It’s that time again, for my regular monthly reminder that the Seattle Mariners are a huge disappointment.
What’s the over-arching story for the Mariners’ month of April? Two rainouts and an 8-game losing streak. Abraham Almonte playing almost every day in center field (and in the leadoff spot) and for the most part struggling mightily. A massive pile of injuries to the starting rotation. Kyle Seager in a huge slump until the final week where he hit 5 homers and won A.L. Player of the Week. Felix off to a world-beating start. And one pleasant surprise in Roenis Elias making the jump from AA and actually doing pretty well for himself.
It feels like a mini-miracle that the Mariners are three games from .500 at 11-14 (again, the two rainouts helped a great deal on this end, as the two games were at Oakland & at the Yankees). But, then again, the Mariners were swept by the Marlins and were a 9th inning walk-off homer away from getting swept at home by the Astros.
This is NOT a particularly good team right now.
So, let’s unpack some of those big storylines, starting with the rotation. This is what the Mariners’ rotation was SUPPOSED to look like:
- King Felix
- Hisashi Iwakuma
- Taijuan Walker
- James Paxton
- Erasmo Ramirez
Now, there’s no guarantee that the above-five pitchers are the difference between being in fourth place right now and leading the division, but Iwakuma was a Cy Young candidate last year, Walker was our most highly-touted prospect, Paxton was having an excellent start to his young career, and Erasmo has struggled, but he could have just as easily been replaced by Roenis Elias and we’d be in even BETTER shape right now.
Instead, here’s our starting five at the moment:
- King Felix
- Roenis Elias
- Chris Young
- Erasmo Ramirez
- Brandon Maurer
Iwakuma will hopefully be back this week (but, that’s a May development, not April). Paxton is gone until sometime in June probably. Walker is gone for who knows how long? Even Blake Beavan was injured in his only spot-start of the season! Erasmo and Maurer probably don’t have what it takes to make it in the Majors. Chris Young is going to be an adventure every five days. And, we have to wonder when Elias is going to start running into rookie struggles.
In short, half of this rotation is a fucking trainwreck, and Felix can’t do everything.
I’ve probably been a little hard on the pitching staff this year, though. That’s because, as always, there is such little margin for error. The bats aren’t 2010-bad, but they’re inconsistent as all get-out. Robinson Cano is great, of course (but, M’s fans can’t seem to accept “great” and need to belittle his inability to hit 40 homers every month), but that’s about it. Kyle Seager has had one awesome week and should turn things around enough to be fine. Mike Zunino is capable of great things (and right now, he’s in a warm spell), but he still whiffs too much to be counted on as a consistent producer. He’s also dwelling at the bottom of the order, because this is his first full year in the bigs and why rush the guy along?
Abraham Almonte and Brad Miller have been rushed along – spending the majority of April 1-2 in the lineup – and they’ve struggled accordingly. Almonte is barely over .200 (and still below .250 with his on-base percentage), and Miller is even worse than that somehow! Almonte & Miller are also both 1 & 2 in strikeouts on the team, which would be fine if they were lumbering mashers in the middle of the order, but is pretty fucking obscene when they’re supposed to be speedy contact hitters getting on base at a regular clip for the rest of the order to hit them in. One month is too soon to declare them disasters, but we’re not getting any younger and I’m tired of watching these black holes at the top of our lineup.
Of course, when you move those guys down, you’ve got to bring two other guys up. Cano isn’t going anywhere; he’s the #3 hitter. Corey Hart isn’t going anywhere; he’s the #4 hitter. Ideally, you’d like to see Kyle Seager in that 2-hole, but there are only so many run producers on this team and quite frankly he’s probably the best one after Cano.
Ackley was having a good start, then went hitless in a couple games when he was brought up in the order, and has since been put back down in the 7-hole. Stefen Romero is currently getting an audition in the 2-hole (with Michael Saunders getting more playing time as the leadoff guy), so we’ll see how that goes, but color me skeptical. With the way a lot of these guys are struggling, the Mariners are going to turn to Willie Bloomquist more and more, and nobody wants to see that.
Here’s the deal: when things are going bad for the Mariners, you’re going to see a lot of these 8-game losing streaks. Better teams can play poorly and still steal a win here and there. But, when we struggle in all three phases, it’s over. When we play our best, we can look pretty good and win a few games in a row. But, it’s that consistency that we lack. It’s that inconsistency that’s going to prevent us from getting over the hump and into that playoff race.
Here’s to a more promising month of May.