2011 felt a lot like 2010. It was another terrible season for the Seattle Mariners. They lost 95 games, primarily because their offense was historically bad, yet again. Nobody on the team, with at least 20 AB, had a batting average over .280. Let that sink in. Nobody with any significant playing time hit over .280. Mike Carp had the highest batting average of those players at .276. Because no one was getting on base the team scored only 556 runs, the second straight year under 600 runs. Not only could the team not get on base they also couldn't hit for power. The team leader for HR was Miguel Olivo with only 19.
Probably the statistic that best shows how bad the M's were in 2011 was ratio of strikeouts to walks. The team struck out 2.94 times for each walk they drew. To pull off such an embarrassing result the team led the American League in strikeouts and was last place for base on balls. The team had more strikeouts than hits. No other team in the American League managed to do this.
Additionally the Mariners had the fourth oldest team in the American League with an average age of 29.4 years old. So, it wasn't like this was a bunch of young pups just breaking into the big leagues. They were a team of has-beens on their last legs. There were very few hopes for the future, only 8 of 26 position players to appear in a game were 25 or younger. It was a truly pitiful team of hitters.
Mariners star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki had a remarkable season, but for bad reasons. It was his age 34 season and he looked it. It was the first time he ever got less than 200 hits in a major league season and he wasn't injured. He played 161 games. The former star batted only .272 and had a low .310 OBP. With his mediocre stats it was the first time in his career he missed the All-Star game.
After a bad first season with the Mariners Chone Figgins started off his second year strong. He hit a homerun in the very first game. Sadly that was the end of the good times for Figgins. He didn't hit another homer all year and only hit an abysmal .188 in 81 games. Figgins was so terrible that they put him on the DL in early August and left him there for the rest of the season.
Surprisingly 2011 did have some notable moments for position players that could be construed as positive. Two players of significance made their rookie debuts for the Mariners, former 2nd overall pick Dustin Ackley and future All-star third baseman Kyle Seager. Ackley led the team in batting average for qualified players with a .273 average. He also led the team in OBP with a .348. Unfortunately both were career high for the former second overall pick. Although much less touted than Ackley at the time, Big Booty Seags managed to hit .258 in 53 games. Of the two players Seager would go on to have a much better career (yep I am calling it now even though neither is technically retired). The two infielders were about the only bright spot the whole year.
On the pitching side of things 2011 was another successful year, as long as you don't look at wins and losses.
Rookie phenom Michael Pineda started 28 games and was stellar. He looked like he was going to be a major part of the Mariners future (note: he wasn't. Read the 2012 post to learn about his fate). Pineda ERA was 3.74 and he struck out 9.1 batters per nine innings pitched, a very good rate. The young gun was fun to watch pitch and a definite reason to tune into the games.
Another pitcher that did well for the Mariners was Doug Fister. Many fans never believed in Doug. He didn't ever flash dominate stuff and he didn't have the look of an ace. Old school fans saw his 3-12 record and pointed to it as proof he wasn't anything special. But Fister's ERA didn't lie. In 21 starts he recorded a 3.33 ERA with an even lower FIP at 3.27. Fister just knew how to get batters out.
Mid season, in an attempt to find hitters for the future, the Mariners decided to traded Fister to the Tigers. At the time I thought it was a bad trade and looking back it proved to be one. However one of the players the Mariners got in return, and the one that made the biggest impact with the team, was Charlie Furbush. So in case you had forgotten, in 2011 the Mariners traded Fister for Furbush. It is an awesome sounding trade to be sure.
The final thing worth mentioning about 2011 is King Felix's season. Coming off a Cy Young winning performance the Mariners decided to celebrate their star by creating the King's Court. The promotional event became an immediate fan favorite and lives on to this day. It has even gained national acclaim.
Felix's season didn't disappoint his loyal subjects in the court. He pitched 233.66 innings and struck out 222 batters. His K to BB ratio was especially impressive at 3.31. Finally his early sat at a very respectable 3.47. His best single game came on May 22nd against the San Diego Padres. Hernandez struck out 13 batters and walked none in 8 innings and only conceded 1 earned run. All this earned King Felix his second trip to the All-Star game. Overall a very good season.
Much like the season directly before it 2011 was one filled with terrible offense and good pitching. The Mariner's two year stretch of hitting over 2010-2011 may go down as one of the worst in MLB history. They scored under 600 runs in both seasons. 2011 was even more difficult to watch because former star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki was finally caught by age and struggled for the first time in his career. The season was basically a waste because most of the team was old and of the few young players that got opportunities only Kyle Seager ever amounted to anything. The pitching was good, with a team ERA of 3.90, but it wasn't good enough to overcome such a terrible offense.
Sources: Baseball Reference