My 2-Part Mariners Preview: My Expectations For 2018

Wish in one hand, shit in the other.  You get the idea.

And so here we are, Opening Day.  We’re all overflowing with optimism.  Well, not all of us.  Super annoying baseball fans are overflowing with optimism, but what do they know?  They’re just excited baseball’s back, as if it’s not the longest death march every fucking year.  Six months of this shit, plus a month of playoffs (or, hell, maybe more).  It starts today and lasts the rest of our fucking lives.

You want my opinion on the 2018 season?  MOOD.

I dunno, I feel like I’ve written this same exact fucking preview every year for the last decade.  Honestly, I can see this season going one of two ways:  either the Mariners do shock the world and break the playoff-less streak, or they completely and totally fall apart and end up with a Top 5 draft pick next year.  I don’t think there’s a middle-ground, at all.  And, if I were a betting man, I’d bet the ol’ farm on the latter.

So, let’s get into it.  Let’s talk about the plan; the bundle of twine and duct tape holding the season together.  Let’s see how Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais try to MacGyver their way to contention.

The Rotation

  • Felix Hernandez
  • James Paxton
  • Mike Leake
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Erasmo Ramirez
  • Ariel Miranda
  • Andrew Moore
  • Rob Whalen
  • Chase De Jong
  • Wade LeBlanc
  • Hisashi Iwakuma?

Normally, I just hit you with a 5-man rotation (in this case, the top five names, whenever Ramirez gets healthy), but why bother stopping there?  Ramirez is ALREADY injured, and while they say they won’t need the fifth spot in the rotation until April 11th or some damn thing, you know he won’t be healthy by then, so that puts Ariel Miranda (blessedly starting the season in Tacoma, where he belongs) in line for at least one start.  Quite frankly, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if he’s called up sooner than April 11th because someone ELSE got injured.  I’m looking at Felix, I’m looking at Paxton, I’m looking at Marco Gonzales.  Pick your poison!

And believe me, they’re all poison.  I’d start aligning your expectations with mine pretty soon, because there’s no saving this rotation.  It’s abysmal.  Felix is not the Felix of old and he’s never going to be.  He’s going to give up annoying dingers with his nothing fastball, he’s going to walk a ton of guys because hitters have been told to lay off the changeup, and he’ll kinda sorta keep the Mariners in a lot of games, but only if the offense comes to play.

Paxton is great, but obviously can’t stay healthy and never will.  It’s always some damn thing, and the saving grace has always been that it’s never anything really serious.  It’s never a bad shoulder or elbow injury … but you know they’re coming.  It’s only a matter of time.  And, when those injuries hit, his career is pretty much over.  Maybe just rent property in the Maple Grove, don’t buy.

I like the IDEA of Mike Leake more than I think I like the actual pitcher.  I think he’s just okay, but far from special.  He’ll be like Felix in a different way; he’ll probably keep this team in a lot of games (again, if the offense shows up), but he’s rarely going to wow you with his stuff or blow other teams away.

I don’t even really like the idea of Marco Gonzales, much less the actual pitcher.  I think it was a bust of a trade that brought him here, I think he’s only in the rotation because he’s out of minor league options, and while he had a good Spring Training, we all know that means nothing.  These types of pitchers (go ahead and throw Erasmo Ramirez into the mix – who had a great stretch of starts last year, but don’t expect THAT to last), who are just gifted a spot on a 25-man roster due to being out of options, RARELY end up panning out.  If they were worth a damn, they would’ve solidified their status as bona fide Major Leaguers a long time ago.  What are the odds they manage to put it all together – COINCIDENTALLY – the same year they run out of minor league options?  You see my point.

The rest of those guys are just guys.  Iwakuma will never pitch in the Major Leagues again.  Wade LeBlanc has been brought in to be a long reliever, but I could see him getting a spot start or two.  Andrew Moore sucked last year, and didn’t really wow anyone with his Spring.  Chase De Jong is just a guy.  And, while Rob Whalen turned some heads (until his disaster of a final start back on the 18th), he also appears to be just a guy.

The plan with this rotation is to try and limit their innings to 5-6 per start, in the hopes of keeping guys fresh and healthy, and limit the damage opposing offenses can do the third & fourth times through a lineup.  So, the day-to-day management on Servais’ shoulders is going to be pretty hefty.  That’s also going to put a high burden on the bullpen to pick up the slack.  And, since Major League Baseball has stubbornly refused to expand gameday rosters beyond 25 players (in spite of the fact that the game is obviously going in this direction, and therefore teams will need more arms than ever before), that either means over-working your ‘pen, playing with a smaller bench (as it is, there’s usually room for no more than 4 players on your bench, and 1 of those guys has to be a backup catcher), or running guys back and forth from Tacoma to Seattle.  The problem, of course, is when too many starters have too many games in a row where they’re not pitching enough innings, the bullpen is gassed, there aren’t any off-days, there aren’t any guys to bring up from Tacoma, and you’re essentially throwing games away because you just need the starter to pick the team up, regardless of how terrible he is.  With a team like this Mariners team – that often finds itself (in recent seasons) only a handful of games out of the playoffs – they can ill-afford to just throw games away.  Sure, it’s a marathon and all that, but it’s a marathon that ultimately comes down to a couple seconds at the finish line.

I think the Mariners are doing the best with what they have, and the plan is sound in my mind.  But, the pitchers just aren’t good.  And the ones that are good aren’t reliable.  It’s easy for me to see a similar deluge of injuries happening this year, and the whole season just falling apart.

The Bullpen

  • Edwin Diaz
  • Juan Nicasio
  • Nick Vincent
  • James Pazos
  • Marc Rzepczynski
  • Dan Altavilla
  • Casey Lawrence
  • Wade LeBlanc

There are obviously a number of guys starting out in Tacoma, so I’ll stick with the Opening Day 8 for the time being.  Right off the bat, the Mariners lost David Phelps for the season, as I believe he’s going in for Tommy John surgery.  That was going to be a huge part of our late-inning dominance.  Recall we just traded a bunch of prospects to the Marlins for his services before the deadline last year, where he made all of 10 appearances before being shut down with an injury.  Now, he’s out for all of 2018, and this is the final year of his deal before he’s a free agent.  So, not only did we throw a bunch of prospects away, but we wasted $5.5 million dollars this year, just so he can go out next year and pitch for somebody else.  Why would he stay?  Why would the Mariners commit to spending more money on him?  This is Drew Smyly all over again.  GREAT TRADE DIPOTO!

As for the guys who are here, there’s a lot to like about Edwin Diaz and Juan Nicasio.  But, of course, when will Diaz turn back into a pumpkin?  All our other closers – dating back to, I want to say, Kaz Sasaki – have had 1-2 good years before falling apart.  Well, Diaz has been up here for around 1.5 years, so it’s time for him to suck.  As for Nicasio, I’m getting a real Joaquin Benoit vibe.  Remember that guy?  He was around forever, never got hurt, was always a reliable 8th inning guy?  Then, when he donned a Mariners jersey, he was hurt within the first month of the season?  I’m just saying, let’s see the guy do something for a couple months before we get too excited.

Nick Vincent was a workhorse and our most reliable pitcher in 2017.  Of course, he got tuckered out in September, due to all the overuse, so they took it easy on him this Spring.  Yeah, I feel like that’s a bad sign.  If he’s not an arm injury waiting to happen, he’s certainly a terrible pitching season waiting to happen.  Pass.

Lefties Pazos and Scrabble should be okay, but you never know.  Tony Zych was finally shit-canned because he can’t stay healthy; that’s a bummer.  I loved his stuff and thought he had really dominant potential.  In his place, Altavilla has won a job.  He was all over the place last year, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him settle down and have a good year.  Might take a while for this team to realize how much better he is than someone like Vincent (who I expect to struggle early and often), but they’ll probably have no choice but to use Altavilla in some high-leverage situations before too long.

Then, we’ve got a couple of long relievers.  The Mariners brought in Wade LeBlanc, who I guess has been converted to relief?  He’s got no minor league options, so either he comes here and eats up innings like a champ, or he’s cut.  The problem with this signing is, if he’s not absolutely terrific, I have a hard time seeing him stick on the 25-man roster.  This team likes to bring guys up from Tacoma far too often, and needs relievers with minor league options so they can dick them around.  That’s why I like the chances of someone like Casey Lawrence (who I assume still has options, but I refuse to go online to research).  Lawrence had a bonzer Spring Training and essentially came out of nowhere to win a job in the Bigs (he was a starter last year, brought up & down a few times when guys got injured, but wasn’t anything special).  I assume if he does well, he’ll STILL be sent back and forth to and from Tacoma, because Mariners gonna Mariners.

Having a couple of innings-eaters in your bullpen is going to be critical, so here’s hoping those guys manage to keep us in enough games to be relevant.  But, the more of our back-end of the bullpen guys get injured or otherwise have terrible years, the higher the chances this entire house of cards comes crashing down.  To make the playoffs, the Mariners will need to have one of the 5 best bullpens in the American League (maybe even Top 3), to compensate for that disaster of a starting rotation.  Do these guys inspire that sort of confidence?  I gotta say, replacing David Phelps with Wade LeBlanc is a BAD start to this season that’s only going to get worse from here.

The Everyday Players

  1. Dee Gordon (CF)
  2. Jean Segura (SS)
  3. Robinson Cano (2B)
  4. Nelson Cruz (DH)
  5. Kyle Seager (3B)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ryon Healy (1B)
  8. Mike Zunino (C)
  9. Ichiro (LF)
  • Mike Marjama (C)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B)
  • Guillermo Heredia (OF)
  • Andrew Romine (INF)
  • Ben Gamel (OF) – DL
  • Taylor Motter (OF/INF) – Tacoma

I like that lineup.  I like it a lot more with Ben Gamel in the fold, but we probably won’t see him at his best for a while.

I expect Gordon to be fine defensively, but I do expect him to struggle at the plate.  That’ll be rough.  I think Segura will be fine.  I think Cano will be okay (I think we’re still in the gradual stage of his decline; I don’t believe the cliff is here yet).  I think Cruz will have his ups and downs (I could see him succumbing more to injury this year than his past 4 years combined).  Kyle Seager is what he is and I’m going to stop trying to wish into existence another level to his game.  I think Hangier will be good when healthy, but again I think he’ll rarely be healthy.  I think Healy is sort of a nothing guy who might have a few good games here and there, but for the most part will be mediocre.  I think Zunino will be great!  I like him to make a big jump in his game!  Not only will he NOT be sent down to Tacoma to work on his swing, but I think he’ll be in the conversation for the All Star Game (and might even make the team as a backup).  As for Ichiro, I can only see it ending badly.  Final year with Griffey bad.  Like, waived in the first month or two bad.  He’s got no power, he’s down in speed, he had pretty much no Spring Training, and he’s coming off of a minor injury.  Just seems like a recipe for immediate disaster.

I’m interested to see what Marjama brings; I have no opinion one way or the other on what his season will be like.  Vogelbach is the story of Spring Training, but that won’t last.  He won’t get much in the way of playing time, and when he does get a start, he won’t make the most of his opportunities.  Heredia is a nice bench outfielder; hope he’s fully healthy.  Romine is a guy; I could see him getting waived in favor of Motter (who also is just a guy, but a younger, cheaper guy).

This season will go down the toilet in a hurry if guys like Cano, Cruz, and Seager all struggle.  I like Segura to hit, but I could see his power continue to be limited by Safeco and this cold Seattle weather.  And, of course, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that younger guys like Haniger and Zunino do struggle at the plate (injuries aside) and this team is left scrambling.  For the most part, I believe the offense will be okay, and I don’t think ALL those bad things will happen, but I don’t think the offense is good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching.  Frankly, I don’t think ANY offense would be good enough to compensate for the shitty pitching on this team.

The last couple times the Mariners really bottomed out, we went 61-101 (in 2008 & 2010).  I could see something around that number yet again.  My prediction?

65-97

The 2018 Seattle Mariners:  Feel The Excitement It’s Faaaaannnn-Tastic Suck Our Dicks, You’re Just Here For The Beer & Fried Crickets Anyway!