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Seattle Mariners: Top 34 Hot August Hitters, 1977 Through 2010

Charles de GrasseContributor IIIAugust 7, 2011

Seattle Mariners: Top 34 Hot August Hitters, 1977 Through 2010

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    My Seattle Mariner hitter “picks to click” this August include Dustin Ackley (of course) and Casper Wells, picks based on their performances so far this season. Picking the hot hitters for August stirred memories of past August performances or, in most cases, a desire to do research.

    Each year since 1977 is covered here, with the top August hitter described for each season. The slides are ordered from least hot to most hot, based on my somewhat subjective measure of hotness. Please note that some players occur multiple times and those multiplicities will be tabulated at the end, saving the obsessed reader some time and effort.

    The hitting accomplishments will be described using the widely accepted triple slash line of batting average / on-base percent / slugging percent, aided by other figures I deem suitable on a case-by-case basis.

34. Jay Buhner, 1994

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    Stats: .394/.512/.818, four home runs, eight walks

    This selection is least hot because it was a 10-game August for the Mariners due to the players' strike. The Mariners were clubbing the ball in 1994, making this a closer contest than Buhner's numbers might lead you to believe. Three other Mariners slugged .692 or better for the month and the team triple slash for that August was .319/.367/.534. For ten games the whole team was better than the next several players on this list.

33. Joe Simpson, 1982

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    Stats: .301/.363/.410

    This month was a toss up between Joe Simpson and Richie Zisk. Simpson is only superior to Zisk in on-base percent, but by enough to out weigh all the other metrics which favor Zisk, at least in my opinion. Another argument against Simpson in this August centers on his base running, including a terrible four stolen bases in nine attempts. Zisk grounded into one more double play, Simpson was hit by one more pitch; as you can see, I am splitting hairs. If you feel strongly about August, 1982 in Seattle Mariner history please comment.

32. Richie Zisk, 1981

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    Stats: .388/.441/.588, only 21 games, 5 HR, 7BB

    Richie Zisk is consigned to the 30s because the season was so short in 1981. Had he played five more games at this level he would be a a top-15 player on this list.

    Zisk is the first designated hitter on the list and a vastly better two-time All-Star than another two-time All-Star appearing closer to the top.

31. Ichiro Suzuki, 2010

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    Stats: .307/.352/.404 11 SB, 0 CS

    Three other players on this list won an August hitting prize in their last good Major League season. Will Ichiro join that club? It is much harder to tell with him because his career arc is so much more odd than that of the other declining players detailed. Ichiro is having a bad season in 2011 but at age 37, much later than the typical beginning-of-the-end for Major League baseball players.

    August, 2010 fits right in with the offensive disaster that was the 2010 Seattle Mariners with the team hitting .238/.295/.349 for the month and .236/.298/.339 for the season.

30. Alvin Davis, 1989

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    Stats: .264/.378/.472

    Two times on this list Alvin Davis claims an August with what are pretty much his career-average numbers. Davis puzzles me for his remarkably good, consistent career that came to an abrupt halt. There is no “curve” in his aging curve. He just goes off a cliff after living on a very high plateau.

    During the first seven years of his career, Davis' single-season batting averages ranged from .271 to 305, his on-base percents spanned .370 to 424, and his slugging percents went from .426 to .516. That is a narrow band for seven seasons. His eighth season triple slash sank to .221/.299/.335 and in his ninth season he only played 40 games before retiring.

29. Adrian Beltre, 2005

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    Stats: .288/.342/.538 eight doubles, six home runs

    August 2005 was a bad month for Seattle Mariner hitters not named Adrian Beltre. The next best hitters were Richie Sexson with a painful .211/.327/.453 and Ichiro with an even worse compilation of .244/.297/.429.

    Another number from that August that would bode ill for the Mariners was Ichiro's intentional walk total, four, which lead the team. Soon Seattle would have a regular lineup so weak that American League teams would have no qualms about intentionally walking the Mariners' lead-off hitter.  Those were lineups without Adrian Beltre.

28. Richie Sexson, 2006

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    Stats: .304/.379/.511 seven doubles, four home runs

    Adrian Beltre ran a close second but lost due to his out-making tendencies. Richie Sexson and Beltre each had 28 hits and nine walks for the month but Sexson used eight fewer plate appearances to collect his hits and walks.

    2006 was Sexson's last good season in Major League Baseball, after which he rapidly fell apart in the same extreme fashion Alvin Davis did sixteen years earlier.

27. Alvin Davis, 1984

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    Stats: .292/.400/.491 nine doubles, four home runs

    Alvin Davis beats out Steve Henderson with on-base percent here as well as games played to take the August 1984 best-hitter belt. Davis won with numbers that matched his season totals, which were .284/.391/.497 in 1984. Neither of those sets of numbers are very far from Davis' career line: .280/.380/.450.

26. Edgar Martinez, 2003

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    Stats: .305/.412/.453 eight doubles

    Edgar Martinez was slowing down by 2003 making his eight doubles in August all the more remarkable; an August in which he grounded into six double plays. To appreciate the oddness of that consider the second and third place August doubles hitters, Randy Winn with seven and Mark McLemore with five, neither of whom grounded into a single double play that August.

25. Ruppert Jones, 1979

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    Stats: .328/.385/.500 nine doubles, three home runs

    Ruppert Jones edges out Joe Simpson based on games played. Simpson hit at a .421/.443/.456 but in five fewer games. Were Simpson not making an appearance elsewhere on this list I might have given him the nod here for sentimental reasons. I like to spread the laurels when I have them to distribute.

    Ruppert Jones might be the worst player selected to two All-Star games, a distinction which might spur another an article all its own.

24. Ruppert Jones, 1977

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    Stats: .327/.397/.505, four stolen bases, three triples

    Ruppert Jones was not only the Seattle Mariners' best hitter in August of 1977, he was the biggest offensive contributor the whole season and as a 22-year-old center fielder, the recipient of some deserved hype. After his three years in Seattle he tapered rapidly, never playing more than 133 games in a season after 1979, finally retiring at age 32 having played an average of only 106 games per year during his last eight years in the Major Leagues.

23. Mike Sweeney, 2009

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    Stats: .333/.390/.549 five doubles, two home runs

    Mike Sweeney racked up more extra-base hits than strike outs in August, 2009. This one was a close race between Sweeney and Ichiro because Sweeney played fewer games that month than Ichiro. Like other August title holders, Sweeney wins here in his last good Major League season, if you can call a 74-game season by a position player good.

22. Leon Roberts, 1978

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    Stats: .327/.396/.541, four home runs, five doubles

    Leon Roberts had a very good year in 1978, triple slashing .301/.364/.515 for the season. He even cracked into the the MVP voting, earning three MVP-vote points.

    Much like Ruppert Jones, Roberts' career lasted only 11 years and resulted in the compilation of very similar offensive numbers. Leon Roberts' career triple slash is .267/.332/.419 backed by 78 home runs. Jones is nearly the same, with a line of .250/.330/.416 and 70 home runs. The players differ mainly in their peak performance age; Jones' peak arriving at age 22, Roberts' at age 27.

    All these firework-photo players are from the Mariner dark ages.  Roberts was one of the players I needed to research.

21. Alvin Davis, 1990

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    Stats: .327/.430/.510 six doubles, four home runs, 20 walks

    I am running out of stuff to write about Alvin Davis. It is fitting that Davis' last appearance on this list and his last good season was a symbolic passing of the torch to the young crop of Mariner sluggers, including Jay Buhner, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Tino Martinez; all of whom were on the Mariner roster in August, 1990.

20. Alvin Davis, 1985

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    Stats: .350/.430/.560 nine doubles, four home runs

    In the last slide I meant last in the chronological sense, not slide-show sense.  This is Alvin Davis' last appearance in the slide show. 

    Alvin Davis kicked out of his consistent hitting plateau with a big August, putting up single month numbers that very few players could maintain for a whole season. Davis still shows some peculiar consistency, clubbing the same number of doubles and home runs in August 1985 as he did in August 1984.

19. Phil Bradley, 1986

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    Stats: .349/.444/.528 eight doubles, three home runs, five stolen bases

    1986 was either Phil Bradley's best or third best season with the Seattle Mariners. His numbers for 1986 are only marred by his low games-played and plate-appearance numbers, totals short of his numbers for 1985 and 1987. His 1985 and 1987 seasons were both better if we grade using measures of total contribution rather that rates of contribution.

    I struggled with this issue several times writing this article and I struggle with it all the time when comparing baseball players' careers.

18. Bruce Bochte, 1980

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    Stats: .359/.452/.538. 14 walks

    There is no competition here. The team August stats were .228/.288/.334 and Bruce Bochte was the only hitter who was even good that August. The team hitting for that dreary August reminds me too much of recent Seattle Mariner hitting lines.

    In the first week of August, 1980 Maury Wills took over as manager of the Mariners, a move which should indicate the state of the team.

17.Ken Phelps, 1987

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    Stats: .283/.473/.736

    This choice was tough because Ken Phelps only played in 21 games in August of 1987, 19 as a starter while Alvin Davis was a starter in 29 games that August, triple slashing his way to .296/.406/.583. I went with Phelps mainly because he would be shut out of this list otherwise and A.D. appears multiple times without the 1987 August honors. Phelps also has one of the more noteworthy triple slashes ever, with a slugging percent 2.6 times as large as his batting average.

16. Jay Buhner, 1988

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    Stats: .306/.397/.582 10 doubles, five home runs

    Here is Jay Buhner's first appearance chronologically. This month and his next great August fueled some optimism about the possibility of Buhner becoming a .280 hitter. Those spells of optimism were usually short lived and the 1988 stretch of success was no exception. Buhner followed his awesome 1988 August with a disastrous September, posting a hitting line of .136/.219/.333 the last month of the 1988 season.

    Alvin Davis and Harold Reynolds were also having good months, marking 1988 the first August in Mariner history containing three good hitting performances.

15.Alex Rodriguez, 2000

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    Stats: .308/.405/.577 seven doubles, seven home runs

    This is just a regular day at the office for Alex Rodriguez. He is one of few hitters to win a best-of-August crown with what will become a career-average production level. Alvin Davis won my August prize in 1989 with his career-average numbers, but he didn't have much competition in 1989. Carlos Guillen was the main challenger this August with a line of .348/.388/.543 and Rickey Henderson joined the fray, gathering seven stolen bases and 16 walks while not doing much else of value.

14. Steve Henderson, 1983

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    Stats: .338/.402/.597 eight doubles, four home runs

    Of all the Henderson-filled Augusts in Seattle Mariner history, the Henderson with the shortest and least-remarkable career makes this list. Dave Henderson challenged for a spot on this list once or twice during the 1980s and Rickey Henderson was so far past his prime when he finally arrived in Seattle that he never came close to being the best-of-August.

13. Alex Rodriguez, 1998

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    Stats: .347/.389/.610 11 doubles, six home runs, eight stolen bases

    Take a look at these numbers: .358/.414/.631. As great as Rodriguez's August of 1998 was, it wasn't as good as his whole 1997 season, a season I mention later in this slide show. Rodriguez had no competition for best-of-the-month this time, as all other contestants played too few games or didn't come up to this level of performance. Rob Ducey had a nice line of .294/.405/.618—for eight games.

    Since I don't want to use up all my material on Rodriguez here, let's segue across the infield to Joey Cora, a generator two great Augusts for the Mariners. He hit .330/.400/.415 in August 1997 and .392/.456/.570 in August 1995, performances that would have been contenders for this list were they a decade earlier.

12. Bret Boone, 2002

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    Stats: .355/.397/.609 seven doubles, seven home runs

    Bret Boone makes only one appearance on this list because he played during the end of the big hitting years for the Seattle Mariners, competing against Hall-of-Famers-in-waiting and multiple-time All-Stars. Oddly, 2002 was not a very good season overall for Boone, much worse than the seasons bracketing it. He only hit 17 home runs in 2002 outside of August.

11. Edgar Martinez, 2001

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    Stats: .353/.436/.598 seven doubles, six home runs

    2001 was Edgar Martinez's last great season. His three succeeding seasons never approached his earlier seasons or even his career average figures which were last met in 2001.

    Ichiro arrived with 51 hits his first August in the USA, an August seeing him hit .429/.461/.487, contributing to another amazing team August line of .296/.365/.427. The most interesting numbers that August were Mark McLemore's 24 walks in 23 games started, which beat Martinez and John Olerud by a huge margin for the walk title.

10. Edgar Martinez, 1992

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    Stats: .395/.433/.614, 16 doubles, only 9 walks

    Breaking into the top ten brings us to the sorts of numbers that only Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, or Ted Williams might have carried for a full season. Nobody hits close to .400 with power anymore.

    Kevin “World” Mitchell put up some other-worldly numbers in August of 1992, .484/.541/.613, but they represent only nine games. Ken Griffey, Jr. had a great August as well but as you will see, a merely great August was not enough to be a best August for the Mariners in the 1990s.

9. Ken Griffey, Jr., 1991

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    Stats: .377/.447/.660, 12 doubles, six home runs, 14 walks, five stolen bases

    The 1991 season is about when the world, Seattle at least, thought Ken Griffey, Jr. might be able to do anything. An examination of August shows why, what with Griffey's doubles, home runs, walks, and stolen bases—all of which were contributions to an overall great season which included a gold glove, a batting line of .327/.399/.527, 22 home runs and 42 doubles.

8. Edgar Martinez, 1999

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    Stats: .392/.483/.598 six doubles, five home runs, three stolen bases!

    Alex Rodriguez challenged for this title with 11 home runs and a .324/.379/.649 slash line along with seven stolen bases but in the end I gave it to the man who didn't make outs, Edgar Martinez.

    The Seattle Mariners drew six intentional walks in August, 1999, two drawn by each of the following players: Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and...Dan Wilson—who drew all of 13 intentional walks in his career. Walking Wilson puzzles me because he was an out-making machine in 1999 and most of his career, an issue I'll revisit sometime in the future

7. Raul Ibanez, 2007

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    Stats: .374/.447/.682 six doubles, nine home runs

    Raul Ibanez's great August overshadowed that of Kenji Johjima, whose numbers (.375/.402/.568) deserve mention because he put them up playing catcher while Ibanez coupled his awesomely good offensive numbers with some awesomely bad left-field defense.

    Honorable mentions go out to Jose Vidro and Yuniesky Betancourt, whose August slash lines were .350/.421/.480 and .317/.330/.567, respectively.

6. Raul Ibanez, 2008

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    Stats: .396/.452/.703 nine doubles, seven home runs

    Is Raul Ibanez getting better with age or doing more to compensate for his lack of range in left field? Ibanez had over 25 percent of the Seattle Mariners' runs batted in that August and posted identical non-zero numbers of triples and double plays grounded into with two.

    August 2008 saw some good hitting from Jeff Clement, .325/.373/.416 in 26 games, a month that was probably the best of his much-hyped and very short career.

5. Ichiro Suzuki, 2004

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    Stats: .463/.492/.636 56 hits

    Ichiro reached base 65 times this month counting the times he was hit by a pitch and reached base on error. I think bases reached on error should be included as a contributor to on-base percent, and Ichiro is the first exhibit of my argument. Many of Ichiro's hits are infield singles and many of those infield singles are difficult to distinguish from errors. I see no reason to use a subjective distinction made by an anonymous person when a slightly more reliable subjective decision, safe-or-out, is already used on every play. If you get to first, you are on base, able to score runs, etc., and that is what counts.

4. Edgar Martinez, 1997

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    Stats: .307/.492/.659 7 HR, 8 2B, 29 BB!

    The choice between four and five, Ichiro in August, 2004 and Edgar Martinez in August, 1997 was by far the hardest choice. Unlike the bottom of the list, I tried to get the top half “right,” at least to the extent possible given my hand-waving approach. Martinez wins on on-base percent plus slugging percent (OPS) by a small amount. Ichiro wins the batting average duel by 156 points!

    The difference between their performances boils down to how they reached base. Ichiro hit 35 more singles than Martinez during the compared time spans while Martinez had 23 more walks, five more doubles, and three more home runs. Given equal on-base percents, I prefer a lot of walks seasoned with a few extra-base hits to a heap of singles.

3. Ken Griffey, Jr., 1993

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    Stats: .333/.479/.747, four doubles, nine home runs, 20 walks

    That is a proper jet city slugging percent!

    The 1993 season was the peak year for Griffey in terms of intentional walks, a year seeing him draw 25 such passes with six in August. One wonders how many he would have drawn in the late 1990s had he not been hitting in front of Edgar Martinez.

    The 1993 season was also a transition year of sorts for Griffey as home runs became a larger part of his hitting performance. Starting in 1993, Griffey hit at least 40 home runs every year through 2000, barring 1995 when he hit 17 while playing in only 72 games. Prior to 1993 Griffey averaged 22 home runs per year.

2. Alex Rodriguez, 1996

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    Stats: .435/.474/.758 11 doubles, 9 home runs

    Alex Rodriguez arrived, so to speak, in 1996, his first full season with the Seattle Mariners. That first season as a 20 year old he hit .358/.414/.631! I am still blown away that maybe the best hitter in the American League in 1995 was a 20-year-old short stop. Rodriguez had no competition for the August title in 1996 as Ken Griffey, Jr. and Edgar Martinez were only performing at their mid-1990s baseline hitting levels that month which was slow month for the team, hitting wise. The team triple slash for August was .270/.355/.434 while for the whole season it was .287/.366/.484. I miss the days when .270/.355/.434 was a BAD month.

    Make yourself comfortable with 11 doubles and nine home runs.

1. Edgar Martinez, 1995

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    Stats: .398/.560/.786 11 doubles 9 home runs

    When I started writing this article I didn't know Edgar Martinez would claim the top spot because I didn't know the monthly splits of his 1995 season, a season which might have been more storied for Martinez had this staggering single-month performance arrived in September.

    Carl Yastrzemski is remembered for his searing-hot September performance of .417/.504/.760 with six doubles and nine home runs in 1967, a season seeing the Boston Red Sox squeak into the World Series. People remember the beginnings and ends of seasons more than the middles, a habit obscuring great performances like the one Martinez had in August, 1995.

    Martinez's September was a bit of a stumble—from the sterling Martinez standard—with a line of .308/.387/.505, all figures below his career numbers not to mention his 1995 season totals.

    Don't fail to notice that Edgar Martinez, Mr. Double, hit his uniform number's worth of doubles in this ultimate Mariner August.

Totals

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    As I mentioned earlier, here is a reward for the counters out there. I like to see totals like this and maybe so do some of you.

    6 Edgar Martinez ('92, '95, '97, '99, '01, '03)

    4 Alvin Davis ('84, '85, '89, '90)

    3 Alex Rodriguez ('96, '98, '00)

    2 Jay Buhner ('88, '94)

    2 Ken Griffey, Jr. ('91, '93)

    2 Raul Ibanez ('07, '08)

    2 Ruppert Jones ('77, '79)

    2 Ichiro Suzuki ('04, '10)

    1 Adrian Beltre ('05)

    1 Bruce Bochte ('80)

    1 Bret Boone ('02)

    1 Phil Bradley ('86)

    1 Steve Henderson ('83)

    1 Ken Phelps ('87)

    1 Leon Roberts ('78)

    1 Richie Sexson ('06)

    1 Joe Simpson ('82)

    1 Mike Sweeney ('09)

    1 Richie Zisk ('81)

    Pitchers next?

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