .381, 13th
On-Base Pct.: .325, 12th
OPS: .705, 13th
Hits: 451, 11th
Walks: 145, 10th
Home Runs: 26, 14th
RBI: 188, 13th

None of this comes as a surprise, of course. Trying to at least grasp at the straws of optimism in the absence of the Optimist, I decided to scrounge the many statistics made available by ESPN to find categories in which the M's place in the top five, and found exactly two:

Sacrifices: 14, 3rd
Intentional Walks: 14, 1st

Where the Mariners really excel is in bunting runners over to set the table for their few-and-far-between "ept" hitters (making up a word here; think "not inept" but without going so far as to say "apt") and then having those ept hitters predictably intentionally walked.

In "You Gotta Have Wa" by Robert Whiting, a great read about American baseball players in the Japanese Leagues, Whiting gives an anecdote about a particularly frustrating strategy employed by one American slugger's Japanese manager. Every time his team's leadoff man reached base, the manager would put the bunt on for the two hitter, moving the leadoff man to second. The American slugger was the team's third hitter and only power threat and was consistently walked, bringing up the contact-hitting fourth hitter.

Melvin's bunting-before-my-best-hitters strategy hurts the offense in two ways: it burns outs needlessly and sacrifices the best hitters' ABs. Swing away, Bob. Swing away.

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