Since the All Star Break, the Mariners have gone … 5-5. If you’re keeping track like I am, it’s really not surprising, as the Mariners are essentially a .500 team except for one terrible homestand in late May/early June where they went 2-9. There are now three home games against the Diamondbacks, followed by the start of a 4-game series in Minnesota before the deadline.
Somehow, the Mariners have leapfrogged a couple teams in the Wild Card chase since the last time I looked. Now there are only SEVEN teams the Mariners have to pass to get into the play-in game (6.5 games back). As the Angels appear to be running away with the division (with the Astros only a game back), putting the Mariners 9.5 games out of the division lead, it would appear if anyone is hoping for a miracle turnaround, the Wild Card is the better bet.
In the last ten games, have we seen anything that would lead us to believe in such a turnaround? Well, you could make the argument that the bullpen in this span has cost us as many games as they’ve saved us: Beimel giving up the go-ahead homer to A-Rod of all people in the first Yankee game; Rodney giving up the go-ahead homer in the third Yankee game – with an asterisk denoting the offense only generated a single run; Lowe – after being remarkably great for the entire season – giving up a lead with a 2-run homer in the 8th to cost us one in Detroit; and finally, Fernando Rodney & Carson Smith combining for a collosal 4-run meltdown on Saturday against Toronto. You can counter those instances of utter collapse with brilliant outings: 3.1 innings of 1-run ball to save our lone win against the Yankees; 5 innings of shutout ball to win in extras in Detroit; 2 near-perfect innings to lock down Felix’s 12th win of the season, against Toronto; and 4 innings of 1-run ball to help us take the Toronto series in extra innings yesterday afternoon. The last one might have been the most impressive, considering Saturday was shot through the heart by J.A. Happ’s incompetence.
Obviously, a bullpen getting the job done only half of the time isn’t going to cut it. But, aside from a couple pieces, the bullpen isn’t worthless either.
Fernando Rodney absolutely has to fucking go. He had a long stretch of being terrible in May and early June (giving up runs in 10 of 14 appearances), then seemed to turn it around once his closer’s role was taken away (9 straight appearances giving up 0 runs), and since then he’s fallen apart (giving up runs in 6 of 8 appearances, blowing 2 saves and losing another). Any potential trade value we could’ve gotten out of him has all been lost, and it doesn’t look like there’s anyone in Tacoma to take his place. So, I don’t know how they’re going to get rid of him, but they need to figure it out.
Also, David Rollins doesn’t appear to be as good as he looked in Spring Training. Maybe it’s the suspension and the long lay-off of real live pitching; maybe he’s just not ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues. Either way, the team has a decision to make. Fortunately for Rollins, there really isn’t anyone busting down the door from Tacoma demanding a spot in our bullpen. But, if the team – for some reason – feels like it’s still got a chance to make a run at a playoff spot, Rollins could be the odd man out and sent back to the Astros. If I’m him, I’m probably considering that to be a good thing, given the trajectory of these two organizations, so I guess either way he can’t really lose.
As for the starters since the Break, Felix has been Felix. Iwakuma has been shockingly effective in his last few starts. Walker has completely lost it again (of course). Happ couldn’t get out of the second inning in his most recent start (and has been underwhelming for the most part since the end of April). And, also of course, Montgomery has been a disaster just as soon as the team sent Roenis Elias back to Tacoma. So, LMC can rag on the bullpen all he wants (to deflect from criticism of the offense), but the non-Felix part of the rotation hasn’t been so hot either.
Actually, if you want to look for hope, you can look toward the offense. The Mariners are averaging 4.16 runs per game in the 31 games since Edgar Martinez took over as hitting coach. The two may not be related, I have no idea, but the Mariners were averaging 3.38 runs per game in the 68 games pre-Edgar, so that’s almost a run per game improvement over that other guy (whoever that guy was). Key components like Cano, Trumbo, and Zunino have all improved in the last month, which is promising.
So, we’ll see what happens this week. Part of me wouldn’t mind it if the Mariners maximized the trade value of some of our expendable pieces (while at the same time knowing they aren’t all that valuable & likely won’t generate much of a return). The rest of me wouldn’t mind the Mariners just standing pat and wallowing in their own poor roster construction; if for no other reason than to ensure Jackie Z is gone by this time next year.