How do you describe the Seattle Mariners offense in 2013? Improved? Up-and-down? Hit-and-miss? Some good, some bad?
To be sure, there are some guys who are providing some much-needed punch to an offense that has struggled over the last few seasons. The trouble is that there are also those individuals who aren't exactly pulling their weight.
Michael Morse and Franklin Gutierrez, two of the biggest contributors to the offense in 2013, are already dealing with their first round of nagging injuries. Hopefully these injuries won't nag them throughout the season.
This is especially true for Gutierrez, who hasn't exactly been the picture of health over the last couple of seasons.
Who needs to hit better? Here are a few of the top culprits.
At one point, Dustin Ackley was discussed as a possible leadoff man for the Mariners. It is fair to say that those discussions have long since fallen by the wayside.
Ackley started the year in a horrible slump (1-for-20) and as of April 14 was still only hitting .122 for the season. He isn’t striking out a lot (five strikeouts in 41 at-bats), but he also isn’t getting on base (.182 OBP).
A couple of years ago, Ackley looked like a guy who could consistently hit in the .280-.300 range. But he regressed in 2012, either due to nagging injuries or the dreaded sophomore slump.
If Ackley doesn’t get it together soon, the Mariners might take a hard look at bringing up someone like Nick Franklin.
So much for a hot spring.
In spring training, Smoak looked like he was starting to find his stroke, as the slugging first baseman hit .407 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 59 at-bats.
Unfortunately, when the season began, Smoak started to look like the guy who hit .217 in 2012. So far in 2013, Smoak is hitting .191 with no home runs, three RBI and nine strikeouts in 47 at-bats.
Not exactly a show of force.
Smoak is also a guy who may be on a short leash. If he doesn’t start hitting, the Mariners might consider a multi-player switch. Kendrys Morales would go to first, Jesus Montero to DH and Mike Zunino would come up and catch.
Seager is hitting, well, just adequately. When you play third base, there are typically higher expectations than batting .204 with no home runs and four RBI through April 14.
After hitting .259 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI in 2012, Seager started to resemble a guy who could be a second-tier slugger and a solid RBI threat for the Mariners, assuming that guys can consistently get on base ahead of him.
So far in 2013, Seager hasn't shown signs of being that guy. He has put the ball in play, but too often the ball finds its way to an opposing glove. At the moment, he does have a four-game hitting streak, so Seattle obviously hopes that will continue.
The Mariners are probably hoping for a little more offensive production from the hot corner.
Finally, there is Jesus Montero, who was the prize in Seattle’s “blockbuster” trade with the New York Yankees that involved Michael Pineda. The plan was for Montero to be an impact hitter for the next decade.
Is that going to happen?
Which player should be replaced in the lineup?
Montero is another guy who looked like someone that might be on the brink of a “breakout” season after he hit .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI in 2012. Yet again, we have a guy who has started out fairly slow for the Mariners.
Through April 14, Montero is hitting .211 with no home runs and two RBI. His OBP is exactly the same as his batting average since he has not walked one time this season. If the Mariners are going to be more than just an average team, Montero may need to pick up his game.
The Mariners are currently ranked 25th in the league with a .225 team average. Based on past seasons, that is an improvement. However, there is a lot of room to grow. Growth may start with these four players finding hits a few more times in the next few weeks.