You can read Part I HERE.
There are two ways this thing can go down in 2017: either the Mariners break the curse and make it back into the post-season, or they don’t and the pitching is entirely to blame.
Now, there are also two ways that previous sentence can go down in 2017: either I’m right, or the Mariners will find another way to screw both me and the entire fanbase by having good-enough pitching and yet still not making the playoffs somehow, but that’s neither here nor there.
It’s already starting, if I’m being honest, with all this Drew Smyly stuff (UPDATE: out 6-8 weeks). Why is it, in sports, that it always seems like teams suffer the most injuries at the spots they can least afford to suffer injuries? It’s like the man with one leg who sprains his good ankle. I mean, seriously, what the fuck?
It’s unfair to pin your hopes on one guy, but I have a feeling Smyly was going to be a key cog in our rotation. Obviously, our chances start with what we get from Felix. He needs to bounce back in a major way and be that Ace we’ve seen from him before. Then, you figure the next guy up – the guy who has the biggest opportunity to really explode (in a good way) and possibly climb into that Ace realm – is James Paxton. The variance on that guy ranges from Top End Starter all the way to Injured Waste of Space, with a lot of options in between. Then, I always figured Smyly had the next-highest variance of possibilities on the team. He was an erstwhile top prospect who has had success in this league, and it wasn’t hard to picture it all coming together for him. If you could work out a Big Three of sorts in our rotation with Felix, Paxton, and Smyly, with those guys carrying the major load, you’d take what you could get out of Kuma and Gallardo and probably walk away with something resembling 90+ wins (depending on how the bullpen shakes out).
Kuma and Gallardo, by the by, have the least amount of variance on the team. You know what you’re going to get with those guys, and as long as it’s something approaching .500 ball, you’ll take it and you’ll fucking like it.
But, now this Smyly thing happened, and we’ve already got to dip into our starting pitching reserves. The only question now is, how long until disaster strikes again, and will Smyly be back in time to pick up the slack?
As for the bullpen, buckle up buckaroos!
There’s actually a lot to like about this unit, all things considered, but a lot of things would have to break right to expect these guys to be totally lockdown. Edwin Diaz, for as talented as he is, is still going to be something of a rollercoaster. Looking beyond just the Opening Day roster, Steve Cishek figures to have a major role in the back-end of the bullpen when he gets fully healthy and ready to fire, and we’ve all seen the kinds of meltdowns he’s capable of. I look forward to Evan Scribner being a calming, dominant presence – based on his September last year and his Spring Training this year – but we don’t really know! We’ve yet to see him when the games REALLY start to matter (while the Mariners were still “in contention” last September, it was going to take a minor miracle for them to claw all the way back into post-season play). We better hope Scribner has what it takes, because Nick Vincent has looked like warm, hittable garbage this spring, and his stuff wasn’t all that good to begin with. I have a feeling Vincent won’t be on the team by season’s end. That Scrabble guy was our major bullpen free agent signing, to be our primary lefty reliever, and he’s certainly had his ups and downs. You don’t sign a guy like him for 2 years and $11 million just to be a fucking LOOGY, so he better figure the fuck out how to limit the damage from right-handed hitters, because so far this spring they’re responsible for ALL of the runs he’s given up.
On the plus side, some of the younger guys look better than expected. Dan Altavilla has all but won himself a spot on the team. Tony Zych is also working his way back from injury, and should play a big role in this bullpen when he’s ready. James Pazos is another lefty the team is looking at long and hard, though he’s suffering many of the same complications as Scrabble, with right-handed hitters bashing the shit out of him. With someone like Pazos, though, I don’t think you mind as much letting him be a LOOGY for a while, to get his feet wet and build his confidence (especially if this team goes with 8-man bullpens for various stretches of the season). Beyond that, you’ve got any number of non-roster guys who are doing great, but I’m having a hard time figuring out who’s slated to be in a minor league rotation vs. who’s fodder for our bullpen should the need arise.
Bottom line with these guys, I think the bullpen is good enough to get us there. I would be legitimately surprised (and yet, as a longtime Mariners fan, not surprised whatsoever) if the bullpen totally fell apart like it did in 2015.
What is a concern is not just the rotation underperforming, but their underperformance having a drastically negative impact on our bullpen. A dominant bullpen can carry the load for a short period of time, if the rotation goes into a slump (which always happens, at one point or another, on every team). But, if the bullpen is expected to carry this pitching staff over a super-long stretch of games, it’s ultimately going to get over-worked and severely lose its effectiveness. So, yeah, the bullpen COULD struggle when all is said and done, but you have to look at the whole picture and decide: are these guys just duds, or did the rotation totally screw them over?
I keep going back and forth with my predictions for this team. I know when I was in Reno, I thought the bet of over 85.5 wins was pretty solid. But, I didn’t think it was solid enough to actually put my own money on it, so do with that what you will. My feeling on the Mariners seems to change with my mood. When I’m happy, I can see this team winning over 90 games and going pretty far. When I’m unhappy, work is getting to me, and I’m obsessing over the 5,000th consecutive overcast day in fucking SEATTLE GOD DAMN WASHINGTON FUCK ME WHY DON’T I MOVE TO SAN DIEGO AND GET AWAY FROM ALL THIS BULLSHIT … my outlook on the Mariners’ prospects tends to swirl down the toilet along with my disposition.
I WANT to believe! But, I’ve been burned time and time and time and time again. Sometimes I think it’s safer just to predict another 80-something win season where the Mariners fall oh so short of the Wild Card. I also think it’s safer because I worry if I predict a World Series championship, I’m jinxing the team, because I’m clinically insane. Besides, if I go with everyone else and just say the Mariners will win 85 games, I can be pleasantly surprised if I’m wrong and they win more.
Well, I’m not going to do that this year. THIS time, I’m actually going to go out on a ledge and risk looking QUITE the fool! 95 wins! I say this not with excitement for what’s about to happen, or with the blind enthusiasm of a mental patient, but with terse resentment and overwhelming expectations.
You fucking owe this to us, Mariners! I’m tired of pussy-footing around and blindly hoping for a “fun summer” or whatever. I don’t just want you to keep things interesting until football season rolls around. Fuck football season! It’s not like the Seahawks are elite anymore anyway! We’re all deluding ourselves in believing this team’s championship window is still open; they’ve been on a downward spiral since they beat Denver 43-8. The Seahawks are old news; it’s the Mariners’ time now!
And we’ve put up with too much of your bullshit to let this thing go on one more season. You better be great, you better take care of business in this division, and you better deliver the fucking goods come playoff time! Because I’m sick and tired of carrying a torch for this team! I want lots of wins and lots of success!
And baseball gods, if you’re listening, you can eat all the world’s dicks, because you fucking owe us too! The Mariners have been baseball’s whipping boys since forever. Even when we were good, we were morbidly unlucky! It’s about time the Mariners defied all expectations, guys out-performed projections, and the team stayed mostly-healthy. This Smyly shit will not stand! I want GOOD luck from here on out!
I think I’m losing my mind, you guys, so I’m going to wrap this up. Just a couple things to keep an eye on before I go.
The current odds for the Mariners to win the World Series is 30 to 1. I think the odds were lower when I was in Reno (maybe 20 or 25 to 1). I was thinking, with the way I like to throw money around when I’m down there, of putting $1,000 on this, just to see if I could see a miracle in my lifetime. I didn’t, of course, but that’ll be something to look back on should something wonderful happen in 2017.
Also, the odds for Nelson Cruz to hit the most home runs in the Major Leagues was a whopping 20 to 1. Last year, Cruz was second with 43, behind Mark Trumbo’s 47. The year before that, Cruz was second with 44, behind Chris Davis’ 47. The year before that, Cruz was first with 40. Again, we’re talking among the entire Major Leagues! He’s been 2nd, 2nd, and 1st in the last three years. This spring, he looks just as good as ever, if not even better somehow. Would THAT have been a good bet to throw $1,000 on? I think it’s infinitely more likely to happen than the Mariners winning the World Series, so you could say I’ve been kicking myself for the last two weeks for not throwing money down on Cruz. We’ll just see, I guess.
There was also a bet to see who could get more combined hits, home runs, and RBIs between Kyle Seager and his brother. I think the younger Seager is a lock on that one; easiest money I ever left on the table.