The Mariners Have Been Smoked Out Of Seattle; Things Are Clearly Going Great Right Now

We got that doubleheader in against the A’s on Monday – in far-less than ideal conditions, smokewise – but with the air quality failing to improve, MLB made the probably-smart decision to move the 2-game series against the Giants to San Francisco, where I guess things have improved dramatically since the last time we played them (on September 9th) and the sky made it look like they were on Mars. That pushed things back to where our Tuesday/Wednesday do-si-do this week became a Wednesday/Thursday whathaveyou, which necessitated a flip-flopping of my Seahawks preview post and this Mariners post-series post, so what I’m REALLY getting at is this whole thing is a huge inconvenience to me above everyone else!

I am, of course, kidding. The smoke in the Pacific Northwest continues to be a huge dumpster fire to the point that even our 3-game home series against the Padres had to be moved to San Diego this weekend. Between these five games, and the additional make-up game against the A’s that’s already been tacked onto our season-ending series in Oakland, that’s at least six home games the Mariners will have had to play on the road this year. So, on top of being a rebuilding team that has improbably found itself on the fringe of playoff contention in spite of trades shedding the roster of a couple of our best guys, we’re saddled with a 24/36 home/road split. If we figure out some way to make the post-season with all of this going against us, then truly there is a higher power who is improbably a Mariners fan (to whom I would like to ask: WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU BEEN THE LAST 20 YEARS?!).

Anyhoozle, the Mariners were just beaten two more times by the Giants, so I’m pretty glad to be the fuck away from THAT team for a while.

Wednesday’s 9-3 defeat was pretty demoralizing. Ljay Newsome – fresh off of a shortened start when he was hit in the pitching hand by a line drive – was clearly rusty, giving up 5 runs in 3 innings. Erik Swanson was recently called back up – fresh off of either being demoted for sucking, or maybe an injury, I forget/don’t care – and clearly hasn’t learned how to pitch since he was with the Mariners last, giving up 3 more runs (2 earned) in 1/3 of an inning. There was some okay bullpen work beyond that, but the damage was done. Kyle Lewis had a couple hits in this one, but he’s been pretty cold of late, with his batting average dipping below .300. I hope his Rookie of the Year chances aren’t in jeopardy!

Thursday’s 6-4 defeat was demoralizing in a completely different way. After five innings, the Mariners held a 4-1 lead (scoring all of our runs in the second, as we chased the Giants’ starter from the game), but proceeded to slowly, but surely, give it all away. Nick Margevicius was spectacular through five, but he couldn’t get a single out in the sixth inning, and two more runs were allowed in the process. Things were still in okay shape, with Kendall Graveman coming in for the seventh inning. But, he just didn’t have it in this one, giving up three more runs while getting only two outs. It’s been a while since we’ve had a prolonged slump from our bullpen, but we appear to be in the throes of one right now, and it’s not much fun.

Our only chance to make the playoffs seems to be as the A.L. West’s second place team, as the Wild Card looks to be out of reach. The Cheating Astros were working with us on that goal by losing a bunch of games, but they have the easiest remaining schedule in all of baseball the rest of the way, while I believe the Mariners have one of the hardest. We currently sit three games behind Houston, which is really four games, because they own the tiebreaker in the head-to-head matchup already.

It’s not looking likely that we break the streak, is my point. As I mentioned, we have three more games down in San Diego over the weekend. If we can somehow get through that without losing any more ground on the Astros, then we have a three-game set against Houston that we SHOULD be able to play in Seattle next week! If we hold serve in San Diego, and sweep the Astros next week, that would put us in a dead heat; from there we’d have four games down in Oakland to try to make up one game’s worth of ground against Houston to overtake them.

I apologize if you wasted your time reading the previous paragraph, because none of that is EVER going to happen. My hunch is: we’ll continue to spiral this weekend, and be officially eliminated at home in Seattle next week, making our final series in Oakland totally meaningless.

Which brings us back to draft positioning! We’re 22-28 right now. That puts us squarely in the 10th spot in the draft next year. I don’t want to alarm you, but given our difficult schedule, we have a VERY legitimate opportunity to leapfrog anywhere from 4 to 8 teams. To get to the #2 overall draft position, we’re only four games separated from the Texas Rangers! Obviously, they’re terrible, but you never know!

The floor is the limit, everyone!

Alas, The Mariners Have No More Games Against The Inept Rangers Left To Play

The Mariners finished the 10-game season set against the Rangers with an 8-2 record, thanks to the 4-game sweep over Labor Day weekend. Ever since the disasterous Rangers/Astros/Dodgers road trip where we went 2-8, the Mariners have won 11 out of 14, and were quite close to winning two more in that stretch! That brings us up to a 19-22 record, good for third in the A.L. West and, not for nothing, but also DANGEROUSLY close to actual playoff contention!

No joke, we’re closer to second place in the division (2 games) than we are fourth place (2.5 games), and don’t forget that the top two teams in every division advance to the playoffs (plus two wild card teams per conference).

Now, of course, let’s not go crazy. The Rangers are BAD. But, what I think is pretty entertaining is the fact that the Mariners … might not be bad? I’m also highly amused that we’re in the midst of a 6-game winning streak and this is mostly AFTER the Mariners made all of their trade deadline deals. Sure, losing Taijuan Walker and Austin Nola doesn’t help, but everyone else seems to be addition by subtraction. Let’s look back fondly at the last four days, before reality comes crashing down again as we head to San Francisco to play the Giants over the next couple days.

After our series against the A’s was COVID-ed out, you’d be reasonable in thinking the M’s might be a little rusty or otherwise lacking in focus. But, Yusei Kikuchi brought his lunch pail in this one, going 6 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits (0 walks) with 7 strikeouts. It was a highly-effective performance (against, again, a bad Rangers offense). Dylan Moore, back from the IL, has been on fire; he had 2 hits in this one. Evan White also had 2 hits (including a double) and 2 walks, knocking in 2. And J.P. Crawford mashed a 3-run home run to salt this one away late. The Mariners were up 6-1 going into the ninth inning, when the Rangers made it marginally interesting, but they still lost by three runs.

The quality pitching continued for the Mariners on Saturday, as Justus Sheffield went 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 8 hits & 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts. Dylan Moore had another hit in this one. Newcomer Ty France has had a solid start to his Mariners career, with two hits of his own (he has 4 hits and 4 RBI since coming over in the trade with San Diego). There were lots of clutch hits up and down the lineup, though, as the M’s were 5 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Also of note is that Yohan Ramirez notched his second save of his young Major League career, locking down a 5-3 victory.

Justin Dunn couldn’t let the Quality Start train fall off the tracks; on Sunday he managed 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 4 walks, with 4 strikeouts, after really struggling through the first two innings. This was a game where the offense did just enough in nailing a 4-3 win. Kyle Seager led the way with 2 hits (including a 2-run home run in the first), and Kyle Lewis had a solo bomb. Kendall Graveman made his second appearance of the weekend in this one, since returning from the IL. He’ll be a bullpen guy the rest of the way due to a neck injury that’s preventing him from getting deep into games. He also just might be a bullpen guy forever, because he seems perfectly suited for this role. He can touch 99 miles per hour with his fastball, he has tons of movement on his pitches, and he’s an unflappable veteran who should be good in these pressure-packed moments. Honestly, I’d love to see him as our 7th or 8th inning guy exclusively next year.

Finally, on Labor Day, Marco Gonzales continues to be master of his domain (I’m using that phrase correctly, right? He doesn’t jack off?). He’s also a really great baseball pitcher! 7 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits (0 walks) with 7 strikeouts. He is just a marvel to watch out there. I figured he could turn himself into a decent #3 or MAYBE a #2 if he really worked at his craft, but he is legitimately a borderline ace right now. At this point, I’m surprised when he’s NOT going at least 7 innings and giving up 2 runs or less. Certainly, in three of his last four starts, he’s gone 23 innings and given up just 4 runs. His ERA now sits at 3.02 and he’s worked his way up to a 5-2 record on the season. The only blemish in this 8-4 victory came in the ninth inning, when Aaron Fletcher was handed a soft landing of sorts with a 6-run lead. He got one out while giving up a run and leaving the bases loaded. Yohan Ramirez had to enter in this improbable save-situation and try not to give up the farm. He got a quick out on a sacrifice fly, walked the bases loaded again, but got the final batter to foul out to end it, picking up his third career save in the process. Big moment for the kid!

Look, I know it’s dumb to dream of the playoffs now, especially when the Astros still get to play the Rangers a whopping seven times, but I just think it’s remarkable that we’re in this position at all. The starting pitching – particularly from the younger guys, but really across the board – has been better than I ever could’ve imagined. The bullpen has been a struggle to watch, but I would argue our very worst offenders (save Aaron Fletcher, for now) are off the team and out of the organization entirely.

What has obviously impressed me the most has been the hitting. The everyday players. Kyle Lewis has cooled off considerably since his red-hot start, but he’s still finding ways to contribute and should be a leading Rookie of the Year candidate. Kyle Seager has been flat-out fun to watch! He’s the kind of guy you love to have leading a new crop of youngsters, as he goes about his business the way you hope EVERY player on your team would. J.P. Crawford is still streaky as all get-out, and hasn’t quite mastered the power element of his bat, but his ability to get on base hasn’t wavered all year; with his defensive ability up the middle, I’ll take it. Evan White is still digging himself out of a pretty deep hole to start his Major League career, but he’s been MUCH improved over the last 2-3 weeks. He doesn’t look lost at the plate, and his power is insane when he’s able to connect.

The real fun has come from the fringes. Austin Nola obviously turned himself into an All Star and was traded for a bounty. Dylan Moore appears to be right on his tail, hitting .293/.369/.565 with 7 doubles and 6 homers; that’s supposed to be your utility outfielder! He was this scrawny-looking Quad-A guy last year who was barely hitting over .200 across 113 games! Then, there was Sam Haggerty (before he just went on the IL), who came out of nowhere to hit like a maniac. And even Jose Marmolejos has been red-hot since being called back up from the minors! His defense isn’t any sort of sight to behold, but he’s more than making up for it with his power bat!

The point is, I expected the offense to struggle a lot more than they have this year. Of course, there’s still about three weeks left to go, so anything can happen.

Counterpoint: there’s still about three weeks left to go, so anything can happen! We have ten games against National League opponents (who don’t get to see us too often, and therefore aren’t used to beating up on us like the American League has). We have three games – at home – against the Astros (our rivals for one of those playoff spots), and six games against the A’s (who are leading the division at the moment, but are long overdue for a cool-off period).

If the Mariners are worthy of making the playoffs, they’ll figure out how to overcome this two-game deficit. If they’re not, then it wasn’t meant to be. Either way, it won’t change my excitement level for 2021 one iota. Better days are ahead, my friends! I can feel it!

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!

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 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!

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!

The Mariners Have Their 60-Man Roster

It’s cool to be talking about baseball again. This time next month, we’ll be knee-deep in our delusion that “anything can happen in a 60-game season” and that “crazier things have happened”, so without further ado, why not get things kickstarted? Get ahead of this early, before key guys start succumbing to random injuries and we have to be reminded that – oh yeah – these are still the Mariners.

With all of the focus on the M’s replenishing their farm system’s starting pitching corps through the draft in the last few years, it’s easy to forget that there are some young, semi-interesting arms at the Major League level right now! Word on the street is, the Mariners will be going with a 6-man rotation in the early going. And I find all of these guys pretty compelling, for what they are, even if I have my doubts that few of them will still be around on the next hypothetical great Mariners team.

Marco Gonzales returns as your de facto Ace. Look, I’m on the record with my opinion about Marco: he’s fine. He’s nobody’s ace, but he’s likable, he works hard, he’s the kind of quality leader this team DESPERATELY needs right now (given most of our best veterans of recent years are on other teams now), and he has a drive to continue striving for greatness. You could make the argument that the best is yet to come and part of me believes that, because with experience he’s going to continue to get smarter and learn new tricks of the trade to get guys out. But, his stuff is what it is. He’s got a low-90’s fastball with an improving change up. He’s more pitch-to-contact than he is a bat-misser; more Jamie Moyer than Randy Johnson, in other words. That has value! Don’t get me wrong, but it also comes with a ceiling that’s not very exciting. Steadiness isn’t exciting. Reliability and dependability aren’t sexy. But, they’re important. Even as they fly under the radar, these qualities bring warm comfort to fans who know what they’re getting out of someone like Marco Gonzales every 5-6 days. They might not win you any championships, but they’ll keep you in the discussion.

It’s going to be a big year for Yusei Kikuchi. He got his feet wet last year as a 28 year old rookie from Japan and had the growing pains you might’ve expected. With the proper adjustments in place, we’re going to see if he can make it work as a Major Leaguer. This will, by no means, make or break his career with the Mariners, but it would be a nice stepping stone towards his all-important 2021 season. That will REALLY determine if he’s going to be here long term (as, following that, the M’s will have the option to extend him to a team-friendly deal for the next four years). Ideally, he’ll get a jumpstart on that by really putting together a solid two months of play.

Next up, we’ve got a couple of reclamation projects in Taijuan Walker and Kendall Graveman. Walker is only 27 years old, but somehow feels like an aging veteran! He’s on a $2 million deal to see if he can rebuild his value after two EXTREMELY injury-plagued seasons. It sounds like he’s still got a mid-90’s fastball, which always plays; at this point it’s just a matter of staying healthy. Graveman, similarly, is on a cheap deal in 2020; he’s also coming off of two EXTREMELY injury-plagued seasons of his own. He’s more of an off-speed specialist than Walker, but he nevertheless has a lot going for him IF he can stay healthy. You’d probably expect the Mariners to run a 6-man starting rotation regardless, considering how weird this year has been so far, but employing both Walker and Graveman further necessitates this cautious approach. Even if it’s foolish to expect both of them to make it the entire two months, the hope is that they can at least make it a few weeks, to give the rest of the rotation some time to stretch out their arms.

Another reason to be thankful for the super-sized rotation is the uncertainty around two of our more mature young prospects: Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn. Sheffield was the cornerstone of the James Paxton deal with the Yankees and as soon as we got him it was like the value of a new car the minute you drive it off the lot. Such is the blessing and the curse of being a Yankees prospect: everyone overrates you … until the Yankees no longer want you, then you’re automatically damaged goods. On paper, Sheffield has the stuff that Aces are made of, but as someone who’s had issues with command as he’s raised through the minor leagues, people have started to question if he has that consistency you’re looking for. Considering he’s done everything you can ask of someone in the minors – on top of his 8 appearances in Seattle towards the end of last season – this was always going to be the first real look we had at Sheffield as a rotation piece. If anything, he might actually benefit from the season being shortened to two months, since there’s really very little pressure on his shoulders. The downside, of course, is that if he struggles, there’s less of an opportunity to turn around a slow start. Whereas, in a full season, if he’s bad in the first half (but turns it around in the second half), then at least you can make an argument there’s momentum as he heads into 2021. Let’s just cross our fingers and hope he kills it out of the gate; then he can start next year with his head held high.

As for Justin Dunn, he came over in the Cano/Diaz deal with the Mets. He often gets overshadowed by Jarred Kelenic (who looks to be a future superstar), but Dunn in his own right – if he pans out as a quality starter – could make that trade look even MORE lopsided in the Mariners’ favor than it already appears to be. We took it very cautious with him in his cup of coffee last year, employing him as one of those insufferable “openers” where he’d start the game, pitch an inning or two, and hand the ball off to the real starter of that particular game. That’s probably wise, since he has less minor league experience to speak of than Sheffield (particularly when you factor in he skipped the AAA level to get here). I’m going to be VERY curious to see what he does with a rotation slot this season, as his rapid ascent seems to have him on track as having an even higher ceiling than Sheffield! At this point, if one of these two guys pans out, that’s probably a huge victory for this organization. If both of them pitch well, then the sky just might be the limit.

As usual, I’m going to skip chatter about the bullpen, because I know not who these guys are (for the most part). Like last year, the bullpen figures to be the severe weak point of the Mariners, so don’t be shocked if you see more than your fair share of blown saves once again.

Let’s move on to the starting lineup. I’ll try to guess what that’s going to be, 1-9:

  1. Mallex Smith – CF
  2. Evan White – 1B
  3. Kyle Lewis – RF
  4. Kyle Seager – 3B
  5. Tom Murphy – C
  6. Dan Vogelbach – DH
  7. J.P. Crawford – SS
  8. Dee Gordon – 2B
  9. Jake Fraley/Braden Bishop – LF

I don’t have very strong convictions about this order, to be honest. Evan White feels like a 2-hole hitter. Kyle Lewis REALLY exploded in his September call-up last year. Seager and Murphy are your veteran middle-of-the-order guys for now. Vogey gets one more shot to lock down that DH spot and see if he has what it takes to hit consistently at the Major League level. The rest of these guys – Smith, Crawford, Gordon, Fraley, Bishop – I could see hitting anywhere in the bottom third or leadoff spot, depending on who’s hot and who’s pitching for the opposing team on any particular day. You also gotta figure Austin Nola will get plenty of play, both as our backup catcher, and as a utility player; he proved last year that his bat was too important to sit on a regular basis. Also, you figure Shed Long will see the field quite a bit as a Super Sub, all around the infield and corner outfield spots. With this year almost certainly being Gordon’s last in a Mariners uniform, if Long hits as we hope he does, he could take over the starting second baseman job come September (ideally, Gordon will start the year on fire and be traded by the end of August to a team who needs a quality leadoff hitter type).

The non-pitchers on the Mariners will be fun to watch, but they’re also going to be PAINFUL to endure. The combination of youth and lack of consistency will make for some exciting games where you’ll want to believe this team has what it takes, but then you’ll be smacked back down to Earth when you see this team get shut out on the regular. I would expect to see quite a bit of games where we’re being no-hit for an uncomfortable number of innings (and, I predict at least one time where we DO either get no-hit, or lord help us, have a perfect game put up on us).

I don’t have a lot to say about the prospects who figure to reside exclusively on the Taxi Squad, other than a pretty significant portion are there for development purposes only, and won’t play for the Mariners in 2020. As expected. Nevertheless, there are some in-betweeners who aren’t on the official 40-man roster, but who could see their numbers called if things shake out a certain way. So, I’ll talk about them as they come up. Rest assured, things never go according to plan in baseball. More than a few of the guys I’ve talked about above will fail to pan out for one reason or another. We just have to hope that SO MANY things don’t go wrong, to the point where we have to call up certain prospects a year or two before they’re ready (and before we’re ready to start counting their service time years).

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Mitch Haniger, who will start the year on the 45-day Injured List. Of course, as soon as I buy the guy’s jersey, he immediately falls apart; but of course that’s monstrous for me to say, because we’re talking about the man’s livelihood here! He’s had a lot of freaky health problems over the last calendar year, with multiple surgeries to rectify whatever core issues he’s got going on. The hope is we’ll see him at some point in September. Unless, of course, he keeps trying to push himself too hard and suffers further injuries. I’d suggest for him to just take it easy and come back healthier in 2021, but at this point I don’t think he can afford to! His final two Arbitration years are 2021 & 2022; the Mariners need to know what they’ve got in this guy. Whether he’s our Right Fielder of the Future, or whether he’s trade bait to make him someone else’s injury risk. Because, not for nothing, but his replacements are coming. We have Kyle Lewis on the roster right now, with two VERY highly-rated prospects set to join the Mariners as early as next year (probably around mid-season). If Haniger is going to stave off his competition, he needs to put together at least a few weeks of competent play towards the end of this season, if nothing else to boost his confidence heading into an all-important 2021 campaign!

There’s Still Nothing Going On, So Let’s Look At The Mariners’ Roster (Part 2)

In case you missed it, this week’s been a little light on the content side of things. Sue me, there isn’t fuck-all going on. BUT! I did … well, I did a dive a couple days ago (I can’t, and frankly I won’t, call it a Deep Dive, because come on, I’ve been mailing in my Mariners fandom for the better part of a year now) on the position players of note for the hypothetical 2020 season.

If that half-assed effort floats your boat, then have I got quite the solo buttcheek for you now! You’d think, “Hey, he did the everyday players in the first part; I bet he’ll get around to all the pitchers today!” and you’d be partially-correct. Look, I’m not gonna lie to you, this bullpen. I mean, you could’ve picked a dozen names out of the phone book (those things still exist, right?) and slapped ’em down on a page with stock ballplayer photos and I wouldn’t know the difference! So, today we’re gonna stick with the starting rotation candidates, because just the thought of trying to learn about every single one of these fuckers is as exhausting as it is pointless (I say that because – if I stuck with the same categories as the previous post – they’d all belong in the Placeholders section; I have very little faith in any of them sticking around long-term).

For the record, I’m doing away with the categories entirely for the rest of this, because we’re really not dealing with a large number of humans. Okay, enough preamble, let’s do this thing; it’s Quarantine Friday and I’ve got a lot of twiddling my thumbs left to do!

Projected 2020 Rotation

  • Marco Gonzales (LHP)
  • Yusei Kikuchi (LHP)
  • Kendall Graveman (RHP)
  • Justus Sheffield (LHP)
  • Taijuan Walker (RHP)

It’s hard to predict the set order on this thing, because both of the righties are coming off of injuries, and so we don’t know how much the team wants to put on their plates right out of the box. If you numbered them 1-5 in a vacuum, you’d probably put Sheffield third because – as the top Major League-ready starting pitching prospect – he’s a virtual lock to make the team out of Spring Training, but I know how much managers like to split up their rotations so there aren’t too many lefties throwing in a row (and he feels like the safest bet to have his outings limited in both pitch counts and overall appearances, with this being his first real stab at the bigs).

The order, of course, makes no difference after the first week, and will ultimately get jumbled along the way with injuries, ineffectiveness, and other random events (like having a bunch of planned doubleheaders to cram in as many games as possible due to coronavirus delays), so let’s just start at the top and work our way down.

Marco Gonzales. He’s our ace again! Sigh. Listen, I like the guy. He’s a local kid, we got him for relatively cheap in that Cardinals trade, and he’s made pretty steady improvement since he came over in 2017. But, there’s an obvious ceiling here that we have to talk about every time we talk about him (even moreso when he’s the best pitcher in your starting rotation two years running). 2019 was his best year yet, and on any other (good) team he would’ve been a #3 or #4 starter. I won’t say that’s the best he’s capable of, but I also can’t guarantee he continues this (slightly) upward trajectory. If he figures out how increase his strikeout percentage (it actually went down from 2018 to 2019, 7.83 K/9 to 6.52 K/9) I could reasonably see his peak being as a #2; but he’s not an ace. You’re never going to be confident in handing him the ball in Game 1 of any playoff series, and I feel like as far as Eyeball Tests go, that’s all you really need. Just like you know porn when you see it, you know an Ace when you see it, and Marco Gonzales is that old photo of the navy guy kissing that nurse-looking lady on V-J Day in Times Square: it’ll get the job done in a pinch, but you REALLY need to use your imagination!

Yusei Kikuchi. As an elderly veteran rookie from Japan, he had a pretty rough start to his Major League career last year. It wasn’t a complete disaster, because I don’t think it would’ve been fair to put too many expectations on a guy put in that position: new team, new country, all new sets of players to pitch against – the best in the world – plus let’s face it, it’s not like the Mariners were too focused on Wins & Losses. In a rebuild, you just want your prospects to gain valuable experience, show signs of improvement, make adjustments as needed, and most importantly stay healthy. Kikuchi got that experience, and he managed to stay healthy, but I think the concern lies in the other two components: I don’t think he made all that much improvement as the season went along, and I think it was because he tinkered too much when he tried to make adjustments.

The Kikuchi talking points all Spring Traning long – before the world went to shit – was having him settle on one arm angle, one throwing motion, and make that his natural form by repeating it exactly. And, to his credit, reports were pretty positive for him. He accepted the criticism and learned from his first season, and it looks like we could be in for a nice rebound from him. Thankfully, as the M’s are still in rebuild mode, expectations for team success remain low in 2020. But, we REALLY need to see some significant signs of improvement out of Kikuchi if we expect to rely on him during the potential upswing.

Kendall Graveman. You might remember him from so many Oakland A’s teams. He hasn’t pitched a full Major League season since 2016 (indeed, he missed all of 2019 with arm injuries). I remember him being relatively impressive – and indeed he was the A’s Opening Day starter two years in a row – but he’s also not really someone you need to have high expectations for. He’s making $2 million this year, with a club option for 2021 at $3.5 million, which is totally reasonable. I actually really like it as a roll of the dice, because he’s still under 30 years old and if he does well, you’ve got a reliable rotation guy for the next two years at an insanely-low salary. If he gets re-injured or otherwise sucks, then what has he cost you, really?

Justus Sheffield. The Great Mariners Hope! We shipped James Paxton off to the Yankees for him – at the time, the best starter the Mariners had (when he was healthy) – when we started this whole rebuild thing, and of the starting pitchers we’ve since accumulated, Sheffield has the most promise to actually BE that Ace I’ve been talking about. He’s got a live fastball, he’s clearly Major League-ready after pitching in the minors since 2014, but he’s also a Yankees prospect that they willingly traded away (as an intelligently-run organization, they tend to keep the guys who look like the biggest locks to hit it big, while sending away guys who are overrated because they were Yankees prospects in the first place).

He started for the Mariners from late-August onward last year, and was spotty. There isn’t really anything you can hang your hat on with this guy just yet, but here we go! 2020 is the year where he’ll be given every opportunity to grow and learn and try to figure out how to be a Major League starter. Like Kikuchi, you don’t need him to be perfect, but the hope is he’s a better pitcher by season’s end than he is in the early going. How this truncated season will affect him remains to be seen, but considering none outside of the truly insane expect the Mariners to be contending in 2021 either, I think it’s fair to give him at least next year as well to really blossom into someone worthy of that #1 starter’s job.

Taijuan Walker. The move to bring back Walker on a 1-year, $2 million deal REALLY delighted me to no end! Like Graveman, he’s coming off of two SERIOUSLY injury-plagued seasons (making just one appearance in 2019 after only three in 2018), but he’s fully healthy and ready to re-start his career. It’s the perfect buy-low scenario, because again there’s no risk whatsoever, in money or in team reputation (which is in the gutter). Of course, Walker most likely won’t look like the guy we traded to Arizona a few years ago, but that’s what makes this move so interesting. Walker the fireballer was exciting, a real Ace prospect; but we don’t know what Walker the pitcher looks like. Can he finesse his way into a Major League career? He’s only 27 years old. Also, can he get some of that old juice he had back? I wouldn’t ever expect him to hit the upper 90’s on his fastball, but can he work in the 93-94 mph range? That would be truly great, not just for him but for the Mariners (assuming they’d want to extend him longterm if he succeeds this year).

Secondary Starting Prospects

  • Justin Dunn
  • Nestor Cortes
  • Wei-Yin Chen

I’m sure there are countless other options among the rotation candidates for the Tacoma Rainiers, but I’m going to stick to the guys listed on the official Mariners roster depth chart, which rolls eight-deep these days. So, if I left out your favorite prospect, I don’t care.

Justin Dunn. At 24-years old, and one of the more highly-rated prospects in the Mariners’ organization, I feel like the team is in no hurry to rush him to the bigs. He had a cup of coffee in Seattle last year, as a de facto Opener (starting in all four of his appearances, but going no more than 2.0 innings), and really only had one bad outing. I’m sure there’s a vocal segment of M’s fans clamoring for him to open 2020 in the Majors, but he hasn’t even thrown a single pitch in AAA for crying out loud! I’d like to see a little more seasoning on his arm before we start putting a whole trough of food on his plate. Nevertheless, the future looks seriously bright for this kid. If we do end up competing for stuff in 2022, Dunn and Sheffield will be big reasons why.

Nestor Cortes. He’s another former-Yankees prospect who’s had a lot of time in the minors, but very little success in the Majors. For some reason, he’s listed among the starters on the depth chart, but that doesn’t appear to actually be his function. Looks like he might be a long-man out of the bullpen though, and in that role you’d expect him to get his share of spot starts (particularly with all the doubleheaders and whatnot). We traded essentially nothing to get him here, so again, another buy-low lottery ticket.

Wei-Yin Chen. He’s an older fella looking to rebuild his value on a bad team. He hasn’t started a game since 2018, and he signed only a minor league deal with the Mariners. Figure he’s one of these veterans who starts out in Tacoma, and either pitches well enough to earn a call up, or stinks and gets released (with the third option being: he pitches well, the Mariners have no room for him, and he opts out after a month or so to see if he can get a Big League job elsewhere). I dunno what to tell you here, he’s a body. If the shit hits the fan (or MLB expands rosters to handle all the games we end up playing in such a short period of time), I guess it’s good he’s here, but I wouldn’t expect greatness (or, really, even goodness).

The Mariners Head Into 2020 Following The Quietest Hot Stove Period In Recent Memory

Look, I’m not BASHING them for this. If you’re going to commit to a rebuild, then commit to the damn rebuild and stop half-assing it like you’ve been doing for the last 20 years! I’m just saying, these are the biggest Mariners moves of the offseason:

  • No Arbitration for Domingo Santana (who is still a free agent as of this writing)
  • Traded Omar Narvaez to the Brewers for minor league pitcher Adam Hill and a draft pick in 2020
  • Extended Evan White 6 years & $24 million
  • Signed Kendall Graveman 1 year, $1.5 million (with option for 2021)
  • Selected Yohan Ramirez in the Rule 5 Draft

Those are the BIGGEST moves, mind you. There are a bevy of smaller moves, involving relievers and utility players and whatnot. But, the sexy is right there. If this Mariners offseason was a porno, it would be a picture of two people in giant puffy winter coats, pants, and mittens holding hands.

It’s weird, is what I’m getting at. It’s weird for the Mariners – I can’t remember the last time nothing even moderately interesting happened for an entire offseason – and it’s especially weird for Jerry Dipoto, who seemingly has never seen a trade offer he didn’t immediately agree to.

It’s also a little refreshing, if I’m being honest. After last year’s 68-win campaign – where I had thoroughly checked out by mid May – the last thing I wanted to do was spend Football Season thinking about the Mariners. It’s almost like a self-imposed time out; they couldn’t do anything else except sit there and think about what they’d done.

For what it’s worth, I don’t disagree with any of the moves they’ve made. It sounds like they tried to shop Santana, but found no takers. I find it odd that NOBODY wants a 20/20 guy; it’s even more strange that he’s still on the market this close to Spring Training. But, Santana never really made defense a priority. He was one of the worst defensive outfielders in all of baseball! So, I’d rather let him walk than over-pay for someone who’s probably best suited to be a DH (we’ve already got one of those, his name is Daniel Vogelbach).

I also like trading high on Omar Narvaez. I don’t think his value was ever going to go up from what he did in 2019; unfortunately (again) defense plays a role in limiting his ceiling. The draft pick (in the late 60’s or early 70’s) is probably the most valuable piece in return. But, it also opens up what could’ve been a logjam at catcher, allowing some of our higher-upside prospects a chance to compete for playing time.

The Evan White deal is by far the most noteworthy thing the Mariners did since the season ended. It’s pretty rare by MLB standards, and it’s (I think) a first for the Mariners: extending a player long-term who has yet to surpass the AA level of the minors. He gets $22 million for six years, with a $2 million buyout after that. There are also three more relatively team-friendly option years after that, with buyouts built into each one of those as well. All told, it could amount to $55.5 million over 9 years which is definitely the best-case scenario. You WANT to see Evan White get the full value of his deal, because it means his play on the field almost certainly exceeded expectations.

I love the idea. Considering the economics of Major League Baseball, it’s a relatively low risk with the potential for a very high reward. By all accounts, White’s defense is ready for the Major Leagues right now; if things break right he could win many multiple Gold Gloves at first base. The downside, of course, is that it’s first base (not necessarily the most glamorous of defensive positions on the field).

What we don’t know is how his bat will play. Again, he’s yet to get above AA. He’ll be 24 years old in April. There’s almost certainly going to be growing pains over (probably) the first three years of this deal. He’ll get every opportunity to win the job out of Spring Training (which is the correct move), so fingers crossed he isn’t a total disaster at the plate.

My concern, long-term, is what is Evan White? He doesn’t strike me as a guy who will ever have much home run power. Can he hit enough doubles – and hit for a high-enough average overall – to be worth keeping around for the next decade? Or, will it all be walks and defense with this guy? I’m not saying that’s necessarily the worst thing in the world, but if you’re committing to someone with these types of guarantees, you’d like to get a great return on investment. All of that faith needs to be rewarded, otherwise this rebuild could sink in a hurry.

As for Graveman and Ramirez and all the other little moves, I’m taking a wait-and-see approach. I’ll get into this more the closer we get to the regular season – and I’m sure I’ll belabor the point all year long – but I have zero expectations for the 2020 Mariners from a win/loss perspective. Again, much like 2019, I’d love for this team to show improvement from the prospects, while losing a ton of games and getting another Top 10 draft pick (preferably by blowing late leads with another shaky bullpen).

The most important thing will be those prospects making strides towards being everyday Major Leaguers, and even more crucially, All Stars. You can’t win championships without superstars (plural, more than one). So, let’s take a ride on the Development Train! Choo choo!

Feel. The. Damn. Excitement.

The Mariners Are Forced To Depend Upon The Kindness Of Strangers

Well, this is it.  We’re right up against it now.  Three games to go to decide which two of the four teams remaining in contention will make the playoffs.  The Astros thankfully have been eliminated; suck an egg Houston!  See you never again!  (or next year, I guess).

The Mariners, again, did their job.  It wasn’t pretty.  It wasn’t as dominating as you’d like, considering the minor league lineup the A’s were running out there, and the fact that we’ve had Kendall Graveman’s number all season.  No, but you know what?  The Seattle Mariners, last night, were CLEARLY the better baseball team, and they did what they needed to do.

Truth be told, the Mariners will CLEARLY be the better baseball team tonight, tomorrow, and on Sunday, but that’s neither here nor there.

We got the Ariel Miranda start out of the way!  I don’t know why I still worry about his starts; he’s been solidly unspectacular since he got here, but in a good way.  In his very worst start (which is probably debatable), he gave up 3 runs in 4 innings before getting the quick hook because we’re in a playoff race and we don’t have time to be stroking egos right now.  That was tied for his shortest start of the year, anyway.  Much more talented starters have had much shorter outings for us, so that’s not too bad.  And, the most runs he’s given up in an appearance is 4, which again, much more talented starters have given up much more runs in a game this year.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that he’s been getting the quick hook since we traded for him, but he’s only 27 years old and this is his first year in the Majors, so you can forgive the Mariners for being a little cautious (especially considering his talent level proves he’s capable of being a regular part of this rotation for years to come).

Anyway, Miranda was rolling and got us into the 6th inning while giving up only 1 run, so kudos again!  The bullpen hero of the day was Steve Cishek, who came into the game in the 7th inning with a couple runners on and got us out of it unscathed.  He then dominated his way through the 8th inning (most likely because Evan Scribner wasn’t available due to recent overuse).  That got us to Edwin Diaz in the 9th, who’s on one of his rocky roads again.  The A’s mashed him around for 3 hits and a run – to bring the game to 3-2 – but he was able to shut it down to eventually strike out the side for what’s already his 18th save of the year.

The Mariners got the bulk of their damage done with the bottom of the lineup, which is huge.  Lind, Martin, Zunino, and Marte combined for 8 of our 12 hits and all three of our RBI.  Martin hit a single to score one in the 4th inning before getting stuck in a rundown, Zunino hit a solo blast in the 7th to re-take the lead, and Ketel Marte of all people hit in the winning insurance run to help atone for his bungling on Tuesday.  That was an awesome job; gotta give credit where it’s due.  The Big Three can’t do everything, so it’s nice to see the role players step up in a game like this, where obviously not everything is clicking offensively.

As suggested before, the Tigers game was rained out.  That means they’ll have to play on Monday if their game has any meaning whatsoever for the playoff race (i.e. if the Tigers are either in the 2nd wild card spot, up by 0.5 games; or just out of the 2nd wild card spot by 0.5 games).  So, now Detroit heads to Atlanta for the weekend.  Not for nothing, but someone on Twitter posted something that said the Braves are one of the hottest teams in the month of September.  So, maybe there’s hope?  Either way, the Mariners are behind the Tigers by 0.5 games right now.

The problematic part of this whole thing is that the Orioles took out the Blue Jays yesterday.  That puts those two teams in a dead heat, tied for both wild card spots, 2 full games ahead of us.  With, again, three games to play.  It’s Baltimore at the Yankees, and it’s Toronto at Boston.

So, we know one thing for SURE:  the Mariners must win out.  Now, they SHOULD win out, but this is baseball and weird shit can happen.  But, in this case, weird shit CAN’T HAPPEN!

Assuming that, then we need the Tigers to lose at least once down in Atlanta, and we need either the Orioles or the Blue Jays to lose twice (or, preferably both teams lose twice, but maybe not since I’m not super clear on the 3-way or 4-way tiebreakers).

This weekend’s going to be about the Mariners kicking butt and watching the scoreboard obsessively.  Should the Mariners fail to kick butt, then this race could be over as soon as tonight.  I just want a chance.  Just give us a shot, Mariners!  Just do what YOU have to do, and let the chips fall where they may!  If, in the end, those other teams don’t lose enough games, then at least you can take pride in knowing you did everything you possibly could have, and in the end just didn’t have enough luck to make it all the way.

On the flipside, if the M’s start gagging games away to the Athletics, I’m going to be like a tantrum-throwing 4 year old.  I don’t want to see me when I’m angry … because it’s fucking embarrassing!