The Mariners Have Managed To Hold Onto First Place In Spite Of Their Offensive Incompetence

Is the incompetence offensive? Or is the offense incompetent? Why not both?!

The 10-day/10-game road trip that just concluded wasn’t as mortifying as it could’ve been. There was a nice late-game scramble in Baltimore to take one of those three games; we managed to score 4 runs off the hottest closer in the game to help us split the 4-game series against the Yankees; and, while winning 1 of 3 against the Nationals isn’t ideal, it limited the damage to only a 4-6 road trip, when it very easily could’ve been 2-8 or worse.

Knowing how close it had been atop the A.L. West for most of this season, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Mariners somehow comfortably ahead of the rest. I was even more shocked to see that the Mariners are the only team in the division with a winning record as of this writing. We are 3 games over .500, and 3.5 games ahead of second place Texas (who are 4 games under .500). The Astros (who we’re playing now, back in Seattle) are 6 games under, the A’s are 11 games under, and the Angels are a whopping 13 games under .500.

It’s always something with the Mariners. It seems like every single year, we can say, “If only X, Y, and Z were to happen, this team would contend for a World Series.” A buddy of mine and I were talking about this very subject yesterday. If the Mariners ever figure out how to score more runs, they’re going all the way! He had mentioned previously that the 2018 Mariners – the last decent group, with Cruz, Seager, Cano, etc. – if they had only had more pitching, would’ve been serious contenders.

This MIGHT end up being the most extreme case we’ve ever seen, though. The starting pitching is SO good, and the bullpen has been its usual brand of effective (and occasionally excellent), that it feels like if the Mariners ever score 5 runs, they should be undefeated. That if we can average an extra half-run per game the rest of the year, we WILL go all the way.

Through 55 games, the Mariners are averaging 3.73 runs per game. If you were to bump that up to just 4 and a quarter, that’s an extra 28-29 runs. Are you telling me – with an extra 28-29 runs – we wouldn’t have an extra 6-7 wins? Come on. We’d be one of the best teams in baseball! If you bump us up to 234 runs (as opposed to our actual 205 runs), there would still be 15 teams ahead of us in the MLB. 234 is EXTREMELY middle-of-the-road. 205 is 4th-worst. So, it’s not like I’m asking a lot. I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here. I’m asking for an extra half-run per game, to turn us into one of the best teams in the game.

Now, the question, obviously, is: how do we get there?

It’s a valiant effort by this team to hang around .500 and luck into the division lead as we head into June, but a lot of that has been predicated on the Astros and Rangers either dealing with an inordinate amount of injuries or just playing well below their means. You can argue the Mariners have also had injuries (Brash, Santos, Woo, Crawford, Canzone, now Polanco), and have also played below their means (Julio, Polanco, Garver, Haniger). But, I would argue our ceiling isn’t nearly as high as the two Texas teams, and they’re coming. They’re GOING to get hot and start making a charge; it’s only a matter of when, not if.

So, how do we fend them off? Or, at the very least, put ourselves in a position to steal this division when it’s all said and done?

How do we get to that extra half-run per game?

I really want to say there’s enough on this roster as it’s currently constructed. I want to believe that Julio has started to turn things around as soon as I badmouthed him on the blog (as was my intent, naturally). I want J.P. to rebound, I want Garver to start mashing, I want Ty France to salvage his career, I want Haniger to look a little more like he did 6 years ago, and a lot less like he’s looked the last two seasons. I want the Polanco that was advertised to us when we traded for him, and I want our pleasant surprises (Raley, Moore, Rojas) to continue being productive Major Leaguers.

But, that might be asking too much. Haniger is probably toast. Polanco and Garver clearly haven’t adjusted to life in Seattle. Rojas has already started to come down to Earth after that supernova start to the season, and I don’t think Raley or Moore are far behind. Those guys are fine, but expecting more from them than what they are is a bridge too far. I do see better days for J.P. And, obviously, Julio will have his good times. But, it sure feels like Ty is on borrowed time, and is probably one extended slump away from getting the boot (or, at least, getting benched in favor of Tyler Locklear, who was recently promoted to AAA Tacoma).

That leads me to believe there’s an outside move or two coming. But, will that be enough?

I was going to do a post about how I don’t want the Mariners to go after seasoned veterans anymore. Too many of them get here, get it into their heads that they can’t hit here (if they didn’t already arrive with those preconceived notions), and it becomes one long self-fulfilling prophecy until they get shit-canned or sold for scrap parts. The problem with that concept for a blog post is, there are too many players I’d have to exclude. I mean, obviously, you have to take out Nelson Cruz: Greatest Mariners Free Agent Of All Time. You have to forget about the first Eugenio Suarez season. You at least have to ignore the occasional clutch success of Carlos Santana in big moments, and the semi-competence of Teoscar Hernandez (particularly when he was super hot last August, only to be overshadowed by Julio, who was a man possessed).

But, I would write that post because of guys like Garver and Polanco and Jesse Winker and Kolton Wong and A.J. Pollock and Adam Frazier. What do they have in common? They’re all established, veteran Major Leaguers. They were all very productive immediately before arriving in Seattle. And, they all sucked. They probably shouldn’t have. If they had signed with another team, maybe one that didn’t have as much pressure to win (and win close), or maybe with a team that had a friendlier hitting environment, maybe they would’ve been success stories with those respective teams. Guys like Frazier and Winker HAVE, in fact, gone on to other teams, with moderate success. One would suspect that Garver and/or Polanco – when they move on next year – will have a much easier time turning their fortunes around.

On the flipside, maybe the Mariners are smarter to buy low on younger, hungrier Quad-A type players, like Canzone and Raley and Rojas. Maybe it’s better to continue bringing up guys from within, like Clase and Bliss. Oh sure, a lot of them will fail and move on. But, if you can get one or two to hit, that’s invaluable! Because they’re cheap, and they will have done it here. They won’t be coming from some other organization and have to try to adapt.

Or, we can just admit that every team has moves that flop, involving both young guys and veterans alike, and it’s all one big, shitty crapshoot. That’s kind of where I’m at with all of this, and why I didn’t bother writing that post (you didn’t see nothin’ here; these aren’t the droids you’re looking for).

Some interesting numbers to look at: we’re 10-4 in one-run games, which I heard is best in baseball. That’s going to HAVE to happen if this thing is going to continue. We finished April 15-11 (we were 2-2 in March), which I don’t think anyone saw coming after the way we started. And we’re actually a game under .500 in May (it certainly felt like we were doing better than that, but again, that last road trip was certainly a killer). We’re 7-7 in blowouts, we’re 6 games over .500 at home, and 3 games under .500 on the road. Most importantly, we have a winning record in our division (7-3 against Houston, Texas, and Oakland; we’ve yet to play the Angels).

Keep it up! We eked one out against the Astros last night, gotta find a way to win at least one of the next two.

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