The M’s started out 13-2 on the year, and everyone was pleasantly surprised. Then, the M’s went 5-12 to finish the month, and everyone said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
It’s been a topsy-turvy 2019, but when you start to dig into it, it makes a lot of sense. Against teams with winning records (Houston, Cleveland, San Diego, Chicago Cubs), the Mariners are 0-9; which puts us at 18-5 against the rest of the league. That’s pretty much what the M’s have been the last few years – as we’ve clung to the desperate notion of “contention” – beat up on the bad teams, struggle against the elite teams, and fall just short of the playoffs. Considering where we thought this team would be heading into the season – as one of those bottom-feeders – you have to figure this is the Best Case Scenario for this team. But, REAL contention, as a LEGITIMATE World Series threat, well, let’s not go that far.
The starting pitching is more or less what we thought it was: good enough to keep us in games. The hitting is probably a little better than expected – they’ll go to pound town on subpar pitching – but they still struggle against the better staffs. The bullpen is probably a little worse than expected: there’s no closer to speak of, and while they’re not blowing every single game, they’re still far from trustworthy. The most alarming aspect of the 2019 Mariners thus far is how absolutely abominable the defense turned out to be.
Oh sure, the loss of Seager created a massive black hole at third base; Healy will never be a fit there. That, in turn, weakened our first base defense a tick. Catcher was always going to be a negative for this team, because we went out and brought in the exact opposite of Mike Zunino. But, I’m not sure I expected Tim Beckham to be so terrible at short. Domingo Santana regularly misses even the routine plays in left. And Mallex Smith – until being sent down yesterday for his swing issues – is FAR from what was advertised as a plus defender in center.
That having been said, there’s been more bright spots than negatives with this team. Marco Gonzales is pitching like a ROCKSTAR right now! 5-0, 2.80 ERA, averaging over 6 innings per start. He is so far from what he was two years ago, it’s absolutely amazing. I would argue Felix is better than expected, but the bar was set pretty low, and there’s still a lot of season left to play, so I won’t be counting any chickens one month in. Roenis Elias has been a trouper for our bullpen (2.16 ERA, 4 saves), and Brandon Brennan – our Rule 5 Guy – might be our best reliever of the season so far!
The majority of the good vibes have been coming from the plate, though. Dan Vogelbach has been on fire (.310/.462/.732); Dee Gordon is healthy and hitting the cover off the ball; Santana, Narvaez, and Beckham have all been terrific with a bat in their hands. Encarnacion and Bruce, while their averages have been low, their power numbers are still spectacular. Really, the only downer has been Mallex Smith, but I would expect he just needs a couple weeks in Tacoma to get his head and his swing right.
So, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Mariners, but it’s also not all roses and sunshine. I’m coming back down to Earth a little bit when it comes to talk of them adding for a possible playoff run. Forget that. Stay the course. And, maybe blow a few extra games in May to make the front office certain we’re on the right track. The last thing we need to do is blow things up AGAIN by trying to add to this team when it has no business doing so.