SEATTLE — Statistical analysis in baseball isn’t, as it often seems, always at odds with those who judge the game through an eye test. Cue up Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison over the first 15 games.
“He’s hitting in some tough luck right now,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s hit some balls extremely hard. He’s had a couple home runs brought back into the ballpark.”
Morrison has a .200 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which seeks to measure a player’s luck at the plate since it covers covers every plate appearance in which the defense has a chance to make a play on the ball.
(Exceptions include striking out, getting a walk, being hit by a pitch, reaching on catcher’s interference, executing a sacrifice bunt or hitting a home run. Yes, that means all of those homers hurt Nelson Cruz’s BABIP.)
Back to LoMo: His BABIP isn’t just the worst among the Mariners’ regular players, it ranks among the worst in either league. The major-league average BABIP through Wednesday is .290; it usually hovers near .300.
So all agreed? Tough luck?
“The more people get a book on you,” Morrison rationalizes, “the more tough luck you’re going to run into. But at the same time, I have to do a better job of having better at-bats throughout the entirety of the game.”
Morrison has a .280 BABIP in his six big-league seasons. So he’s often been at least a few ticks below the major-league average. That’s due, in part, to the increasing tendency by clubs to shift their defensive alignments.
Since Morrison is a dead pull hitter, opponents regularly compensate by shifting their shortstop to the right side of second base.
“I’ve hit some balls into the shift,” he acknowledged. “I’ve hit some balls past the shift. I think the better my swing gets, the better my recognition gets, the more I’m going to break the shift.
“I don’t really know the data. I just know if I’m going good, I’m not worried about where the infield is playing. It’s more about the outfielders and, hopefully, they can’t get to it when I hit it into the gap.”
That’s also supported by numbers.
Morrison faced similar shifts a year ago and produced a .345 BABIP over his final 51 games while compiling a .321/.372/.506 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage).
It was, perhaps, the finest sustained stretch of his career and dissuaded club officials from searching last winter for alternatives at first base. For now, those club officials are staying patient.
“Obviously, you’d like to see (Morrison hit) better,” McClendon said, “and you’d like to see it very quickly. History says that he will hit. Stay aggressive. Keep swinging the bat and good things will happen.”
So Morrison grinds on.
“It’s tough to sleep sometimes,” he admitted, “but it’s not because I’m not hitting well. It’s because I’m not hitting well, and we’re not winning. It makes it a little easier if you are winning.”
The Mariners entered the season amid high expectations but are just 6-9 as they open a three-game series Friday against Minnesota at Safeco Field.
“It’s a long season,” Morrison said. “You don’t want to keep saying that to give yourself an excuse. Keep saying, `We’ll get them tomorrow, we’ll get them tomorrow.’ We want to get them tonight.
“At the same time, you know you’ve got a lot ahead of you. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. All of the cliches you can come up with. It keeps you level-headed. It keeps you steady.
“You come to the field, ready to go every day, and ready to beat somebody up. Make somebody pay.”
A little better luck wouldn’t hurt.
QUENTIN: CLOCK TICKING
The Mariners have less than three weeks to decide whether veteran outfielder Carlos Quentin merits a spot on their big-league roster.
Quentin, 32, has a May 12 opt-out in his minor-league deal, which he signed Wednesday before taking batting practice for Triple-A Tacoma.
Club officials view Quentin as a possible right-handed alternative to Morrison at first base. He played that position in spring training for San Diego prior to an April 5 trade that sent him to Atlanta.
Barring an injury, however, it’s hard to see where Quentin fits on the Mariners’ big-league roster, which currently has four reserves: Jesus Sucre, Willie Bloomquist, Rickie Weeks and Justin Ruggiano.
Sucre is the backup catcher; Bloomquist is a utilityman who is the roster’s only proven backup shortstop; Ruggiano is the only outfielder capable of playing all three positions, and Weeks has more versatility than Quentin.
Bloomquist, Ruggiano and Weeks are also each making $2 million or more. Quentin is making $8 million, but the Mariners are only paying a pro-rated portion of the major-league minimum salary ($507,500).
Quentin battled chronic knee problems that limited him to fewer than 90 games in each of the last three seasons. He batted just .177 last season in 50 games for the Padres with four homers and 18 RBIs.
Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is expected to throw Friday for the first time since suffering a hyperextended right elbow in an April 11 pre-game workout in Oakland.
The projected rehab schedule suggests Wilhelmsen won’t return to active duty for another two weeks — or roughly May 8, when the Mariners open a nine-game homestand with the first of three games against the A’s.
It was 21 years ago Friday — April 24, 1994 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit a three-run homer at Baltimore’s Camden Yards that soared out of the ballpark and landed on Eutaw Street beyond the right-field wall.
The estimated distance was 438 feet.
More important, it came in the eighth inning and rallied the Mariners to a 7-6 victory over the Orioles. Griffey’s homer came against reliever Brad Pennington and snatched a victory away from future teammate Jamie Moyer.
Nelson Cruz has RBIs in eight of his last 11 games and, through Wednesday, led the majors. His eight home runs also led the majors…Robinson Cano has hits in nine straight games and is batting .405 (15-for-37) in that span…Brad Miller is 9-for-18 in his last six games…Fernando Rodney got his 52nd save as a Mariner in closing out Wednesday’s victory. That ties Bill Caudill (1982-83) and Brandon League (2010-12) for ninth place in franchise history. Next on the list is Wilhelmsen with 54. The all-time leader is Kazuhiro Sasaki with 129 from 2000-03.
The Mariners close out their nine-game homestand with three weekend games against the Minnesota Twins.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (2-0. 2.37) will pitch the series opener against Minnesota right-hander Phil Hughes (0-3, 5.30) at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field.
The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.