The Rockies Are Really Good At Baseball; The Mariners, Not So Much

I didn’t have a lot of high expectations for the Mariners in this series, so the fact that we won one of three feels pretty remarkable to me.

Friday night’s game started off well enough. Yusei Kikuchi got off to a strong start after last week’s fantastic performance against the A’s. He had a little bit of a hiccup in the third inning to give up two runs, but that came from a lot of flukey hits. He was otherwise rolling along until the sixth inning, when he ran into some serious trouble that he was unable to pitch his way out of. As that dribbler rolled just out of reach of the short stop – leading to two more runs scoring – I officially checked out of this game.

At that point, the Mariners were only down 4-1 – and, indeed, were only an Austin Nola 2-run home run the next inning from being down just one run – but with this bullpen, no narrow deficit is safe from turning into a full-blown blow-out. Remember last week when I praised a few of the better-performing bullpen guys? The stink of my jinx is in mid-season form, as those guys will be a theme in today’s write-up!

Starting with this very game. Through seven innings, we were down 5-3. Then, in walked (You Don’t Mess With The) Yohan Ramirez, who proceeded to give up three more runs in the eighth inning to put this game away. To his credit, he was able to finish the game out – throwing over 50 pitches in the process – but that performance took a nasty bite out of his otherwise sterling E.R.A.

Seager, Nola, and Mallex Smith each had two hits apiece in this one, otherwise the bats were pretty quiet (particularly with runners in scoring position, in which we were only 2/10).

Speaking of quiet bats, welcome to my breakdown! On Saturday, the Mariners could only muster a single, solitary hit in the 5-0 shutout. I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t watch a minute of this game (I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob), so I’m just going off of the box score here. Kendall Graveman was placed on the IL with his neck issue, and to my knowledge there’s really no indication that he’ll be returning to the team anytime soon. Nick Margevicius got the spot-start in his place, putting in 3.1 innings of shutout work before giving way to the rest of the bullpen. That would include the aforementioned (from last week) Joey Gerber, another recipient of the Steven Jinx; he gave up 3 runs in 1.1 innings. Taylor Guilbeau and Matt Magill, however, managed to avoid the jinx at least through the weekend; they pitched a combined 2.1 shutout innings in this one.

J.P. Crawford had the lone single in this one, but not until the sixth inning. Must’ve been a tough one to sweat out for fans, but as I predicted before the season, I don’t think this will be the last we’ve seen of this team’s offensive woes; there will be plenty of chances to watch this offense try to get out from under a no-hitter.

The Mariners put it all together on Sunday afternoon. If you’d asked me going into the weekend which one I’d prefer the M’s win, I would’ve gone with this one. Justus Sheffield took the hill and easily tossed the greatest performance in his Major League career: 6 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts on just 91 pitches. The slider was snapping all day, the Rockies’ hitters were off-balance throughout, and while the fastball still wasn’t where I want it, there was enough movement and command of his pitches to make it all work. Keeping that offense off the scoreboard is impressive any way you slice it!

Dan Altavilla singlehandedly made this thing interesting in the eighth inning (as the commenter in my last post pointed out, both Dans on this team – Altavilla and Vogelbach – suck; we’re a long way away from the likes of Dan Wilson!), turning a 5-0 lead into a 5-3 nailbiter. But, Taylor Williams did his job, getting the 4-out save to salvage Sheffield’s first career victory.

Dylan Moore continued his improbable hot power streak with a 2-run homer in the first inning. And a number of Mariners cobbled together enough offense on a double-error, a sacrifice fly, and three singles, to play add-on to the tune of three runs in the seventh. As indicated above, we would need every bit of those runs to preserve this victory.

The Mariners sit at 6-11 and still somehow not in last place yet. Maybe that’ll change as we hit the road to take on the Texas Rangers today. Three more games before we get our first off-day, so that’s exciting! I’m sure the fellas will enjoy a bit of a rest in the Texas heat in the middle of August!

Getting back to Dylan Moore for a sec, it’s pretty outstanding how well he’s been playing! If you’d compared his chances to Tim Lopes after that first week, I think most people would’ve been a lot higher on Lopes (who has, predictably, cooled off considerably in the ensuing weeks). These types of players – who get projected as bench types, or fourth outfielders – rarely are able to pull themselves out of that stigma; it sucks them under like quicksand. The best they can hope for is a change in their swing to stick, a change that affords them more loft on their flyballs (ideally resulting in more extra-base hits). Moore, for now anyway, is showing signs of exactly that. That’s 4 doubles and 3 homers in 11 games, without a really significant increase in strikeouts. And these aren’t cheapies, either! He’s got opposite-field power for a (relatively) little guy! With his quality defense – and ability to employ that quality defense at a variety of positions on the field – that makes him an extremely valuable asset that this team can ill afford to leave out of their lineups.

Speaking of which, it’s interesting to see how the lineup has developed over the first two weeks. J.P. Crawford has taken over the leadoff spot. Dylan Moore seems tailor-made for the 2-hole. Kyles Lewis & Seager round out the heart of the lineup. Beyond that, it’s a free-for-all, but there’s a lot to like about the top of the order so far!

Even though Vogelbach and Evan White both have TERRIBLE offensive numbers to date, it really feels like night and day when you watch them work. White, at least, seems like he has some idea of what he’s doing; I would argue he’s been criminally unlucky on some of these balls being hit right at guys. Vogey, on the other hand, seems like his only objective when he steps to the plate is to get a walk. For a guy his size, and with his lack of speed, that’s just a travesty! As someone who has no value as a defender, he needs to be MASSIVELY more aggressive at the plate. On-base percentage is great for smaller guys who can steal bases, but it doesn’t really do a lot for us when Vogey can only go station-to-station. I would take a serious uptick in strikeouts if it meant he got his power numbers where they should be. This isn’t a matter of opposing pitchers pitching around him; he’s getting ahead in counts – which is great – but then when it’s 3-0 or 3-1, he’s taking big, fat, juicy meatballs when he SHOULD be depositing them into the outfield stands!

I’m worried about Vogey, is my point. The writing is on the wall, and it’s screaming out in giant letters: YOU’RE NOT LONG FOR THIS TEAM!

Look, Guys, The Mariners Are Who We Thought They Were

I’ll tell you this much, the Angels aren’t good either! They might make the playoffs, since just about everyone will be in the hunt by the end of this crazy season. But, from what I’ve seen so far, I’m not impressed.

Justin Dunn didn’t have a good outing in the opener to this series, and I’m starting to wonder why he’s so highly regarded as a prospect. His fastball isn’t all that fast, he doesn’t appear to have command of any of his pitches, and while he’s got a lot of movement to them, not knowing where they’re going to end up is KIND OF a problem. With so-so stuff, you’d think the team is rushing along someone who could at least throw strikes on a regular basis, but that doesn’t appear to be in his repertoire. I’m not flushing him down the toilet just yet, but I think it’s time to SEVERELY downgrade my expectations on this kid. It’s fine, there are better prospects (hopefully) coming down the pike.

Anyway, he gave up a 3-spot in the first inning of this start. The fact that he managed to go three additional innings of shutout ball is irrelevant to me, as I don’t remember him really looking much more than competent in any of them. But, we didn’t really get much out of our hitting in this one either. Austin Nola had a couple of RBIs on two hits, Kyle Lewis added a double to his pile, and Dylan Moore hit a homer, but a 5-3 loss is a 5-3 loss.

The M’s won the second game of this series behind another strong start from Marco Gonzales. 7 innings of 3-run ball is something I will take every single time! The bullpen, of course, tried their damnedest to gag this one away – giving up 3 more runs in the 8th – but we shut it down in the 9th to preserve a 7-6 victory. Nola had 2 more doubles, Kyle Seager hit his 200th career home run, and Dylan Moore and Kyle Lewis each had multiple hits to breathe life into things.

I fully expected the Mariners to take this series in the rubber match, but Taijuan Walker had other ideas. After a masterful start last week, he tossed quite the clunker here. 3.2 innings of 4-run ball where he pretty much labored throughout. The bullpen did an okay job of limiting the damage, but this was a no-go from the get-go. Dylan Bundy of the Angels tossed a complete game, giving up just a solo home run to Daniel Vogelbach for his first dinger of the season. The offense was ice cold in this one, which is certainly to be expected out of a group this young; you’re going to see games like this (honestly, I would’ve expected them to be a more regular occurrence than what we’ve seen to this point; but, the season IS young).

That drops the Mariners to 5-9, leaving us in fourth place in the division, with the red-hot Rockies coming to town for a weekend series. This … might get ugly.

I’m still quite pleased with Kyle Lewis’ Rookie of the Year campaign. The resurgence of Kyle Seager has been really fun to watch as well. And, Dylan Moore’s six extra-base hits in nine games has been a revelation! Austin Nola has been a real find these last couple of seasons; he looks like a very good Major Leaguer that we plucked out of nowhere. I’m still cautiously optimistic with J.P. Crawford’s start, and I’m reserving judgment for now on Shed Long. It would be fun to see Vogey mash some more home runs, but otherwise I don’t know if he’s long for a Mariners uniform. Evan White’s defense is predictably laudable, but the offense has been a MASSIVE struggle through a couple weeks. That’ll pick up, but it might be a long rookie season for the kid.

I’ve been shitting on the bullpen all year, but there are some good-looking guys who should be commended. Joey Gerber was just called up and has looked great in his two appearances! Yohan Ramirez was a Rule 5 guy we claimed from the Astros and while rough, he looks very promising. Carl Edwards is a veteran, but he got the save in that Angels series and seems to be reliable. Taylor Guilbeau has only given up one run in three innings of work as a lefty. And Matt Magill – another veteran – might be having the best go of it out of the bullpen with four shutout innings of work (and looking much less wild than Ramirez in doing so).

So, you know, that’s something anyway. In roster news, the aforementioned Bryan Shaw was sent down to Tacoma, presumably to work on some … everything. And Summer Camp darling Jose Marmolejos was also sent down to bring the Major League roster to 28 players. He was pretty overwhelmed at the plate – and a walking herd of cats in the outfield – so this is for the best for him and the team. In better news, thanks to all of these idiot MLB teams contracting so much COVID, 28 is the set roster minimum for teams the rest of the season. We were set to have to reduce it to 26 in a couple weeks, but no longer. So, thanks Marlins! Dozens of players will earn Major League checks because of your incompetence!

The Mariners Lost A Series (frowny face)

I feel like, when we look back on the 2020 Mariners season, we’re all going to remember what it felt like when they were 4-4 and it was the high point of the season. This is like the horrific 2019 Mariners starting 13-2 before finishing the season on a 55-92 streak!

We’re on an 0-3 streak right now, following an 11-1 dismantling. In spite of what is already an absurd -25 run differential after 11 games (tied for worst in all of baseball with the Diamondbacks, who have somehow done it in 10 games), that was a very winnable series against the A’s that we just biffed.

The first game, we obviously did win, 5-3. Taijuan Walker – much like Marco Gonzales the night previously – bounced back in a big way after his first start, going 7 shutout innings, allowing only 1 hit and 2 walks, while striking out 8. The bullpen tried their hardest to blow it (mostly the absolutely worthless Bryan Shaw who gave up 3 runs in his lone inning of work), but we were able to hang on.

The next day, would you look at that! Yusei Kikuchi ALSO had a bounce-back start! 6 shutout innings, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 9; it might’ve been his best-ever start in a Mariners uniform. This time, we were clinging to a 2-0 lead, and the bullpen DID manage to blow it. Adding extra insult to injury, the offense had plenty of chances to win it in regulation – including a juicy bases loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth, with only one out – but going 1/7 with runners in scoring position doomed us. The new extra innings rule (where they start each team out with a runner on second base, because who wants to see more exciting extra innings baseball when we can get it over with as quickly as possible after wasting 3+ hours on boring regulation baseball?) bit us in the ass here, as Dan Altavilla (who still hasn’t quite figured it out after 10,000 years shuttling between the major and minor leagues) grooved a pitch that was hit for a double. That was a tough 3-2 loss to swallow.

In case you weren’t annoyed enough by this motherfucking bullpen, Kendall Graveman pitched pretty heroically in his start, getting into the fifth inning without allowing any runs while dealing with a neck injury. He got two outs while running into some trouble in that fifth, and with his pitch count nearing 100 – a lot to ask for a guy who has missed two years due to injury, who is also currently embroiled in a new injury – so we brought out a reliever to try to keep the A’s from scoring. We were clinging to a 1-0 lead at the time, so this was the ballgame. And, of course, whoever it was (because, seriously, I refuse to learn the names of individuals who won’t matter this time next year) promptly gave up a 3-run home run. I mean, you can lament the lack of offense in this one all you want (again, we were 1/7 with runners in scoring position), but those were the only runs the A’s scored all day, as we again lost by a 3-2 score.

Yesterday, I thought we had a solid shot at salvaging the split. Justus Sheffield was cruising through four shutout innings! Then, in the fifth, he loaded up the bases with only one out, got a CLUTCH strikeout to make things easier on himself, but couldn’t quite get the final out of the inning (instead, giving up a 2-run single to end his day). In walked … Bryan Shaw. I’m assuming the Soon-To-Be-DFA’d Bryan Shaw, because seriously, what the shit?! Why are we employing worthless veterans who have CLEARLY lost any and all ability to throw a baseball? Not only did he give up the two runners he inherited – a trend with these relievers that’s probably the most galling thing to have to sit through (I’d rather watch the starters try to pitch out of these jams!) – but he gave up FOUR MORE runs before finally getting his lone out of the ballgame.

Not to pile on, but in case you were counting with Bryan Shaw, that’s four appearances. In his first inning of work with the team, he somehow managed to get three outs without giving up any runs. Here are his subsequent three appearances:

  • 1 inning, 3 runs
  • 1 inning, 3 runs
  • 0.1 innings, 4 runs

In 3.1 innings of “relief”, he has a 27.00 ERA. You could literally set the ball on a tee and the tee would have a better ERA. This is insane; cut this man immediately!

Kyle Lewis had at least one hit in the first ten games of the season, before seeing that streak snapped last night. Kyle Seager has taken over the RBI lead on the team with 11 (as well as the doubles lead with 5). J.P. Crawford is still hitting the ball well and getting on base at a remarkable clip. Everyone else, I’d say, really cooled off against this A’s pitching.

On deck, we have a 3-game set against the Angels, who at 3-7 are fighting us for last place, so this should be interesting. And, by “interesting” I mean, “What else is on?”

The Mariners Won A Series!

No no no, not a World Series. Just a series. It’s fine, we’re keeping expectations REAL low around here.

I don’t like the Angels. I think they peaked with Angels in the Outfield and they’ve been going downhill ever since! I might still hate the A’s the most, and obviously the Astros came from out of nowhere seven years ago to join the American League and torment my very soul, but there’s something so distasteful about the Angels and I can’t put my finger on it.

Maybe it’s because I should hate them MORE? Because they’re from the Los Angeles area (to be fair, Anaheim IS a city in its own right, and where they actually play all of their home games, which is why I refuse to call them the L.A. Angels), have a buttload of money to throw around, have the best player in the game, yet still find ways to be mediocre (and even then, in their mediocrity, still manage to make the lives of Mariners fans a living hell). I dunno! All I know is that I really don’t like them, I relish when they fail, and I take a personal interest in them failing to the Seattle Mariners.

This week, the Angels lost two of three to one of the very worst teams (on paper) in the Major Leagues, and while I COULD be happier … I’m still pretty gosh darn happy!

As expected, we didn’t get a lot out of the rookie starting pitchers.

  • Justus Sheffield: 3 innings, 4 runs
  • Justin Dunn: 3 innings, 3 runs, 2 earned

Sheffield looked so-so through two scoreless innings before things started to unravel. I didn’t LOVE the lack of life on his fastball (it seemed to sit in the low-90’s, I’d like to see that anywhere from 95-98 if possible). He didn’t seem to have the worst command I’ve ever seen, but it was clear he was battling. In that sense, I was proud he made it through the third only giving up two runs. All things considered, I might’ve been tempted to not send him out to start the fourth inning (which he did, not registering an out while giving up two more baserunners who would go on to score when the next batter knocked one out of the park against our reliever), but with the first four games all being heavily reliant on our bullpen, I can see why we tried to get a little more out of our starter. This game was, nevertheless, a tough one to watch, as the Mariners lost 10-2.

Apparently there was some sort of fourth inning hex put upon our pitching staff through the first turn of the rotation, because Justin Dunn was cruising through three innings before starting to come apart! Thankfully, the bats came alive in this one. The Angels led 4-1 before the Mariners started doing some damage with a 5-spot in the sixth (punctuated by Dylan Moore’s 3-run homer; WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL!). The Angels re-took the lead in the bottom half, 7-6, before the Mariners piled ’em back on with three more runs over the next two innings to win it 10-7.

The story of the rubber match was Marco Gonzales bringing his A-game. He went 6.1 innings, giving up 2 unearned runs on 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 error by our second baseman. Jose Marmolejos jacked a 3-run homer in the first, and the Mariners didn’t score again until adding five insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Which we apparently needed desperately! A 3-2 lead (which is what we would’ve had) could’ve been disasterous, as Dan Altavilla gave up three runs in the ninth. Crisis was averted, though, and the good guys won 8-5.

Just about all the young guys you want to see succeed are doing just that through the first week of the season. Kyle Lewis continues to rake, leading the team in hits, batting average, homers, total bases, and RBI. J.P. Crawford has come on strong, leading the team in on-base percentage and is still hitting the ball hard. Tim Lopes and to a lesser extent Dylan Moore (in just two games, both against the Angels) have impressed as guys we penciled in as reserves. Shed Long looks more and more comfortable in the leadoff spot every time I see him. The best thing is that no one really seems to be overwhelmed. As the youngest team in baseball, you’d expect guys to be playing tentatively, but for the most part they seem like they have good plans when they’re at the plate.

Now that we’re one full turn through the rotation, I would expect the starters to start (!) pitching better. Marco getting into the seventh inning was absolutely necessary; here’s hoping at least the rest of the veterans can do the same. That will take a load off of this bullpen that’s had to work overtime keeping this pitching staff afloat.

The Mariners are 3-4, heading home for the first time. That’s about as good as any of us could have expected. Not for nothing, but that’s only 0.5 games behind the first place A’s and Astros! And would you look at that, the A’s are in town for four games! How about it?

Let’s just hope there’s still baseball to be played by Monday. I’m already hearing a number of games have been or are being canceled due to COVID-19. That … is not ideal.

The Mariners Mariners’d Things Up Down In Houston

This season was always going to be a bit of a sideshow combined with a tire fire, but it was particularly cruel to have the Mariners go to Houston to start the season with a four-game series. You’d be hard-pressed to find two more polar opposites with the Astros at the top of the game today (probably trending downward, you’d have to figure, as their players acclimate to the difficulties of not being able to cheat as much) and the Mariners near the very bottom (certainly trending upward, because how much lower can things get?). Frankly, I was surprised the M’s even won ONE game this weekend!

The pitching – across the board – really failed the Mariners in this series. We more or less expected that out of the bullpen (and that’s more or less what we got from them, aside from the lone victory), but the starters also completely shit the bed! It’s like they TRIED to get as much of it on there as possible, clogging up their bowels with lots of meat and cheese, holding it in for a few extra days, then unleashing their stinky fury all over the place.

  • Marco Gonzales: 4.1 innings, 4 runs, 3 earned
  • Taijuan Walker: 3.1 innings, 5 runs
  • Yusei Kikuchi: 3.2 innings, 5 runs
  • Kendall Graveman: 4.0 innings, 7 runs, 6 earned

I would expect those guys to get better sooner rather than later, as their arms build back up and they’re not forced to go up against lineups as stacked as the Astros’. Clearly, these guys were on shortened pitch counts, as no one really had an opportunity to ramp up completely; but even if they were at mid-season strength, I would argue there wasn’t much point in extending their leashes in these games given how poorly they performed.

The numbers from the bullpen in this series are actually better than they looked (I would attribute that to their inability to save the starters’ ERAs by preventing inherited runners from scoring):

  • Game 1: 3.2 innings, 4 runs
  • Game 2: 4.2 innings, 2 runs
  • Game 3: 5.1 innings, 1 run
  • Game 4: 4.0 innings, 1 run

Those aren’t terrible, particularly against a team like Houston, but we’ll see how things look as the season progresses.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though! There were some real bright spots among the hitters!

Kyle Lewis continues to be a Mariners dreamboat. Six hits in the four games, including two homers, with four RBI and a slash line of .400/.500/.800. J.P. Crawford hit two triples and a double, Evan White banged out his first career Major League home run yesterday, Tim Lopes had a couple of doubles. The only guys who are REALLY struggling are Mallex Smith and Daniel Vogelbach, and I don’t think either of them figure into the Mariners’ long-term plans anyway.

I was also really impressed with veteran Kyle Seager, who jacked a homer and three doubles (including at least one to left-center). It’s cool that he’s off to a hot start, and it seems like he’s really a calming veteran presence on what is the very youngest team in the Major Leagues.

I will say the defense overall was pretty rough. Only two errors in the four games, but I think there was some generous scoring going on. There were a number of allegedly-difficult plays that we flat out missed, that good defensive teams would’ve had no problem converting. I won’t make a big deal about it – because in the overall outlook of this season, defense is probably the least of our concerns – but it’s nevertheless something to monitor as these games pile on.

Now we’re off to Anaheim (does the fun ever START?) before our home opener this weekend. These games will be mighty interesting. Anaheim was projected to be one of the divisional contenders, but they’ve also compiled a 1-3 record. The M’s will feature Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn tonight and tomorrow; believe you me, my eyeballs will be glued to the screen for their 3.2 innings of work apiece!

The Mariners’ 2020 Season Starts Tonight!

I am extremely excited, y’all!

This isn’t so much a season preview, as I’ve done plenty of that in my Mariners writing over the LONG offseason. We know what we’re getting: a baseball team that’s going to lose more than it wins. Under normal circumstances, on July 24th, I’d be writing about what a fucking SLOG it’s been so far. Instead, a refreshing change of pace!

60 games, that’s nothing (in the grand scheme of baseball things)! But, it’s both perfect and far-from-ideal. It’s perfect because if the Mariners are as bad as I think they are, we’re going to witness a lot of on-field ineptitude, so keeping that torture to just a couple months is better than playing three times that amount. It’s far-from-ideal because, obviously, you want the younger players to get as much experience as possible. Between the drastically shortened season, and the near-complete lack of a minor league summer program, it truly feels like a lost year in all respects.

Sickeningly, Major League Baseball has announced that the playoffs are expanding from ten teams (five per league) up to 16 (eight per league). So, for the American League – for instance – the top two teams in each 5-team division will qualify for the postseason (with the last two teams being Wild Cards based on best overall record). That’s … honestly pretty great! What dreadful luck that the Mariners figure to be among the worst teams in baseball, because if there was ANY year where a mediocre M’s team might break the playoff drought, this COVID-affected season might’ve been one of them!

I know you’re going to read some things and hear from some people who will tell you that “anything can happen in a 60-game season,” and that the Mariners have just as good of a chance as anyone to shock the world and sneak into the asterisk convention – hell, you might hear that from ME if things get off to a hot start! – but on this overcast, 60-degree day in late July in Tacoma, Washington, let our cooler heads prevail on this one: the Mariners are going nowhere and they’ll be doing nothing come October, except sitting around still probably trying to avoid catching this damn virus.

All of this downer talk can’t stop me from being excited about tonight! Of course, when the Cheating Astros start teeing off on our guys and pummel us over the long weekend, I’m sure that excitement will wane dramatically. But, this is one of the few things I’ve had to look forward to over the summer, so I’m not going to let a little thing like the Mariners ruin my enthusiasm for the Kraken Mariners!

Can The Mariners Win Over 24.5 Games?

I saw a tweet yesterday that shows the Mariners are projected – by at least one Vegas-adjacent betting-type establishment – to win the (tied for) third fewest games in the Major Leagues this year. Only the Tigers and Orioles are projected to win less often (pretty bold prediction, since both of those teams also won the fewest games last year).

Couple points to note: as this guy tweeted out, the Mariners haven’t won fewer than 25 of their first 60 games since 2010 (the last time the M’s lost over 100 games in a season). And, as Divish would go on to respond, the Mariners from a season ago – who started out with a ridiculous 13-2 record – ended up 25-35 after 60 games.

So, let’s use that as a jumping-off point. I’ll be honest, my initial gut reaction was to say, “Of course the Mariners are going to win fewer than 24 games this year!” The above tweets gave me pause a little bit, until I remembered that while the M’s have been mediocre almost my whole life over the last decade, they really haven’t been horrendously BAD since 2010, so yeah, that checks out.

The 2019 Mariners – who finished 68-94 – were much closer to the horrendously bad end of the spectrum than they were mediocre. And, since then, they’ve lost two of their more productive full-time hitters (Omar Narvaez and Domingo Santana) and two of their better part-time hitters (Edwin Encarnacion – who was traded away halfway through last year – and Mitch Haniger – who is still dealing with his injured whathaveyous).

On the pitching side of things – which was easily our biggest weakness in 2019 – we’re down many of our most productive veterans. Mike Leake was traded away last year, Tommy Milone (uhh, YEAH, look it up, he had the third-highest WAR among Mariners pitchers last year!) signed as a free agent with the Orioles, and Anthony Bass (fourth-highest WAR) was claimed by Toronto. With Wade LeBlanc also joining the Orioles, you could argue letting Felix move on to another organization was the best Addition By Subtraction move this team made (though you won’t hear that from me!).

What did we do to replace these veterans? Well, obviously, we’re stacking the roster with younger players! It’s what the Mariners – as a rebuilding team – are SUPPOSED to do! So, please, GET OFF MY ASS; I’m not complaining about any of this! I’m just writing words. And, in the context of this premise – Can the Mariners win over 24.5 games? – I’m going to contend that everything they’ve done to date points to the fact that no, they cannot.

Younger players are unpredictable … but you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen anyway. Look at me, I’m doing it right now! They’re going to struggle, because that’s what they do. They’re going to look great for a while, then they’re going to slump for a while; some might rebound and parlay that into success in 2021 and beyond, others will flame out and never make any positive impact for this organization.

As excited as I am for Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Austin Nola, and maybe J.P. Crawford (wait, I’m maybe excited about J.P. Crawford? What does that even mean?), I don’t think we can count on them to be anything close to consistent (except for “consistently bad” which is always on the table when you’re talking about the Mariners). And those guys (along with Kyle Seager, who showed he still has something left in the tank last year) are probably going to be the BEST guys on this team! Everyone else, I expect to be pretty mediocre at best, with a decent number of total flameouts headed our way.

I still expect the bullpen to be a disaster, with a good chance that it will be significantly worse than it was in 2019. The rotation could be interesting, though. Marco Gonzales should still be the best pitcher on this team (I would hope this is the last year we’re able to say that). Kendall Graveman – who is slotting to be the #4 starter as we head into the regular season this weekend – might be a legitimate stud if he can stay healthy! Taijuan Walker – our #2 guy at the moment – I’m less jazzed about, but his bulldog mentality should keep this team in plenty of games. I’m also starting to be really worried about Yusei Kikuchi, as I don’t believe he’s fully accepted his re-worked mechanics, and will start tinkering again at the first sign of trouble. Then, there’s Sheffield and Dunn, the young upstarts who will be getting their first legitimate shots at big league action. Like the younger hitting prospects, they too will struggle at times (and when they struggle, BOY will they struggle!).

All of that points to the smartest money being bet on the Mariners winning UNDER 24.5 games in 2020. And, that doesn’t even factor in the very real possibility that COVID-19 takes a significant turn for the worse and the league is forced to shut down. I don’t know what that does for betting purposes, but I think all of us nonbelievers would have a great claim to our winnings in that scenario. I mean, if the season were to be canceled prematurely … did they or did they not win fewer than the listed number of games that I shorted?

The 2020 Taylor Family Farm has never been in more secure hands! I’m betting the whole thing on the Mariners being the losers I know they can be! Don’t let me down, fellas!

Look, I Get It, But You Just Can’t Call Jarred Kelenic Up To The Major Leagues Right Now

The simple answer is the most appropriate one: if Jarred Kelenic were to start this season with the Seattle Mariners – and not on that famed Taxi Squad down in Tacoma – the M’s would only have control over him through the 2025 season; whereas, if we hold off until a month into the 2021 season, the M’s would have control over him through 2027. That’s according to the terrific article by Larry Stone in today’s Seattle Times, and that’s all you really need to know.

Oh yeah, sure, there are other reasons. Some might call them excuses. Some might call them bullshit. Certainly, Kelenic doesn’t have a lot of minor league experience. Certainly, he’s not even 21 years old until tomorrow. Certainly, if he comes up here and struggles, the ramifications on his confidence can be brutal to be sent down and called back up multiple times. But, how is that any different than if he comes up to Seattle in May of 2021 and struggles?

It’s entirely financial. And, for as much as I’d love to get a look at him right this very season, I have to agree. This is the system Major League Baseball has set in place! There’s no salary cap. There’s no limit to how high baseball contracts can soar. There’s seemingly no end to albatross contracts that can cripple a franchise when the player starts to decline. Teams need to take every advantage they’ve left for themselves to try to win within this system. You could just as easily make the argument that bringing him up to the bigs now would be BETTER for his development, because he’d be going up against real Major League pitching in a season that’s largely meaningless (as opposed to pretend games against other young prospects in his own organization).

But, the bottom line is, if Kelenic is as game-changingly great as we all think he MIGHT be? Then we’re going to want to have that team control over him through the 2027 season. To keep the team’s salary down as much as possible for as long as possible (in hopes that we’re able to effectively build up this team around him with higher-priced studs), and/or to use as a negotiating tactic if-and-when we attempt to extend him on a long-term deal. Because if he IS as great as advertised, then we’re certainly going to want him around for the bulk/entirety of his professional career!

I think for that reason alone it’s worth waiting. Because, again, the Mariners in 2020 are going NOWHERE. The Mariners in 2021 are probably going nowhere as well.

But, in 2022? When he’s had five months to get acclimated to the big league game? Along with some of our other key prospects? Now we might be talking about something officially interesting. For my short-term interests, it’s not ideal. But long-term, it’s what has to be done.

More patience. Great. As if we haven’t been patient enough already!

Kyle Lewis Has Dumps Like A Truck Truck Truck

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about Kyle Lewis when the Mariners originally drafted him. This was back in 2016; have you taken a trip down Memory Lane when it comes to our first round draft picks? I didn’t think it was POSSIBLE for this team to select anyone who’s worth a damn!

Leading up to the Lewis selection, previous GM Jack Zduriencik made eight first round picks across six drafts. They ended up being:

  • Dustin Ackley (2009) – Bust
  • Nick Franklin (2009) – Bust
  • Steven Baron (2009) – Nobody
  • Taijuan Walker (2010) – Just Okay Starting Pitcher
  • Danny Hultzen (2011) – Injury Bust
  • Mike Zunino (2012) – Human Strikeout Machine
  • D.J. Peterson (2013) – Bust
  • Alex Jackson (2014) – Currently a fringe Major Leaguer with the Braves (also probably a Bust)

That was, not for nothing, coming on the heels of the Bill Bavasi regime, which saw us select the following five first rounders across four drafts:

  • Jeff Clement (2005) – Bust
  • Brandon Morrow (2006) – Rushed to the Majors, dicked around between being a starter and a bullpen arm, had great potential but ultimately never panned out in Seattle (also selected him over local kid and future 2-time Cy Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum)
  • Phillippe Aumont (2007) – Bust
  • Matt Mangini (2007) – Who?
  • Josh Fields (2008) – Sigh

So, you know, after that run of drafting incompetence, why should I have had confidence that the Mariners would EVER be able to pull their heads out of their asses? Kyle Lewis could’ve been Alex Jackson 2.0 for all I knew!

Then, in his very first season in the minors, he blew out his knee. Even though he’d only played in 30 games as a rookie, he showed great promise, so OF COURSE he had to suffer a devastating injury that really set him back for most of the next two years! He slowly climbed the ladder in 2017 & 2018, but mostly struggled and couldn’t get past the AA level.

Then, last year, returning to AA, he started to make good on that earlier promise. He showed enough improvement that the Mariners called him up in September to take a look at him. He not only Didn’t Disappoint, he blew the roof off the fucking stadium!

He hit 6 homers and 5 doubles across 18 games, with 13 RBI, including a homer a day in his first three games as a Major Leaguer. He cooled off just a tad over the last week of the season – to lower that batting average closer to his usual level – but the damage was done. On a bad team looking to rebuild through its own homegrown prospects, Kyle Lewis had the inside track to earn a starting job in 2020 (so long as he, you know, didn’t shit the bed in Spring Training … or Summer Camp, as whatever it is this thing we’re doing here is being called).

Much like his torrid September last year, Kyle Lewis has gotten off to just as hot of a start this month, hitting three homers in two intrasquad games at Safeco Field over the last few days. Let me be far from the first person to note the extremely small sample size, and provide the usual warning of not taking these games too seriously (they don’t count in the standings, guys are still building up their throwing arms and yadda yadda yadda), but shit man, how can you NOT get excited for this kid?! These kinds of explosions are what All Stars are made of! It’s too early to start working on his Hall of Fame bust, but we could be looking at a cornerstone of the next Great Mariners Outfield! When you factor in our two seemingly Can’t Miss prospects in Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic (the top two rated guys in the Mariners’ farm system, and consensus Top 20 prospects across the entire Major Leagues), I mean, this is it! This is your outfield! By 2022, these three guys are going to be destroying everything in their paths! Just slot them in anywhere from 2-5 in the batting lineup and let’s fucking go!

My only concern – because I can’t help it, it’s a sickness with me – has to do with the Mariners ultimately figuring out their pitching issues. Kyle Lewis is great. Evan White – drafted in the first round in 2017 – is already locked in with the big ballclub and getting his first Major League action in 2020; he seems like he’ll be fine. But, these last three first round draft picks – all starting pitchers – on top of all the other draftees and trade acquisitions we’ve made to bolster our staff NEED to pan out! Because the last thing we need around here is another desperate General Manager with an itchy trade finger, looking to ship out one of our top-line outfielders to shore up a problem they’ve been bungling for years!

I know it’s hard to preach patience when you’re talking about the Mariners; when you’re talking about a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001; when you’re talking about a team that has never won an American League pennant. But, we just CAN’T screw this up! I don’t ask for a lot, but if we could just have this one elite set of outfielders intact, it would do a lot for my own personal morale. Thank you and goodnight.

The Mariners Have A Schedule

The 2020 season officially starts on Friday, July 24th down in Houston. LET’S GO!!!

Fittingly, we kick things off with 20 games in 20 days. Then an off-day, then 10 more games, another off-day, followed by 16 more games. For those doing the math, that’s 46 games in the first 48 days, which means for NO REASON WHATSOEVER, the Mariners have four days off in the last two and a half weeks. Immediately following that initial 46-game blitzkrieg, we have an off-day, a 3-game series, an off-day, a 2-game series, ANOTHER off-day (smack dab in the middle of a homestand, no less), six more games, one more off-day, and a final 3-game set on the road to close out the season.

Why can’t baseball just be normal? Why can’t we have normal schedules, uniformly, across the entire league? There are six off-days built into this 60-game season; there’s a simple solution here. Play two weeks straight, then have an off-day once a week – the same day, every week – and finally wrap up the season with another two weeks’ worth of games. I mean, it’s not rocket science! Some dummy with a laptop just cracked the code!

An interesting wrinkle to how this season shakes out is the fact that we play every team in our division ten times. You might think – in an attempt to be fair, and maybe to cut down on travel – they would institute 5-game series for each of these. Instead, we’re stuck with the usual 3-game or 4-game sets, which leads to an imbalance. Here’s he breakdown among our A.L. West opponents:

  • Astros: 7 road games, 3 home games
  • Angels: 7 road games, 3 home games
  • Athletics: 3 road games, 7 home games
  • Rangers: 3 road games, 7 home games

I mean, forgetting for a moment that 5-game series make the most sense in this scenario, but why aren’t the two road trips to Houston and Anaheim – for instance – both 3-game sets (with the lone homestand a 4-gamer)? It boggles the mind!

To break up the monotony, we get to play 20 games against the N.L. West, under the usual routine of 2-game and 3-game series. Here’s the breakdown, for funsies:

  • Rockies: 3 home games
  • Dodgers: 2 road games, 2 home games
  • Padres: 3 road games, 3 home games
  • Giants: 2 road games, 2 home games
  • Diamondbacks: 3 road games

I don’t really have much to say about this part, other than it’s unfortunate we get saddled with the Dodgers for a fourth game, since they’re a terrific team. But, what can you do?

July is a road game-heavy eight days, obviously. August is split pretty evenly between the road and home. Which makes September not only our most restful month, but severely home game-heavy. This might be an ideal schedule for a great team looking to do great things in the playoffs, but for an inexperienced/bad team like the Mariners, it just seems to be needlessly cruel. We’ll get chewed apart over the first month of the season, and spend the last month languishing in last place, with lots of extra time to sit around and dwell on how we’re so terrible.

But, on the bright side, we’ve got baseball! Finally! I’m going to be counting down the days these next three weeks until an actual live sporting event I give a care about returns to my television screen! Things are looking up, even though *checks calendar* it’s after the 4th of July and we’re still wallowing in perpetually gloomy weather. WHAT GIVES?!

WE HAD A DEAL, SEATTLE! YOU SUCK THROUGH JUNE AND COME JULY 5TH YOU GIVE US WHAT WE NEED!

That’s it, I’m writing my congressman. This aggression will not stand.