Where Is The Bottom For This Mariners Team?

God that 13-2 start was fucking stupid …

Ever since, the M’s have gone 7-21, which is much more in line with where we saw this team heading into the season. The over/under on wins was right around 73.5 to 74.5; at 13-2, it seemed idiotic to count on the under winning the day. Now, it’s not so crazy.

The A’s are one of those teams where you’ll see their unimpressive record, focus on other things, and then a couple months later you find they’ve ripped off an impossible number of wins. Maybe not every single year, but even more than just once in a lifetime is annoying as a Mariners fan, to the point where I have Sports PTSD because of them.

Well, I would argue the M’s have the same power, just in the opposite direction. This franchise can rip off an impossible number of losses in a short period of time, and unlike the A’s, the Mariners ACTUALLY do this every single fucking year. It gets so bad, you wonder if they’ll ever see another winning month. Hell, sometimes you wonder if they’ll ever see another winning SERIES.

Now, in all reality, we’re talking about a season full of streaks. We started out red hot, we’re currently ice cold, but another hot streak is probably right around the corner (maybe as soon as this week). What this post is attempting to posit is that: maybe we just keep on losing?

From a talent perspective, I believe the Mariners are one of the five worst teams in all of baseball. Forget the farm system and all the minor league levels (for now, though I don’t see much immediate help on the horizon); I’m talking strictly from the product on the Major League field.

This defense is the absolute worst. The bullpen is – if not the absolute worst – among them and making a serious push for the bottom spot. And, while the hitting has a good amount of pop – and can put up some crooked numbers – it was always going to cool off, and it appears to have finally done so. What’s more, there was never going to be enough offense to compensate for all this team’s weaknesses.

Weaknesses which, apparently, are extending to the starting rotation.

I’ve largely given the rotation a passing mark on the Pass/Fail grading system, because while there’s no top-shelf talent, there’s a lot of 2’s and 3’s that’ll generally keep you in ballgames. With the hitting this team has shown, if you could cobble together a proper bullpen, you could see a team contending for a playoff spot with this rotation.

But, as the season has lurched forward, we’ve started seeing some cracks in the armor of that argument. Two out of his last three starts has seen Marco Gonzales bury this team early in those games; that’s ostensibly your ACE of the staff! A semi-lukewarm start from King Felix has gone down in flames (culminating with a stint on the IL this week). Mike Leake has had some real duds mixed in there, as we all expected. Wade LeBlanc was the first of our starters to hit the IL; while he appears to be on the mend, we’ll see what that translates to when he finally makes it back. In his absense, Erik Swanson has started to struggle as teams write the book on him. The minor league starting depth behind Swanson figures to be markedly worse.

If we run into some more starting pitching injuries – as well as injuries to our everyday players, which is only a matter of time – how bad can this team’s record get? We already know the bullpen is a disaster; any hope for that to change is going to depend on the players in the organization magically improving. We also know that a number of these veterans are going to be shopped at the trade deadline, if not sooner. Their replacements should inspire no confidence.

The Mariners once had the very best record in all of baseball. Then, almost exactly a month later, we’re now talking about the team with the 11th-worst record in baseball and falling HARD. And, if that doesn’t move the needle for you, the Mariners also at one point had baseball’s best run differential. Now … it’s the 11th-worst.

The point is, outside of that hot start, this is a Bottom 10 baseball team. I would argue, based on what our minds tell us, combined with the eye test of what we’re seeing from this team on the field, the 2019 Mariners are closer to the team that’s gone 7-21 as opposed to the team that started 13-2.

While I’m dreading all the bad baseball we’re all going to be subjected to over the next few months, I’m not-so-secretly relishing the end result, which figures to be a Top 10 pick in next year’s draft.

There Was Some Interesting Pitching This Weekend For The Future Of The Mariners

Just because I’ve been a little more hands-off with this Mariners team, doesn’t mean I’m not at least following along with what’s happening. Sure, I went to last Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Cubs, and sure it was the God damn apocalpyse. But, that’s an anomaly for Marco Gonzales. It brought him down to Earth – he’s not an ace, in spite of his role on this year’s team – but it’s not an indicator of things to come.

There were some pleasant developments over the weekend that we should all look at fondly, as it hopefully further cements the notion that this rebuild (or whatever) is headed in the right direction. Marco will be fine, but we need more than just him if we’re going to get our hopes up.

Yusei Kikuchi took the mound on Friday, following his perfect 1-inning start the last time out. Of course, we’re talking about a small sample size, but he bounced back with 7 innings of 1-run ball, giving up 3 hits, walking 1, and striking out a whopping 10 batters! Of course, the team squandered all of this, in losing 2-1, but that’s a helluvan outing. EASILY his best start of the year. More of that please!

Mike Leake had a very Mike Leakean start on Saturday (6 innings, 3 runs, in what would be a 5-4 loss, the second game blown by the bullpen in as many days), but what’s more important is Erik Swanson’s start on Sunday. We managed to NOT go winless against the Indians for 2019 thanks to a 10-0 route, helmed by Swanson’s 6 innings of 1-hit (3 walk) ball. We were able to stretch him out over 100 pitches, he got out of some jams, and maybe most importantly, this was his second start against the Indians (last time he went 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits). So, they had a chance to see him, make adjustments, and they STILL couldn’t do anything against him! I like that an awful lot.

Nothing about this weekend means anything definitive in the grand scheme of things, but they’re important steps in the way we want to go. This still doesn’t solve the lack of a real, bona fide ace on this staff, but I would argue the more pitchers we have in that #2 starter range, the better we’ll be. We can always go out and rent an ace, if in a year or two this team develops into a true contender; but until then, we need to build up the roster around that hypothetical final piece. Kikuchi and Swanson look like nice sections of foundation so far in their young Major League careers.

Are The Mariners The Worst Home Team In Baseball?

There are obviously worse teams out there. The Orioles are 3-10 at home, for instance. The Marlins and Nationals are marginally worse at home, recordwise. But, God damn have the Mariners been horrid at T-Mobile Park so far!

In choosing to go to the 3:40pm game yesterday, I couldn’t have picked a worse one to attend. An 11-0 rout by the Cubs that was never even remotely competitive after the first inning. In the stands packed to the gills with Cubs fans, there was less than nothing to cheer for. I left after the third inning, after we were down 7-0; it was the best decision I made all day.

So, getting back to the original premise, the first homestand of the season was pretty good. The M’s went 5-1 against the Red Sox and Angels, with a +14 run differential. Not bad! The subsequent 6-1 road trip really had fans taking notice, but that was just the calm before the storm. We returned home to lose all six games to the Astros and Indians; our Run Differential At Home went from +14 to +2, as our record went to 5-7. After a 3-3 road trip to Anaheim and San Diego, we won the first two against the Rangers to bring our Run Differential At Home back up to +15. Then, the apocalypse: we lost the final two to the Rangers, and both games to the Cubs, by a combined 39 runs. That’s a -24 Run Differential At Home, which I have to believe is the worst in baseball.

Our overall Run Differential is all the way down to +2. It … hasn’t been pleasant.

In other news, I know Mallex Smith was sent down to work on things, but can we also send Domingo Santana down? Because that dude is a piece of shit in the outfield! I have never seen anyone drop so many easy fly balls in my life! He has 6 errors in the outfield already! No one else has more than 3! I mean, does he just not care? Is he trying to tank it so the team will keep him as a DH? His bat may be better than I expected, but his defense is a million times worse, and if the team doesn’t bench his ass at least once in the next series, I’m going to seriously question Scott Servais and his managing style. He has no problem calling out Felix or Jean Segura, but Domingo Santana is just going to continue getting away with nonchalant outfield defense? No fucking way! Send a fucking message, Servais! Nip this shit in the bud!

That’s all I got. Thank Christ the Mariners are off today, because there’s no way I could bring myself to look at them right now.

The 2019 Mariners Went 18-14 In March/April

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.

You May Have Noticed I’m Not Really All That Invested In The Mariners This Year

The Mariners and Rangers split a 4-game series over the weekend. Marco Gonzales continued his hot start to the season with 7 innings of shutout ball on Thursday as the M’s beat up on the Rangers 14-2. Friday night was a fun, extra innings adventure featuring Kikuchi’s first one-inning start of his MLB career. Justus Sheffield came in after that and looked predictably wild over 3 innings, giving up 2 runs. The game featured a blown save in the later innings, but the good guys manufactured a run in the 11th to win 5-4.

Then, the series took a disturbing turn over the weekend, as the Mariners lost both games, 15-1 and then 14-1. Mike Leake was trash, the rest of the bullpen was mediocre, and Dylan Moore was forced into an inning of work (giving up 4 runs in the process). Then, Erik Swanson had his first really bad outing of his young career, and once again the bullpen was mediocre (certainly not helped by 4 Mariners errors and a number of other shitty defensive plays).

Look, I just can’t get it up for this season. First of all, my schedule just doesn’t afford me the luxury to watch many games during the work week. So, when I’m confronted by a weekend like this – losing 29-2 combined – I mean, what do you want from me? I have no idea who half of these pitchers are. The defense is an absolute disaster across the board. And sure, the offense can go to pound town against weak pitching, but is easily shut down once opposed by real talent.

The Mariners are 18-13 and are the second wild card team as of April 29th, but we know how this season is going to end. I would wager there will be more months where the Mariners are under .500 than above .500, and right now I’m down 1 with 5 months to go! So, half-assed recaps are going to continue for the foreseeable future, at least until I can think of something remotely interesting to write about this team.

The Mariners Got Swept By The Padres

For those keeping track at home, that’s a 6-game losing streak to the mighty San Diego Padres of San Diego.

On Tuesday, Erik Swanson got his second career start, pitching into the sixth inning, giving up 5 runs, 4 earned. I didn’t catch this one, but I seem to remember hearing both the defense and bullpen letting Swanson down in this one, so take those numbers with a grain of salt. He struck out 3 and walked 0 while being very economical with his pitch count, so a lot of good sprinkled in there. The bats were never able to put anything together though, as the M’s lost 6-3.

Then, on getaway day, Felix tossed a rare gem! 7 innings of 1-run ball on 3 hits, 1 walk, and a whopping 8 strikeouts! It really felt like old times again! Mostly because the offense, once again, couldn’t get anything going and the M’s lost 1-0. Nevertheless, that’s an outing I didn’t think he had in him anymore. Sure, I could see him going 7 innings every now and again. I could see him limiting opponents to 1 run every once in a while, maybe while stranding a bunch of runners throughout the game. But, both combined with 8 strikeouts is pretty outstanding!

Obviously, that’s the best start of the year for Felix by a million miles, but there are a lot of encouraging signs and a lot of encouraging reports coming out that maybe he’s starting to put it all together again. Maybe Aging Felix can be like Aging Bartolo Colon. Dare to dream!

The offense is a little more worrisome. No one had Ryon Healy pegged as anything for this team in the long term, but his hot start has cooled off considerably. The numbers for the better hitters at the top of the lineup are starting to coalesce into something resembling their career norms. The major concern is Mallex Smith, who’s been dropped to the bottom of the lineup, with a slash line of .182/.270/.273. That’s just abysmal, on top of what’s been some miserable fucking defense in centerfield. This is NOT what we signed up for! Not even a little bit! When Mike Zunino – who went to the Rays in this trade to bring in Smith – has a higher batting average and on-base percentage, you know you’ve got some serious problems with your swing. This shit needs to turn around in a hurry, because the last thing we need is a(nother) head case overthinking everything all the damn time.

The Two Likely Outcomes For The 2019 Mariners

The way I see it, there are a couple of different ways this season can go for the Mariners. I’d say, barring a total avalanche of injuries to key players, the Mariners won’t be truly terrible. So, let’s take that option right off the table. If you bet the UNDER on Mariners wins this season, you’re probably looking at a loser.

The Mariners also aren’t going to be super great either. They’re just not on the same playing field as the best teams in the American League. Houston WILL win the division. I’d expect the Red Sox will bounce back, and I’m sure the Yankees will rip off some huge winning streaks when they start to get healthy. So, go ahead and take that option off the table. There won’t be an improbable World Series appearance for this team.

That leaves, really, two options that are really both sort of the same. At this moment, the Mariners are 16-9 with a +32 run differential that’s good for second in the A.L. But, there are enough cracks in this facade – especially on the pitching side of things – where it wouldn’t shock me if this team, at some point, loses a bunch of games and ultimately lands right around the .500 mark on the season. Maybe a game or two under, but pretty close to middle-of-the-road in all aspects, including run differential. That would be a disappointing result out of a team we never really had high expectations for (when, really, you’d hope the Mariners would tank for the higher draft pick).

The other option, however, is a little more interesting. Maybe, instead of falling apart, the Mariners play .500 ball from this point forward. Instead of ultimately landing around .500 or a little worse, maybe the M’s finish around 85-77 or 86-76. Why would that be interesting? Because at that range, the Mariners would likely be contenders for at least the second Wild Card.

Let’s face it, there just isn’t a lot of parity in the American League. The Orioles, White Sox, and Royals all look like real bottom-feeders in contention for the top overall draft pick in 2020. The Mariners have already won 5 of 6 against the Angels, who look pretty mediocre. I don’t think anyone’s buying the Rangers and their 12-8 start. I also don’t think the A’s are destined to repeat their fantastic 2018. The Tigers and Blue Jays look pretty mediocre so far. The Red Sox don’t look like the champions they were a year ago. If injuries continue to mount for the Yankees, that could open the door for the Rays to win the East. The Indians already ran us through the wringer, but they otherwise are pretty lacking on the offensive side of the ball. I haven’t seen much of the Twins yet, but they seem beatable.

The point is, there aren’t many teams considerably better than the Mariners. The Astros should own us, as they do, but as for most everyone else, I see them as on equal footing as the M’s. Which opens the door for results like we’ve had against the Angels: a seemingly-unlikely 3-1 series win down in Anaheim. Keep beating up on the teams we’re supposed to beat, win enough of the 50/50 games to keep our heads above water, and while a title is certainly out of the question, remaining in contention for a possible playoff berth is still within the realm of possibilities.

In that sense, these Mariners are more closely affiliated with the last few years’ worth of Mariners teams: just good enough to break our hearts in September instead of May.

Sure Enough, The Mariners Suck Again

In spite of what happened last night (an absurd 11-10 Mariners victory down in Anaheim, blowing what was once a 10-2 lead) I think we can all agree – based on losing six straight games to the Astros and Indians (going 0 for the Homestand, after building up so much good will en route to a 13-2 start) – that the Mariners do, indeed, suck again.

Take out the “again” part, because when have we NOT, amirite?

After last Friday’s so-so performance against Wade Miley and Co., the bats went in the tank for the remainder of the homestand. The Mariners scored 1, 2, 4, 2, and 0 runs respectively, to come hurtling back down to Earth. And, sure, I’ll come out and say it: we were facing significantly better starting pitching over those five games, compared to the first 16, so it probably shouldn’t shock anyone that the Mariners’ offense cooled off considerably. They were never going to stay as red hot as they were.

Ahh, the ebbs and flows of a baseball season … can gobble my modestly-sized dick!

Last night showed how the Mariners can suck in the other direction. How do you blow an 8-run lead over the course of two innings? By having probably the worst bullpen in all of baseball.

It was nice to see the bats re-emerge (Healy had 2 homers and 5 RBI, Narvaez had 3 hits and 4 RBI, Vogelbach got on base 5 times with his 2 hits & 3 walks), but once again it was a shaky performance from the bullpen and by connection, the manager. You got 6 innings of 2-run ball out of King Felix … so what are you doing trying to press your luck by sending him out there for the 7th? I don’t CARE what his pitch count was! You’re just asking for trouble.

He was pulled in favor of R.J. Alaniz, who is probably a guy I will never write about again, as I’m assuming he’ll be sent down to Tacoma today and never heard from again. He gave up 4 runs (earning a 24.00 ERA), but the guys after him weren’t all that much better.

In the end, though, it was 10-10 after eight innings. Somehow, the M’s pushed across a run in the ninth and Roenis Elias was able to shut it down. But, obviously, it never should’ve been remotely CLOSE to being that close, and yet it was. Because the Mariners suck. Now and forever.

Happy Friday everyone!

The Astros Put The Mariners Out Of Their Misery

The Mariners went into the weekend series against the Astros 13-2, wildly successful against the dregs of the A.L. Central, a slow-starting Red Sox team, a mediocre Angels team, and an A’s team playing the villain in Japan. This weekend was to be the first real test since Expectations shifted ever-so-slightly.

And they just pounded us into submission. On Friday, it was a more traditional pounding, as the Astros clubbed two grand slams en route to a 10-6 victory. One could almost write it off, and find a silver lining in the Mariners’ scoring 6 runs yet again, but even those good vibes were countered by the loss of Wade LeBlanc to an oblique strain that will keep him out at least two months.

That makes Erik Swanson the first of the brand new pitching prospects to get his crack on our 25-man roster. Of course, he already made a relief appearance earlier in the week, but it’s looking like he’ll take LeBlanc’s role in the rotation, which should prove interesting. I can’t envision high hopes for him right out of the gate, but this was never supposed to be about Winning Now. If he improves over time, or at least shows flashes of potential, I’ll be hopeful.

As we got to Saturday and Sunday, it was time to face the Astros’ big guns. Would the Mariners’ New & Improved lineup pose a challenge to Verlander & Cole?

Well, Verlander gave up 1 run on 2 hits while walking 0 and striking out 11. The only thing our lineup was good for was to get his pitch count moderately high. He threw 105 across 6 innings, which simply means we prevented him from going 8 or 9 innings, because seriously his shit was filthy and we had no chance whatsoever (Felix put up a nice game, though, for what he is now; 6 innings of 3-run ball you’ll take every time).

The Mariners were only marginally better against Cole, who went 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits, with 0 walks and 11 strikeouts on 101 pitches. Again, all we managed to do was keep their starter from the CG. Marco Gonzales did his damnedest, but he ultimately faltered in the 6th and the bullpen gave it away in the 7th.

So, now we’re 13-5. The Astros, in one 3-game series, clawed their way back to within a game of the M’s (tied in the loss column), and we can stop envisioning Ewing Theory scenarios. The 13-2 start was, as we all expected, just a hot streak that randomly happened at the very beginning of the season. The only thing the Mariners accomplished this weekend was to extend their streak of games to start a season with at least one home run, now at 18. I’ll be curious if we can get to the point where we start talking about the all-time Major League record for games with a home run regardless of whether or not it’s the start to a season.

The Ridiculous Mariners Swept The Royals Because Why Not?

It all started on a Monday evening where Felix was celebrating his birthday by puking his guts out. He muddled through 1 inning, but obviously wasn’t sharp. The Mariners were down 4-2 by the time I packed it in for the night. I woke up the next morning to an improbable 13-5 victory. 2 more Encarnacion homers, as well as blasts from Bruce, Vogelbach, and Dylan Moore of all people.

Then Tuesday rolled around. It was two-all when I went to sleep. I woke up the next morning and lo and behold, 6-3 Mariners. Marco Gonzales improved to 4-0 on the year with 6 solid innings, and the bullpen was perfect. The only homer belonged to Bruce, but that didn’t stop the rest of the hitters, who all combined for 15 hits, including 2 doubles by Vogey.

On Wednesday, there was a bit of a rocky start from Yusei Kikuchi; when I went to bed it was three-all. I woke up to a delightful little 6-5 victory. Kikuchi ended up settling down to go a full six innings, and while the bullpen failed to hold it down, Mitch Haniger was on the case with a ninth inning homer to break the tie. Our homer streak was nearly snapped in this one until that shot, and boy was it a big one!

Finally, yesterday was getaway day, so I was awake for the whole shebang, but had to miss a good chunk in the middle for lunch. Mike Leake had a pretty poor outing, but limited the damage to 4 runs over 5 innings. Luckily, the offensive freight train couldn’t be stopped. Vogey and Dee Gordon had homers in this one – to extend the streak to 15 games in a row to start the season, an American League record – with Vogey’s being the game winner in the tenth. It was a 7-6 victory, meaning the Mariners have scored 6 or more runs in 13 of 15 games, which is clinically insane.

I’m as flummoxed as you are. I’ll say this, though: with the Astros and Indians coming to town, followed by a 4-game trip to Anaheim and a 2-gamer in San Diego, the schedule gets much more difficult than it has been. Talk to me in a couple weeks to see how excited I am about this season’s potential.