Memo to the powers that be: Mariners need to bring in Safeco Field fences

Pitching is Stable, Hitting is Not

The Seattle Mariners have struggled a lot this season with scoring runs. Except, of course, on the road where they’ve exploded for some huge games.

That’s always been the Mariner’s MO. Pitch first, bat second. Is it by design, or coincidence?

It’s no shocking truth to hear that the Mariner’s play in a pitchers park.

Everyone knows that, in fact it’s a bit of a sore subject with Seattle fans—for it’s believed to be one reason Ken Griffey Jr. left is because he wanted to be in a hitter’s park.

But at least Safeco Field gives the Mariners home field advantage, right? They’re a pitching team in a pitcher’s park. Why else would they continue to play there?

Over the last 10 seasons, the Mariners have a 340-343 win/loss record at home. They’ve been outscored 2861 runs to 2681.

The stats say it all. The M’s can’t win at home. That’s how bad the Safeco influence has become. If they don’t move in those fences, chances are this is a team that never gets off it’s feet—the San Diego Padres anybody…?

Hitter’s Parks Are A Good Thing

In the last ten years, five of the World Series winners have been from the American League. Of those five teams, four have played in hitter’s parks. The Boston Red Sox twice (Fenway Park), the Chicago White Sox (US Cellular Field) and the New York Yankees (Yankee Stadium). The outlier has been the Los Angeles Angels (Angel Stadium of Anaheim).

Safeco Field, Seattle

Will bringing in the fences at Safeco Field help the Mariners win?

The AL is a hitter’s league, and the NL a pitcher’s league. That is personified in the World Series, and in the last 10 years the team that sticks closest to it’s leagues stereotype comes out on top.

The Mariner’s aren’t going to beat the NL at it’s own game. The M’s have some good pitchers and a great pitcher’s park, but so do teams in the NL. The only difference is that the National League hitters are used to that kind of environment, they thrive in it. In the American League, it’s a lot harder for the hitters to adapt.

The best way for the M’s to start gaining a home field advantage is move in the fences and help the hitters best they can.

Top Prospects can Pitch

Bringing in the fences will not damage the future of Seattle Mariner’s pitching.

Why is that, you ask?

James Paxton: college lefty with wicked stuff. Profiles as No. 2 or 3 starter with possible bullpen potential.

Danny Hultzen: big college lefty with awesome stuff and control. Future ace at the Major League level.

Taijuan Walker: electric right hander with hit-and-miss stuff. Best ceiling of any Mariner’s pitcher, even King Felix.

It’s not often that a team has three stud pitching prospects, let alone three of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. The Mariner’s have just that.

These kids know how to pitch, and it doesn’t matter what kind of park they’re in. In the long term, the Mariner’s have strong enough pitching that they won’t need a park to gain an edge over the competition.

Draw in Free Agents

The Marinerss didn’t need Prince Fielder this offseason, even though him and Montero batting back-to-back is a scary notion.

The Mariners didn’t need Prince Fielder, just like they don’t need Josh Hamilton after this season. That doesn’t mean either one wouldn’t be nice.

The process of free agency is all about two things.

1. How can I make the most money?

2. Where am I going to look the best?

Hitters don’t want to play in a pitcher’s park, plain and simple. It’s not like the Mariner’s aren’t throwing enough money out there.

They’re a $100 million-plus payroll team spending just above $80 million.

Safeco Field, Seattle

The Mariners seem to keep falling short of the fences – should they bring them in?

If it’s not an issue of money, than it’s an issue of appearance.

Why else would Cliff Lee choose Philadelphia over Texas? Pitchers league vs. hitters park.

Why would Prince Fielder choose Detroit over Seattle?

Extreme pitcher’s park vs. so-so hitter’s park.

If the Mariners want to command more respect on the free agent market, bringing in the fences would do just that.

Offensive Splits

In 2012, the Mariners are raking on the road. Kyle Seager has a team leading .952 OPS and .331 average. Justin Smoak has 8 home runs.

Dustin Ackley has all 4 of his bombs away from Safeco. Jesus Montero is batting .289 with 5 homers. Michael Saunders has an .869 road OPS with 6 home runs and 7 stolen bases.

None of these players have an OPS over .600 at home. Need I go on?

People wonder why the Mariners have such issues scoring runs. How come guys like Adrian Beltre and Adam Jones struggle so mightily at Safeco, but do so well once they leave? How come Justin Smoak still hasn’t panned out?

The M’s have some really great hitters. Smoak has awesome potential, as does Ackley and Montero. We were once saying the same about Adam Moore and Michael Saunders – then they met “The Safe.”

The above offensive splits prove it’s not the hitters. Smoak, Montero and Ackley all possess great ceilings, so it’s not like they’re under-performing here. It’s the stadium that drags down their stats and dilutes their potential.

Until that changes, the M’s hitters aren’t going to be able to hit.

Pitchers Will be Fine

If you brought in the fences now, the current Mariners rotation would be destroyed.

Jason Vargas has horrible road/away splits. Kevin Millwood is 37. Hector Noesi… well, he’s not even that amazing to begin with.

The lone man atop the mountain is King Felix. On the road, Felix Hernandez still has a winning record. His ERA is higher, but just a tick (3.18 vs. 3.33).

His WHIP and K/9 are pretty similar as well.

Combine an ace like Felix Hernandez and prospects like Paxton, Hultzen and Walker and you have a rotation that can pitch anywhere. The pitching will be fine.

Remember, this is a long term solution. Sometimes you have to take a loss in the short run for huge gains in the long run.

Bringing in Safeco’s fences will do just that.


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About Jonathan Irwin

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