Checking In On Baseball’s Lowest Scoring Offenses

A high-powered offense alone won't punch your ticket to the playoffs, but it certainly helps the cause.  The Yankees (95 wins, 804 runs scored), Rangers (93, 808), and Cardinals (88, 765) found their way to the postseason thanks in large part to their top-five offenses.  Meanwhile, the five lowest scoring teams of 2012 all missed the playoffs and averaged out to 69.2 wins on the year. 

We'll take a look at those bottom five teams and see what they've done to improve their offenses so far this offseason.  Team name links go to a summary of the teams' moves on MLBTR's Transaction Tracker and 2012 run totals are in parentheses.  For reference, the average MLB team scored roughly 705 runs this past season.

  • Astros (583) – The Astros, along with the Mariners, finished in the offensive cellar two years in a row.  Houston's main upgrade to their offense came with the signing of Carlos Pena to a one-year, $2.9MM deal with $1.4MM in incentives.  Pena has been an offensive force in years past, but struggled mightily at the plate in 2012 with a .197/.330/.354 slash line, a career-high 182 strikeouts, and just 19 homers – his lowest total in a healthy season since 2003.
  • Marlins (609) – Some expected the Marlins to make a play for Alex Rodriguez in an effort to bolster their offense, but their massive November trade with Toronto made it clear that those kinds of acquisitions weren't in the cards.  The deal shipped Jose Reyes out of town and brought back Adeiny Hechavarria, a 23-year-old shorstop who has promise but doesn't project to do much offensively.  Miami signed Placido Polanco to a one-year, $2.75MM contract, but he'll have to improve from his .281/.330/.356 batting line over the last three years to make a big impact.
  • Cubs (613) – The Cubs spent the bulk of their money on pitching but they also made a few low-cost signings to re-tool their offense.  Theo Epstein & Co. signed Nate Schierholtz to a one-year, $2.25MM deal, plucking him away from other suitors such as the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, and Mets.  Another strong year from Alfonso Soriano would help propel Chicago's offense, but the Cubs may eat a big portion of the $36MM owed to him to get his salary off of the books and get a solid prospect in return.
  • Mariners (619) – Last week, Seattle shipped left-hander Jason Vargas to the Angels for first baseman Kendrys Morales.  The 29-year-old posted a .273/.320/.467 batting line with 22 home runs in 522 plate appearances for the Angels in 2012 after missing the entire 2011 campaign with a leg injury.  The M's also picked up Raul Ibanez last week on a one-year, $2.75MM deal and signed Jason Bay to a low-risk $1MM contract.
  • Dodgers (637) – The Dodgers won't be lacking in firepower in 2013 thanks to their blockbuster trade with the Red Sox in August.  Adrian Gonzalez admitted that he was pressing last season as he looked to adjust to a new team and market.  Carl Crawford will be back in action after missing the bulk of 2012 and will join Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to form a tremendously strong starting outfield. 

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