I was a little more fired up at the end of April when the season was still somewhat fresh and the Mariners were five games under .500. Now, it’s the end of May (go with me on this) and at the end of May the Mariners are seven games under .500 (in reality, today is June 3rd, and after a 2-game losing streak, the M’s have fallen to nine games under .500).
The story of the 2013 Mariners thus far – through two months & change – boils down to the veterans on this team. The veteran hitters are (for the most part) getting the job done. The veteran pitchers are (for the most part) sucking my will to live.
No one wanted to see the season turn out like this. Of all the possible outcomes for the 2013 season, this is probably the second-worst of all scenarios. They rank as follows:
- Team is in playoff contention, young players carry the load
- Team struggles, young players carry the load
- Team is in playoff contention, veterans carry the load
- Team struggles, veterans carry the load
- Team is the worst in baseball, everyone struggles, organization renews their dedication to Howard Lincoln & Chuck Armstrong for the next 15 years
The best hitter on this team is Kendrys Morales, who is on a one-year deal. At the moment, he’s batting .300 with 8 homers, 16 doubles, and a team-leading 33 RBI. He’s the only player worth a damn when it comes to hitting with runners in scoring position, and unlike so many other veterans, he hasn’t taken a huge nosedive upon being sentenced to Safeco Field. In fact, take a look at his home/road splits through 55 games played:
- Home: .323/.388/.473, 8 doubles, 2 homers, 18 RBI in 25 games
- Road: .282/.349/.504, 8 doubles, 6 homers, 15 RBI in 30 games
Regardless of where he plays, he’s an on-base machine. OF COURSE the Mariners should make him Priority #1 in the offseason. But, what if he gets an unbeatable offer elsewhere? Or, what if he decides to accept an equal or inferior offer elsewhere because he just doesn’t want to play for the Mariners? I mean, let’s face it, it’s not exactly like Seattle is some great destination for athletes. MAYBE if the Mariners were in the Seahawks’ position, where they’re on the cusp of immortality, they could use that as some leverage to get quality people to sign here. But, the Mariners are one of the worst organizations in baseball, and as such they are free agent repellent.
Kendrys Morales figures to be one of the hottest commodities this offseason. Michael Morse, on the other hand, figures to be right in our wheelhouse.
Obviously, Morse isn’t in Morales’ league when it comes to hitting, but one positive note is Morse’s ability to hit in Safeco:
- Home: .273/.345/.500, 2 doubles, 5 homers, 10 RBI in 20 games
- Road: .237/.302/.443, 2 doubles, 6 homers, 11 RBi in 25 games
You like to see that. Even though we’re talking about a small sample size, it’s nice to see a couple of guys who can hit anywhere. What you don’t like, when it comes to Morse, is the fact that he has been twice injured this season to the point where he’s been forced to sit for a few days. Not to the point where he needed/needs to go on the DL, but still. Interruptions to his time on the field isn’t good. Remember why we gave up on Morse in the first place: he couldn’t stay healthy. Remember that he’s only had one season where he was able to play consistently without getting injured. I don’t doubt the guy’s toughness, or ability to play through pain, but baseball is tough enough to succeed in when you’re 100% pain-free. How can we expect Morse to produce at a reasonably high level going forward if he can’t stay on the field?
Raul Ibanez was one of our best players in the month of May, batting .297/.328/.703, thanks to his insane hot streak, spurred on by playing in New Yankees Stadium. 7 homers, 18 RBI in 17 games, out of a guy who we figured would languish on the bench and be lucky if he played once or twice a week. In both May and April, Ibanez has played in more games than he hasn’t. For now, I think the team is using him appropriately, but I think over the next couple months they might want to work in a few more off days if they want him to still be good by the end of the year. Then again, if we’re still playing Ibanez regularly in September, something has REALLY gone off the rails. For right now, though, as long as Ibanez is producing at a high level, I don’t think you can justify sitting him. After all, it’s not like he’s “blocking” anyone better from playing. If any outfielder in Tacoma were worth a damn, they’d figure out a way to oust a 41 year old guy with no defensive abilities.
Jason Bay – the other aging veteran bench player who has been thrust into more of a regular role thanks to injuries & incompetence – didn’t have quite the amazing month of May from a batting average standpoint, but he still managed 4 homers and 7 RBI in 19 games. It’s not anything to blow your load over, but it’s more than you’re getting from the bulk of the younger guys.
Like, Michael Saunders, for one. His month of May was the beans! .187/.282/.297, with 2 homers, 4 doubles, and a mind-boggling 35 strikeouts in 25 games. Maybe it was just a rough patch, or maybe he has regressed back to his old suck-ass form. If he bounces back with a quality June, I’d be willing to believe it was just a cold streak. If he doesn’t bounce back at all (or doesn’t bounce back until September, which is essentially the same thing), then I’m officially over Michael Saunders once again.
Kyle Seager is still chugging along, so that gives us one quality young bat. To date, he’s got a line of .277/.342/.465 with 17 doubles and 7 homers, with fewer strikeouts than both Saunders and Morse despite playing considerably more games. When you factor in all the young bats (Ackley, Montero, Smoak, Saunders, Seager) who were supposed to comprise The Future of this organization, one out of five has turned out to be someone we can count on. In baseball, that’s a .200 batting average, which incidentally is SO Mariners.
On the brighter side of things, Brendan Ryan had this for the month of May: .274/.303/.411, which has brought his overall season line to: .211/.264/.279. So help me, I want to believe in Brendan Ryan SO BAD!
The month of May was most notable for abandoning some of the under-performing children on this team. Jesus Montero was sent down to Tacoma, replaced by Jesus Sucre. Sucre has already endeared himself to Mariners fans by being 50-times the catcher Montero was. Montero has already torn his meniscus and will miss 4-8 weeks. Four weeks puts us into July. Eight weeks puts us into August. I would say, depending on his ability to recover, we might have seen the last of Jesus Montero in 2013. Hope he likes rehabbing.
A few days later, Dustin Ackley was sent down to Tacoma, replaced by Nick Franklin. Franklin has already homered twice in his first six games, with four walks tacked onto his four total hits. Ackley, to his credit, has started out ablaze in triple A, batting .407/.500/.593 in his first six games, with a homer, two doubles, and 5 walks on top of his 11 total hits. Granted, they just finished a series in Colorado Springs, so let’s see what things look like in a few weeks (when they’re not playing in the thin air of a bandbox). But, it’s encouraging. Hopefully, he continues to thrash and brings that confidence back up to Seattle with him.
Finally, Brandon Maurer was sent down to Tacoma, replaced with Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman, just yesterday, gave up 7 runs in 4.2 innings in his first start in the Majors in forever. With that performance alone, Bonderman just soared into a first place tie with Joe Saunders and Aaron Harang for Current Mariners I Hate The Most.
To be perfectly fair, this 3/5 of the starting rotation is beyond pathetic. I never would’ve thought that I’d long for the days of Jeff Weaver & Horacio Ramirez. Instead of the Saunders/Harang/Bonderman Triad of Shit, couldn’t we open this thing up in a more creative way? I say, create a reality show. We’ll call it Celebrity Hurler and we’ll get guys like Bret Michaels, Meatloaf, Greg Brady, Monica Lewinsky, and the bones of Al Jolson and they’ll all compete to be America’s Next Top Celebrity Pitcher or some damn thing. I’m in! Attach the Mariners to this fiasco of a trainwreck and let the top three contestants start in place of Saunders/Harang/Bonderman. Because in all honesty, none of those celebrities could be any worse.
The lone positives (there are two of them, they’re not exactly LONE) remain King Felix and Iwakuma. I couldn’t be happier for the both of them; I only wish that one of them were starting instead of Bonderman yesterday, considering yesterday’s was the first game I’d seen televised in quite some time.
The bullpen has been less-than-stellar, especially with Wilhelmsen’s hiccups these past couple of weeks. He’s had three blown saves in that time (in between some solid outings, so it’s not a total Brandon League-esque meltdown) and overall this season his strikeout numbers have taken a huge dip. At this point, you have to wonder what the market is for a guy like Wilhelmsen and you have to wonder what kinds of players a team might be willing to give up to get him for the stretch run.
This season just keeps going and going, doesn’t it? I’m no happier about it than you are. Here’s to a bunch of home games in the month of June; let’s see if this team can win more games than they lose for a change.