Back to .500. The Mariners went 4-3 against the Angels and Tigers, capping off the homestand with a couple of impressive wins against the best team in the A.L. Prior to the weekend, the Mariners split a couple of 4-game series against Houston and Anaheim.
It’s been a lot of .500 ball of late. Win a couple, lose a couple. And there seems to be this sense of, “I’ll take it.” Like, being .500 at the end of May is some great accomplishment. Yes, it’s the best record the Mariners have had in quite a few years; yes, it’s keeping us in the Wild Card race; but being .500 by year’s end isn’t something to throw a party about!
Every year, your goal should be: make the playoffs. Any year where you miss the playoffs, it’s essentially a failure. In fact, I would argue that being .500 and missing the playoffs is probably the WORST thing you could do! If you’re going to miss the playoffs, miss them by 50 games! Get that number one draft pick. Getting to .500 only lowers your chances of improving.
Because, what you’ve done in any given year has no bearing whatsoever on what you’re going to do that next year. For the longest time now, we as Mariners fans have known that we haven’t had playoff teams to root for; so, we’ve rooted for the young guys to improve. To get to a point where NEXT year, they can be counted upon. But, just because some young guy has a good showing in the second half of his rookie season, it doesn’t mean that he’s going to automatically turn into The Man the next year. In fact, we’ve seen it time and time again where those guys manage to get WORSE after a semi-impressive start.
The same goes for the team as a whole. Improving by 10 games to go 81-81 from last year to this year doesn’t guarantee that this trajectory will sustain. Assuming the Mariners do go 81-81, it’s just as likely that they’ll revert back to a 71-win team as it would be for them to improve to a 91-win team in 2015.
Now, just because the goal for every year is to “make the playoffs”, that doesn’t mean I necessarily EXPECT the Mariners to make the playoffs. I think, if enough things break right for this team over the last four months, the Mariners COULD make the playoffs – which in itself, I guess, is a refreshing change of pace over being completely out of it by the end of May – but my world won’t be shattered if the Mariners do, in fact, fall short. Indeed, I think .500 is a very realistic prediction for where this team will end up.
But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be happy about it. Settling for mediocrity and lauding baby-step improvements is how we got in this position in the first place. That sentiment should go on the official team crest under current management. No more standing ovations for Mariners futility, no matter how much better we are now than we were in 2010 or 2008.
In other news, Robinson Cano has missed the last four games with a hand injury. I guess he has a bone bruise from being jammed by a pitch. That’s all this team needs! To have its best everyday player miss any time whatsoever is a real crusher. They speculated that he might be ready by today, but I’m not going to hold my breath. With the cloud of bad luck that hangs over this team, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him out until September with some damn hamate bone injury. THEN, we’ll see what it takes for this team to get to your precious .500 record!
Michael Saunders has been on quite the tear of late. In the last 14 games he’s played in, he’s raised his average almost 50 points, while hitting 3 doubles, 2 triples, and 2 homers (7 of his season’s 12 extra-base hits). Saunders has always been prone to insane hot streaks, followed by prolonged cold streaks, so I wouldn’t expect his average to maintain in the .270s. But, it’s a nice change of pace, considering our overall outfield woes, and the fact that Cano has been out the last few days.
Kyle Seager is back to normal. Average hovering around .260, leading the team in RBI and homers. Of note, all 8 of his home runs have come at Safeco. It’s nice to know that at least one of our hitters doesn’t let the home ballpark get in his head.
James Jones is still tearing it up, as much as a slap-hitting singles-hitter can. Everyone on the planet is waiting for his luck on BABIP to fall, but through the first month or so, he’s been aces.
Endy Chavez is back with the team, as we thankfully put Brandon Maurer out of his misery. For the love of God, Brandon Maurer is not a Major League pitcher! Not now, not ever! At least, with Erasmo Ramirez, he’s good enough to handcuff the bad teams. At least he’ll give us an OCCASIONAL quality start. Each and every one of Maurer’s starts has been truly awful. You can’t keep throwing him out there, praying that the Mariners somehow find a way to score 10 runs, because it’s just not going to happen.
Nick Franklin sure looks like a piece of shit, doesn’t he? Guess he’s not the answer at short stop. Brad Miller just jacked a homer off of the reigning Cy Young Award winner yesterday; maybe that’s the start of him overcoming his troubles. Lord, let’s hope so.
We’ve had a couple sub-par outings out of Iwakuma the last two starts. No need to panic, just something to point out: the Mariners will have to score more than 1 run for him to actually win his starts.
Roenis Elias just spun his first-ever complete game shutout in the Major Leagues yesterday, against the vaunted Tigers offense. 3 hits, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts. Absolutely magnificent!
Don’t look now, but the Mariners have the second-best ERA in the American League. That’s WITH Maurer and Ramirez combining for 13 starts with a combined ERA well over six! How does that happen? Well, Felix has been awesome, of course. Iwakuma came out on fire after his injury. Chris Young has been nearly untouchable at home (and overall really quite good). And Elias is a revelation. But, what shocked me the most is our bullpen. Six of the seven guys in the ‘pen have ERAs under 4. In fact, outside of Furbush (who has unquestionably struggled this year), the highest bullpen ERA is Yoervis Medina with 3.27. Not too shabby at all. I know I’ve given the bullpen its fair share of grief this year, but really they’ve done pretty well for themselves.
We’ve got an odd little week ahead of us. Felix starts today in a make-up game in New York. Then, we play two in Atlanta before an off-day Thursday, followed by a rare Friday thru Monday 4-game series down in Tampa (before flying all the way back home for a game next Tuesday). Taijuan Walker hasn’t had his setback yet, so let’s end on that high note.