Seattle Mariners Mid-April Review

Two weeks in, 14 games in the books.  A 6-8 record.  Zero series wins, two series losses, two series ties.

Things have been really hit-or-miss with this team so far.  On the positive side of things, Mike Morse has 6 home runs and is leading the Mariners in hitting.  Also, Franklin Gutierrez has 4 home runs and is doing a stellar job at leadoff hitter.

On the negative side of things, both Morse and Guti are currently battling injuries and who knows when they’ll be able to return?

There’s been quite a bit of turnover in these first two weeks.  Michael Saunders went on the DL, bringing up Endy Chavez from Tacoma.  Kameron Loe was a FUCKING trainwreck (6 home runs in 6.2 innings pitched over 4 games), so he’s gone.  Brandon Maurer was also a trainwreck in his first two starts, necessitating a long-man in our bullpen going forward.  Thankfully (depending on your perspective), Blake Beavan was yet ANOTHER fucking trainwreck in his first two starts, so down he goes into the bullpen.  In Beavan’s place, we have newly-acquired Aaron Harang, who is old and probably no good, but probably still better than Beavan.  Of course, as chance would have it, Stephen Pryor just tore his lat muscle and could be lost for a few weeks or could be lost for a year (which is just a lot more weeks than a few), so the M’s will have to make another bullpen adjustment.

That’s kind of a lot to handle in such a short time.  How the Mariners are 6-8 right now and not 3-11 is anybody’s guess.

I anticipate Morse will be back as early as today (his is just a pinky injury from being hit with a baseball).  Guti SHOULD be back within the next week, so that’ll be good news.  I’m not even going to begin to speculate on when Saunders will be able to return, but I suspect we might not have him back before May.

So, it’s going to be touch-and-go for a while.  2013 will be yet another year where Guti isn’t an everyday player, so that’s a problem.  If Saunders isn’t able to come back in a hurry, that’ll be a problem.  And, if Saunders comes back but he isn’t the same because he didn’t let his injury heal properly … you get the idea.  Our outfield defense this year hinges on having at least a centerfielder who can cover enough ground to make up for the lack of defense in the corners.  Endy Chavez mitigates that, I suppose, but he also replaces a productive hitter (either Guti or Saunders) for a complete black hole (himself).  That’s a net-even to a net-negative on most nights, so here’s to hoping Saunders makes a full recovery.

Of course, this wouldn’t be such an issue if we were getting production out of our other spots in the order.  So far, our best hitters have been Morse, Guti, Saunders (our opening day outfield), and Kendrys Morales, our designated hitter.  Which leaves the rest of our infield screwing the damn pooch.

  • Jesus Montero:  .211 BA, 1 double
  • Kyle Seager:  .204 BA, 6 doubles
  • Brendan Ryan:  .200 BA
  • Justin Smoak:  .191 BA, 1 double
  • Dustin Ackley:  .122 BA

At the moment, Kyle Seager is the only one I have any confidence in turning his game around.  At the moment, it can’t come soon enough.

Everyone keeps saying to not give up on Ackley, but quite honestly, he’s the most frustrating of the bunch!  You hate to think you suffer through a 101-loss season and then draft the dud of all duds with the #2 overall pick, but that’s the Mariners for you.  They can’t even get LOSING right.  Whiffing on a high draft pick like Ackley is how you remain a bottom-feeder – not just in baseball, but in every sport!

They say, though, with his eye at the plate and his contact rate, Ackley is just getting unlucky in his BABIP numbers.  I contend there are ways for other teams to ensure your BABIP numbers are low.  Like, shifting the infield defense and allowing Ackley to continually roll over to the second baseman.  For a guy whose contact rate is so good, you’d think he’d be able to poke a ball the other way once in a while!  He’s like a weak-ass version of Jesus Montero.

Speaking of which, Jesus Montero IS a weak-ass version of Jesus Montero this year.  Wasn’t he also supposed to be a guy who could drive the ball the other way for doubles and the occasional homer?  Because all I see is a guy who grounds into double plays and is slower than my great grandmother’s festering corpse.

Brendan Ryan is Brendan Ryan and he’s doing an admirable job getting a few hits and getting a few walks.  He’s our #9 hitter, so it’s not like we’re expecting the moon from the guy.  Anything at or above .200 (with nearly a .300 OBP) at this point is a win, so let’s just move on.

Justin Smoak is still an interesting figure on this team and I’m in no way as pissed off at this guy as most other Mariners fans are.  He’s been MUCH improved with his new swing, even if the numbers don’t agree.  He’s lining out, hitting the ball hard right at people with gloves, but I assure you, if he sticks with his plan, that’ll change and he’ll be rewarded handsomely.  He can still be an effectively streaky hitter, just as soon as he gets on an effective streak.

With our infield struggling, and our outfield injured and littered with geriatric hip-breakers like Ibanez, Bay, and Chavez, it’s going to be up to the pitching to carry the mail once again, as they’ve had to do in so many recent seasons.

Hisashi Iwakuma has been easily our best starting pitcher this year.  Through three starts, he’s thrown the same number of innings as Felix, he’s given up 2 fewer runs and 10 fewer hits, all the while battling a blister on his finger that’s pulling him out of games prematurely.  I don’t think anyone expects Iwakuma to be the team’s best pitcher for the full season, but it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be a very good #2 starter for this team.  Someone you can count on every five days to not just keep you in the ballgame, but to go out and dominate a ballgame.  So, let’s hope this blister issue gets itself fixed, because I don’t want to see him missing any starts anytime soon.

Felix hasn’t exactly been his usual dominant self, but then again he’s almost never his usual dominant self in the early-going.  I would expect as Felix racks up a few starts under his belt, we’ll see him destroying other teams in no time.

Joe Saunders came out of the gate with a real dud in Oakland.  When that was followed by two more clunkers at the back-end of the rotation, we all worried that there were not two but THREE starting pitchers we’d have to replace sooner or later.  But, Saunders came back and helped shut out the Astros, then gave up only the 1 unearned run against the Rangers five days later.  Both of his quality starts have been at home, so there’s that concern (especially when his very next start later this week is in Texas).  Will Saunders be an effective third starter for us?  Or, will he just be an effective third starter at home?

Has Maurer turned a corner?  Good God, let’s hope so.  There are two trains of thought on a guy like Maurer:  either you sit back and be patient, letting the kid go out there, occasionally take his lumps, but also occasionally look electric; or, you take advantage of the fact that he’s never pitched in AAA and let him work through his issues in the minors.  Of course, there are other factors at play that don’t exactly give us the luxury of choosing our own path.  First and foremost, the Mariners don’t have any quality starters who are ready to step into a Major League rotation.  The guys in Tacoma either need more seasoning or need to build their arms up.  And you JUST demoted Beavan to the bullpen, so that’s not necessarily a road you want to go down (especially when you’re talking about a guy with his own issues to work out).  On the flipside, the longer you keep Maurer in the Majors, the bigger the chance you shake his confidence if you eventually demote him to the minors.  So, let’s not let it come to that, huh?  Let’s just say Maurer has turned a corner and everything is all good.  ‘Kay?  ‘Kay.

I’ve never seen Harang pitch, so I dunno.  If he’s good, then good.  If he’s bad, then hopefully someone from Tacoma will finally be ready to kick it with the big kids.

The bullpen has been solid, but not that electric crackling mass of dominance I was expecting.  They still can be, but losing Pryor for (probably) the year is a huge shot.  Which leads into our discussion of the overall problem in the early going for this team:  starters not going deep into games.  Saunders is averaging less than 6 innings per game, Beavan is averaging just a hair over five and Maurer is averaging a hair over four.  That has put a lot of pressure on this ‘pen and that has resulted in a lot of appearances so far from guys like Pryor, Capps, Perez, and Furbush.  And, from that, we have one casualty – Pryor.  Who will be the next overused arm to go down?  Well, a lot of that will depend on how the starting rotation responds to this sub-par first two weeks.  We need INNINGS from you people!  Get on it!

Overall, I’m not as mired in depression about this team as I thought I’d be.  But, it really does feel like Same ‘ol Same ‘ol and I – like most of you – am fucking sick of it.  If this vote this week goes the way I hope it does, you can consider my summer completely booked by focusing on the upcoming NFL and NBA seasons.  I can only stand so much of the same shitty prospects sucking dick after dick because they had the misfortune of being acquired by the most hard-luck franchise in all of baseball.

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