The 1996 Seattle Mariners were among the best offensive teams to ever play the game. The Mariners put together a remarkable season that was one for the ages, and if not for a terrible performance by the bullpen that season, might have been able to win the first World Series in franchise history. When fans talk about the best lineups to ever play the game, many fail to realize just how dangerous the Mariners were in 1996.
In the second half of the season, the familiar batting order started with second baseman Joey Cora as the leadoff hitter. He was followed by shortstop Alex Rodriguez, center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., designated hitter Edgar Martinez, right fielder Jay Burner, first baseman Paul Sorrento, left fielder Mark “Hard Hittin” Whiten, third baseman Dave Hollins, and catcher Dan Wilson. This group of players scored 993 runs on the season, taking advantage of every pitcher that came to visit The Kingdome.
To put the sheer numbers into perspective, the Mariners averaged 6.2 runs per game on offense, with the league average sitting at 5.0 on the season. They averaged 1.2 more runs per game than the average team, showing just how good this team was at the plate. The major problem was that the pitching staff also gave up 5.6 runs per game, well above the average for pitching staffs that year. Many fans still remember the 20 blown saves that the Mariners had that season. That stat alone cost the team a postseason spot.
It’s hard to pick out an MVP for the offense, but there were some extremely impressive statistics from the core of the order. Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez won Silver Slugger Awards at their positions, though, so it’s easy to suggest they were the best of the bunch. What follows is how some of the numbers broke down.
- Ken Griffey Jr. – 49 home runs, 125 runs scored, 140 RBIs, 16 stolen bases, .303 batting average, 1.020 OPS
- Alex Rodriguez – 91 extra base hits, 123 RBIs, 141 runs scored, 15 stolen bases, .358 batting average, 1.045 OPS
- Edgar Martinez – 80 extra base hits, 121 runs scored, 103 RBIs, 123 walks, .327 batting average, .464 on-base, 1.059 OPS
- Jay Buhner – 44 home runs, 138 RBIs, 107 runs scored, .926 OPS
- Paul Sorrento – 23 home runs, 93 RBIs, .878 OPS
As for the overall numbers as a team, the 1996 Seattle Mariners had 245 home runs, 343 doubles, 993 runs scored, a .287 batting average, a .366 on-base percentage, and an OPS of .850 that led the league by quite a bit. In the final standings for the season, the Mariners finished 4 ½ games behind the Texas Rangers with a record of 85-76. The team could have easily won the West and made it deep into the postseason if not for Randy Johnson being injured and the bullpen blowing 20 saves that season.