The Mariners Lost Another Series, Still Can’t Hit

Did you know the Mariners have already been shut out five times this year, including most recently on Monday against the Phillies in an embarrassing 9-0 rout? We’ve played all of 32 games so far this year, so you probably had some sort of inkling that the number was rather high. Did you know, though, that over a full 162-game season last year, the Mariners were shut out only eight times?

Of course, the 2021 Mariners were fun and interesting; the 2022 Mariners are abysmal and largely boring in how bad they’ve been. We’ve seen this same exact punchless team repeatedly over the last decade and a half, and it’s getting fucking old. They even moved the fences in during that span, seemingly to no avail. It’s their inability to properly develop their young hitters – to say nothing of somehow also ruining the established veterans they manage to bring in – that’s the ultimate culprit. The fences could be 30 yards away from home plate and they’d still manage to flail more often than not.

The 2021 Mariners also had 10 shutout victories, while the 2022 M’s have zero. The most games back of first place they were in 2021 was 5.0; we’re already at 6.5 games behind the Angels and that figures to only get worse. Most telling, perhaps, is our record in 1-run games; last year, we were 33-19 (for a .635 winning percentage) and this year we’re 5-5 (an even .500). There’s no magic, no spark, no juice. These 2022 Mariners are rolling over like so many Jesse Winker groundouts.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, J.P. Crawford and Ty France are the only two guys propping up this offense. Finally, Adam Frazier is starting to pull his weight, having raised his slash line to a respectable .270/.346/.377 (that’s FAR more in line with his career norms). And, as we’ve all been giddy about over the last week or so, Julio Rodriguez is really starting to look like the superstar we were all promised. Between those four guys and the dynamic injury duo of Mitch Haniger (who likely won’t return until July now) and Kyle Lewis (who is in the midst of a AAA stint that is doubling as his own personal Spring Training, which will almost certainly lead to a re-aggravation any day now), we might be onto something with this offense.

With the dynamic injury duo out of commission, and with the rest of the lineup being what it is, we’re essentially fucked.

Eugenio Suarez is who we thought he was, which might be okay if he’s batting 8th in the lineup. But, for pretty much the whole year, he’s been batting in the top 5, and for a guy barely scraping a .200 batting average, that’s not going to cut it.

Words can’t express how disgruntled I am with Jesse Winker. Everyone keeps saying he’s going to turn it around, but I think Safeco T-Mobile is in his head, and it’s extending his slump to every other stadium we play in. I’m not expecting him to ever turn it around, and this trade with the Reds will go down as one of the all-time disasters.

Raleigh, Kelenic, and Toro just aren’t Major League hitters, period. They’re clearly too good for the wasteland that is AAA, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Maybe they would be Major League hitters if they weren’t saddled with this Mariners organization, but that doesn’t do us much good now, does it? Because we, as fans, ARE saddled with this Mariners organization, and we’re forced to sit helpless as prospect after promising prospect goes down in flames thanks to the litany of issues and deficiencies they’ve got to overcome.

What really gets me is, once again, Luis Torrens has fallen into a slump of all slumps. Last year, he was sent down to Tacoma, figured it out, and returned to be a pretty productive member of this offense. Now, he’s right back to sucking as he did before and it’s all just so baffling to me.

And, it’s not like these guys are running into buzzsaw after buzzsaw. Sure, opposing bullpens have been pretty stout, but the starters haven’t been anything special. And the Phillies’ starters have been downright atrocious! These are the types of arms this struggling Mariners offense should be “getting right” against. Instead, they’re making these guys look like Justin Verlander!

I don’t have the energy to get into my gripes with the pitching, but suffice it to say, no one is really stepping up and helping out the offense. Chris Flexen had his worst outing of the year on Monday, giving up 6 runs in 5 innings. And, Diego Castillo’s freefall continued in that same game. In 3 appearances in the month of May, he’s pitched all of 1.0 innings while giving up 9 runs. DISASTER!

It was nice to see Robbie Ray bounce back on Tuesday, pitching 5.2 innings, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 10. The 5-4 victory was only as close as it was because Paul Sewald gave up a meaningless solo homer while getting the 4-out save.

The Mariners had a chance to win the series in the Wednesday matinee, but Logan Gilbert had “one bad inning”, this time on “one bad pitch” that just so happened to result in a grand slam for the Phillies. We lost 4-2. Something tells me Gilbert won’t be the Pitcher of the Month of May.

Now, we’re 14-18 and embark on a crazy 10-games-in-10-days road trip to play the red hot Mets, the offensive powerhouse Blue Jays, and the struggling-but-probably-still-better-than-us Red Sox. I’m expecting something in the realm of a 2-8 record in this span, so watch us actually hold our own and come away with a 6-4 record.

The Mariners Struggled In Miami

With the NFL Draft happening over the weekend, I was a little preoccupied when it came to following the Mariners. When I was at home, they were relegated to the Little TV. And, as usual for a weekend, I wasn’t at home very much, at least when the M’s were playing.

I was looking forward to the Friday matchup against the Marlins, simply because Matt Brash was on the hill. However, he just didn’t have it, which is understandable since he’s a rookie. 2 innings, 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with only 3 strikeouts. Festa, Mills, and newcomer Penn Murfee eached pitched 2 innings – giving up another 2 total runs in the process – but the end result was an 8-6 defeat.

Luis Torrens had a 3-run double in the top of the second to take a brief 3-2 lead, but we were playing catch-up from there. The 9th inning rally was fun while it lasted – RBI double from Kelenic, sac fly from Torrens, and RBI single by Frazier – but ultimately not enough. J-Rod and J.P. Crawford each had multi-hit games.

Saturday’s 3-1 loss was a real missed opportunity. Robbie Ray was on the hill and he was dealing through four, but gave up 3 runs in the fifth and that was that. The offense was a Dylan Moore solo homer in the third; Winker and Crawford had the four other hits for the team.

Thankfully, we were able to salvage a 7-3 victory on Sunday to get one back. Logan Gilbert did more Logan Gilbert things, going 5.2 innings, finally giving up another earned run in the sixth, but was otherwise pretty unhittable (giving up just the 3, though he did walk 4 more). The bullpen was adequate from there, but thankfully the offense played add-on to keep this game out of reach.

J.P. Crawford had a solo homer in the second (he’s hitting an insane .372/.462/.628 so far this year), Toro had an RBI single in the fourth, and Julio Rodriguez had three hits on the day, including a 3-run homer in the sixth (the first homer of his career; he’s up to a slash line of .234/.306/.325, which is encouraging given his age and experience level, especially compared to Evan White, Jarred Kelenic, and Cal Raleigh). Even Jesse Winker got in on the action, with a 2-run single in the ninth (he’s SO CLOSE to the Mendoza Line, he can taste it).

With that series, the Mariners dropped to 12-10 and in second place in the A.L. West (behind a red-hot Angels team, who – after the weekend – were 15-8). There’s three more games on this road trip, in Houston, before returning home on Thursday for a 4-game set against the Rays (and then no more games against the Rays for the rest of this regular season). I’m glad this Florida part of our season is ending, because our opponents weren’t too kind to us. Let’s hope we have Houston’s number, though, because they’re a far more pressing concern this year.

The Mariners Dropped A Tough Series In Tampa

Well, we’re not off to a great start with this homestand. But, surely the Rays won’t be a team we need to contend with for a playoff spot, so there’s no way these games will have mattered, right?

The bigger bummer in all of this is the fact that the Mariners won 8-4 in the series opener on Tuesday. That means we had two chances to win this series, and our bats just couldn’t come up with the offense to push us over the top. Of course, by all rights, if the Rays didn’t implode defensively in the fourth inning of that one – giving up 7 unearned runs in the process – we probably would’ve been swept!

The big star of this one was Logan Gilbert, who threw another 5.2 shutout innings. He hasn’t given up a run since very early in his very first start of the year, now with an ERA of 0.40, which couldn’t POSSIBLY get any lower, right?! By the time he left the game, we were up 8-0 and this was a terrific opportunity for the M’s to plow through the D-Squad bullpen. But, they proceeded to give up 4 runs in the 7th, which necessitated using Andres Munoz in the 9th to lock it up.

France, of course, had a big day with 2 RBI. Frazier had 3 RBI. Suarez and Crawford each had two hits. Scoring those 7 unearned runs was probably the most fun part of the season, especially when we’re talking about Mariners road games.

Wednesday’s game was rough in a lot of respects. Marco Gonzales only managed to get one out before a line drive smashed into his pitching wrist, resulting in him leaving the game. That turned it into a de facto Bullpen Day. Yohan Ramirez came in and pitched pretty well for a bit, but Scott Servais mistakenly left him in there an inning too long, and we paid the price. He ended up giving up 2 runs in 3 innings of work. Matt Festa pitched 1.2 scoreless, Steckenrider got back on the horse with a clean inning, and Justus Sheffield pitched 2 scoreless to keep the game close.

Unfortunately, Tampa’s starter was on a roll. We managed a couple runs after he left the game, but ultimately lost 3-2. Crawford and Toro each hit solo homers.

Then, earlier today, Tampa had a scheduled Bullpen Day of their own – pushing back Corey Kluber to tomorrow, which we all understood was a huge break for the M’s – but we could only muster 1 run in a 2-1 defeat.

Chris Flexen picked up plenty of slack, going 6.2 and giving up both runs, and the combo of Castillo and Misiewicz took us the rest of the way without any further damage. That go-ahead run by the Rays happened in the 7th inning, and that was that. Suarez’ first inning RBI triple was the only damage of the game, as we were held to 6 hits on 2/8 with runners in scoring position (one of those hits being a France single that was hit too firmly to score the man from second).

Luckily, the NFL Draft kicks off tonight, so no one will remember this series. The Rays are really fucking good, so it’s not like this is a surprising development. I’m curious to see – as the season goes along – if the Mariners are ever going to put up much of a fight against the best teams, or if we’re just the Good Bad Team who can only pound on the weaklings in the game. We’ll see! Not looking great so far!

The Mariners Only Won Two Of Three Against The Rangers

It’s hard to not have a sour taste in your mouth when you were so close to a series sweep. How do you go into that final game, score 5 runs in the first inning, and manage to give it all away? We should’ve won that game by double digits! They should’ve been using position players to pitch away meaningless innings! It’s all so aggravating.

The flipside to this line of thinking is that the Mariners won yet another series. We’re 4-2 on this homestand, and 7-6 on the season; still in very good shape. But, God damn are the Rangers terrible, and they had no business winning that final game.

Of course, neither did we. Not the way we played. I’m just going to get into it at the top, because I’m already worked up.

Contrary to what you may believe, the Mariners aren’t especially good at defense. You’ll hear that the key to the M’s winning games is “Pitching & Defense” but I’m here to tell you that’s a gross generalization. Sure, the pitching is vitally important. But, I’m not so sure you’re going to get a huge lift out of this team’s defensive ability.

This isn’t just a gut-reaction to 3 errors last night. Errors aren’t the be-all, end-all of a team’s defensive competence. You can be an outfielder who gets to balls, but then has a noodle arm (*cough* WINKER *cough*). You can be a second baseman who also gets to balls, but maybe bumbles it just enough to eliminate a doule play opportunity, but still gets the out at first (*cough* FRAZIER *cough*). You can be a battery that fails to control the base-stealing game of your opponent (pretty much every pitcher/catcher combo on this team).

What sucks, and what makes last night’s game particularly stupid, is that J.P. Crawford accounted for 2 of those 3 errors, and I think he’s – without question – the best defensive player on this team. That’s just One Of Those Nights, but it also doesn’t paper over the fact that this team is largely middle-of-the-road defensively. Crawford is great, Haniger and France are good, the catchers are okay, but after that it’s nothing but flaws.

Kelenic, Moore, and J-Rod have pretty mediocre throwing arms from the outfield. Suarez looks like one of those guys you stick at third base because first base (probably his best defensive position, outside of DH) is blocked. Frazier and Winker are clearly here for their offense (making Winker’s start to this season … I mean, there are no words). And don’t get me started on Luis Torrens.

So, don’t go banking on the defense saving this team a ton of runs this year. I think, more often than not, they’ll make the routine plays they’re supposed to make. But, these guys are going to need to HIT if they’re going to win games.

Something that looked like we were going to get in spades last night, after a 2-run home run from Ty France, followed by a 3-run home run from Crawford to lead off the game. There were five runs on the board and zero outs! We had ’em on the ropes! Those turned out to be the only runs we would score until scratching across a sixth run in the eighth to tie the game. The Rangers, meanwhile, were gifted numerous scoring opportunities thanks to our pisspoor defense, and methodically chipped away at that early 5-0 deficit. Ultimately, they took out Drew Steckenrider in the ninth to prevail 8-6.

The name of the game in this one was hitting with runners in scoring position. The M’s were a meager 2/11, with a lot of those chances coming in the first three innings, when we had the Rangers’ starter teetering on the brink. We could never quite hit him with that knockout blow, and that was our downfall.

Marco Gonzales, meanwhile, has to lead the league in unearned runs allowed, as this was his second start out of three outings where he gave up 6 runs/2 earned runs. Obviously, you can’t say he was on fire in this one, but giving up 4 unearned runs in the fifth will make anyone’s performance look mediocre.

Yet, the bullpen – until Steckenrider in the ninth – kept the game right there at 6-5! God bless ’em, the D-Squad pulled through. Swanson pitched 1.1 scoreless, Festa and Sheffield both pitched clean innings. It was all right there for us.

I’m not going to get into the umpiring in this one, though I hear this is the same crew we had in Minnesota. And this guy behind the plate is particularly inept at his job. He deserves to be fired. Or, at least, demoted to the minor leagues where he can’t do anymore damage with his nebulous strike zone.

It’s a shame, because this series had some delightful baseball on the Mariners front. After an off-day on Monday, Robbie Ray got the start on Tuesday and pitched 6 innings of 2-run ball. Suarez hit a 3-run bomb on an impressive outside breaking ball. Kelenic hit a rocket of a solo homer off the foul pole. And Toro had a crucial late-game 2-run bomb to put this one away, 6-2.

Wednesday’s game was even more delightful, with Logan Gilbert pitching into the seventh inning, holding them scoreless. Misiewicz and Munoz kept the shutout alive until the ninth, when Diego Castillo gave up a couple of meaningless runs. But, by then, we had a 4-run lead, ultimately winning 4-2.

We were also 2/12 with runners in scoring position in this one, which should’ve been something of a tip-off. Thankfully, we were able to put those to good use in the fifth, as we manufactured just enough.

Hitting with runners in scoring position always seems to be a bugaboo early in seasons. The Mariners have been heavily reliant upon timely hitting, usually because overall our hitting is so poor. So, we NEED to string hits together at opportune times if we’re going to win ballgames. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a season-long nightmare, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have to watch this kind of flailing for six months.

The Mariners’ Rotation Is Holding Up Remarkably Well So Far

Yeah yeah yeah, I know it’s early. We are 2 and one-fifths of the way through the rotation not even two full weeks into the season. But, that’s sort of the point of today’s argument, because this early in the season is when you really have to worry about a starting rotation holding up.

We’re right out of Spring Training. Rosters are slightly expanded for this very reason: pitchers’ arms aren’t built up yet. Pitch counts are relatively low as a result. And, should they run into too many travails, starts can be cut short, resulting in over-taxing of the bullpen.

2021 was kind of the Worst Case Scenario in this regard. We lost James Paxton early in his very first start. We lost backup starter Nick Margevicius not long after. We had to suffer through numerous full-on bullpen days because we were trying to run a 6-man rotation out there to limit innings and keep guys fresh, without sufficent healthy backup options to roll with (saying nothing of other starts being cut short due to early-season ineffectiveness).

The bullpen was gassed, and it necessitated multiple back-and-forth moves between Tacoma and Seattle just to keep this pitching staff afloat. But, we haven’t had that problem this year.

The worst start we’ve had so far was Marco Gonzales’ 2.0 innings in Minnesota. The next-shortest stint was a 4.1 affair by Flexen, also in Minnesota. Everyone else has gone at least 5.0 innings per start, including rookie Matt Brash, who is reported to be on a VERY strict pitch count for this season.

I think that’s pretty remarkable. Maybe I have low standards in this regard, but it’s clearly showing in our bullpen’s performance thus far. We have a bullpen ERA under 3 and the only blown save on our ledger is a game we came back and won.

This could all change at a moment’s notice, of course, but I think it’s a pretty good sign. In the not-too-distant future, our Major League roster is going to shrink a little bit, and we’ll be limited in the number of pitchers we can keep up here. Not wearing guys out in the most fragile part of the season should hopefully work wonders towards keeping this staff in good working order.

Beyond that, though, the starters have looked good in games! Our team ERA is 3.03, so it’s not like the bullpen is doing everything. Robbie Ray had one rough start in Chicago in that crazy rain game, but otherwise has looked every bit the ace. Matt Brash has been a revelation, and looks like he’ll be a valuable big league pitcher for many years to come. Logan Gilbert has quietly been a monster. Marco bounced back with a VERY impressive outing in our home opener against a very good Astros lineup. And, Chris Flexen looks just as steady as he was last year. Considering Marco and Flexen are our 3/4 pitchers, I think that speaks very well of the talent in this pitching staff.

I’m cautiously optimistic, because the better the pitching staff does now, the better our team should be as a whole. Clearly, we’ve needed the pitching to get off to a good start. Now that the offense has started to come around since we returned home, it’s starting to look like things might be okay. The last thing we need is to go into a deep hole with our record. 6-5, with a +8 run differential isn’t shabby in the least. I’ll take it! That’s something to build on, for sure.

The Same Ol’ Mariners Are Back! Also, The Same Ol’ Mariners Never Left

It’s been so, so, so so so so so so SO long since the Mariners have been relevant. Even when they’ve been in quote/unquote Contention over the last two decades, there were so many clear flaws that you knew they were ultimately going to fall short, even if – at times – you deluded yourself into believing in miracles.

The fact of the matter is: the 1995 Mariners used up a lifetime’s worth of miracles. There are no miracles left.

Which is okay, we don’t need miracles. We need a good fucking baseball team. THAT’S what’s going to put us over the top one day. Is this the start of being that good fucking baseball team? Well, we’ll find out. I’m surprisingly bullish on this group of youngsters, and the job Jerry Dipoto is doing finding viable veteran talent to put around them. But, I’ve been foolish bullish before, and I’ve obviously been disappointed.

Every year, we agree to tie the knot with these Mariners, and every year that B-word leaves us at the altar!

There’s not a lot left to do with the rebuild at this point. We’re in the ascending phase, where the best youngsters are either on the cusp of reaching the Big Leagues, or are already there and gaining valuable experience. The next step is to further weed out who deserves to stay here, and who can be dealt for other veterans/prospects to keep this train chugging along. The next step – on a parallel track – also includes breaking the playoff drought. Using the guys we have now and actually making the post-season for the first time since 2001.

So, that’s the question before us. That’s all that matters really. We’ll find out, in due time, who deserves to stay and who deserves to go. I have my opinions on the matter, which I’ll get to. But, the real question is: will the 2022 Mariners make the playoffs?

We have a week’s worth of games to examine – and a 3-4 record at our disposal – yet I don’t feel like have a very confident take on the matter.

I don’t think the Mariners are as bad as they’ve looked through seven games, particularly when it comes to their offense. But, I also don’t think the Mariners will be able to scrounge up the same record in 1-run games as they had in 2021. Ultimately, I don’t think this is a team that can win 90+ games. Therefore, I don’t believe this team will make the playoffs.

Who I Like

I like J.P. Crawford. He was just signed to a 5-year extension for $51 million. I think that’s a tremendous deal. The guy’s a leader, the guy plays fabulous defense, the guy can handle himself with a bat, and he seems to always be in the mix whenever we have a scoring rally. Granted, his power is minimal, but everything else is good enough to make the overall package a quality value.

I like Ty France. But, we already knew that. Great bat, good power, better-than-expected defense at first base. Just a solid dude.

I like Mitch Haniger. This might be his last year here, which would be a shame, because he has power, he has great defense, and he’s another terrific leader. Oftentimes, he’s the only guy keeping this offense afloat; we need more players like Haniger, not less.

I like Jesse Winker. Though, part of me feels like I have no choice in the matter. He’s a newcomer; I don’t know him from Adam. But, he has a proven track record behind him, and I have to assume he’ll start hitting in bunches. We still don’t know if he has anything against left-handed pitching. And, we’re pretty sure his defense is a deficit. But, assuming the offense comes around, I don’t think anyone will care.

I like Julio Rodriguez. But, talk to me in a year. I will say that his speed should ensure he doesn’t have any 0 for 39’s on his ledger. Speed is the great slump buster in baseball. Other than that, I have a general belief that someone among our young crop of highly-rated prospects will pan out; my guess is it’s J-Rod.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Jarred Kelenic. We had most of a year with him last year, we had the strong finish to the season in September, now we need to see him parlay that into a vast improvement over the course of 2022. If he’s destined to be an All Star – not just a one-time All Star on a shit team, but a regular fixture in the midsummer classic – then we can’t be enduring multiple years of him being a below-replacement player. There are rookies and young guys far and wide who come up and make an immediate impact. And then there’s Kelenic, who’s taking the other path to superstardom. If his 2022 is a carbon copy of 2021, then I think that’s a sign he’s Just A Guy, and will always be kind of a mediocre player (who gets more chances than he probably deserves, thanks to his original highly-rated prospect status).

I’m unsure about Adam Frazier. I need him to be the guy we expected. I need the high batting average and high on-base percentage. He’s never going to be a power bat, and I’m resigned to that. But, he can’t be Chone Figgins.

I’m unsure about Luis Torrens. I’m also, in general, unsure about the whole 3 Catchers thing; that can’t be practical, right? Part of me believes we’re only including Torrens in this rotation as a means to bolster his trade value. His bat plays at this level, but I’m not sure his defense is what you want. Then again, he’s my highest-rated catcher on the team at this point, so maybe he should be getting MORE time.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Cal Raleigh. I just think he stinks and I’m never going to believe he’ll be anything above a Mendoza Line hitter. This is more of an indictment on the Mariners and their ability to develop catchers than anything else. If Raleigh was drafted by the Yankees or Red Sox, I’m sure he’d be a perennial All Star. And, I’m sure when he’s eventually traded to the Rays, he’ll start to figure things out. But, I believe he’ll be nothing but a black hole in our lineup as long as he’s in Seattle.

I don’t like Eugenio Suarez. But, to be fair, I never did. He was a throw-in and a salary dump in the Winker trade. I think we’re stuck with him, and I think he MIGHT approach 30 homers. But, a right-handed power bat in T-Mobile Park isn’t super great, especially when he brings little else to the table. Defense should be a struggle, his average will definitely be abysmal; it’s going to be a nightmare.

I don’t like Tom Murphy or Dylan Moore. I just think these guys are fringe Major Leaguers.

I don’t like Abraham Toro. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of power, and if the average isn’t there, then I don’t know what he does for you.

So, we’ve gone through the everyday players, and it’s a pretty muddy scene! Looks like we’ll need our pitching to step up, but do we have enough?

Who I Like

I like Matt Brash. What a fun pitcher! Hard thrower, nasty off-speed stuff; this guy looks like a star in the making! Of course, that almost certainly means he’ll be majorly injured at some point. I’ll spend every start he makes cringing at every wince, until we find out he needs to go on the IL for arm or shoulder surgery.

I like Logan Gilbert. It’s not surprising I like the young guys, because the M’s have put a lot of effort into this area with their drafting and development. Gilbert was solid as a rookie last year, and already looks like he’s ready to parlay that into steadier improved play. He might never be an ace, but he could be a rock solid #2 starter for many years to come.

I like Robbie Ray. I don’t know if he’ll win any more Cy Young awards, but he’s the Ace we’ve desperately needed since King Felix started to decline. Right out of the gate, he’s pitching into the 7th inning. I’m taking that White Sox game as the outlier that it is; he’ll be a steadying force for our rotation all year.

I like Drew Steckenrider and Paul Sewald. I think they’ve got what it takes to lock down the later innings and those high leverage situations.

I like Chris Flexen. He’s a bulldog. He’ll give us more Quality Starts than not. That’s all I’m looking for out of a 3rd/4th starter.

Who I’m Unsure About

I’m unsure about Marco Gonzales. Ultimately, he is who we thought he was, which means he’ll be fine. Someone around a 4-ERA type of pitcher. But, he’s going to look REALLY BAD some starts, before he settles into a groove again. It’s better that he’s only being asked to be a 3rd/4th starter – rather than its Ace – because even though he also has that bulldog mentality, he just doesn’t have the arm talent to lead a rotation.

I’m unsure about Diego Castillo. Overall, I like his stuff, but he’s also going to have some meltdown performances, and a lot of times where he has to do a highwire act to get out of a self-imposed jam.

I’m unsure about Andres Munoz. I want to believe – because throwing 103 mph is pretty fucking phenomenal – but I also know he’s young and could be wild. These are Major League hitters, and they can still hit 103 if the ball catches too much of the plate. I also worry about his arm getting blown out. So, there’s a lot of concern there. But, damn, that arsenal is outstanding!

I’m unsure about Sergio Romo. Already, he’s on the IL, having ramped himself up too quickly after signing so late into Spring Training. Clearly, he’s nearing the end of his terrific Major League career. And, towards the end of 2021, he struggled quite a bit. Does he have any magic left in that old silk hat he found? We’ll see.

Who I Don’t Like

I don’t like Anthony Misiewicz. I’ve written about him a lot. The guy is 50/50. Half the time he’ll be fine and we won’t have to think about him, but half the time he’ll suck. He’s our best lefty out of the bullpen, and that’s a real problem.

I don’t like Matt Festa, Yohan Ramirez, or Erik Swanson. All interchangable, hard-throwing righties. They’re all part of the D-Squad bullpen (including whoever we have in Tacoma).

I don’t like Justus Sheffield. Yep, he made the team, and yep, he’s our main long reliever and alternate lefty reliever. He’s washed.

Overall, I dunno, I just don’t believe in the 2022 Mariners. I think we’re a year away. I hope it’s only a year. God help us if we go into 2024 on the same playoff drought.

I’m guessing 84 wins for this team. It’s going to be hard and frustrating to watch, and we’ll probably head into next year with even MORE questions than we had heading into this year. But, I hope I’m wrong.

Given our history with the Mariners, though, if you bet on them to miss the playoffs, you’d be correct the vast majority of the time. So, that’s a pretty sturdy limb I’m walking out on. Really, it’s no limb at all; it’s just the flat ground outside my house.

“Mariners disappoint yet again, news at 11.”

The Mariners Salvaged One In Chicago

This opening road trip was pretty much nonstop annoyance, particularly after our 2-0 start in Minnesota. The weather was shit, the offense was shit, the bullpen was shaky, and the opponents are probably going to be important rivals for a precious wild card spot at year’s end. This was anything but a soft landing for the Mariners, and the results were anything but ideal.

Tuesday’s game was a raging disappointment. Matt Brash got the start – the first of his Major League career – and looked phenominal! He’s going to have a pretty short leash (i.e. a limited pitch count) all year, but in this one he made the most of it, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 1 walk, with 6 strikeouts. All on only 85 pitches! Unfortunately, he gave up a garbage run in the third, and a solo homer in the sixth, on a day where the Mariners’ offense did next-to-nothing.

We got a Eugenio Suarez solo homer in the second (his first in a Mariners uniform), and then nothing until the 9th, when we scraped together another run. But, Diego Castillo was wild and ineffective in his lone inning of work, resulting in our 3-2 defeat. It’s the little things, and in this one, all the little things went the way of the White Sox.

Wednesday’s game was a nightmare. It was postponed because of rain, and it probably never should’ve happened at all, because it was played with anywhere from a drizzle to a downpour throughout. The second inning was particularly egregious with the rain, and unfortunately that happened with Robbie Ray on the mound, getting knocked around. In total, he gave up 6 runs in 6.1 innings (on 10 hits and 2 walks, with only 4 strikeouts), with a whopping 3 homers on the day.

With this offense? Against the corpse of Dallas Keuchel? No way we were overcoming that (indeed, we lost 6-4).

Crawford had a good day with 3 hits, and France had a homer and 2 RBI, but otherwise the offense was a huge shrug yet again.

The aforementioned game we salvaged – spoiler alert – happened on Thursday (a.k.a. Getaway Day). Logan Gilbert spun 5 innings of 1 unearned run brilliance (that unearned run coming off of multiple dropped infield pop-ups, thanks to the insane wind blowing around the stadium), where he struck out 4, walked 0, and gave up only 4 hits. The bullpen was lights out in this one, and the offense finally came to play.

Jarred Kelenic hit a rocket of a 2-run bomb off of the foul pole in the second. Cal Raleigh hit a right-handed solo homer to left (that may or may not have been aided by the wind) in the seventh. And Mitch Haniger hit a 2-run bomb (no doubt about that one) in the eighth. Those were firsts on the season for Kelenic and Raleigh, and the third on the year for Haniger. Thank Christ for Mitch Haniger.

In the grand scheme of things, 3-4 on our first road trip of the year, against two likely playoff teams, is pretty okay. But, that doesn’t mean we have to be thrilled with how they got there. The offense was supposed to be improved over last year, but instead it looks like more of the same. The pitching, however, appears to be what we expected it to be (slightly better in the rotation, with some negative regression coming for the bullpen), and we REALLY haven’t had any major injuries as of yet, outside of a couple middle relievers. You know the pitcher injuries are coming, and coming in droves. So, the sooner the offense can get its shit together, the better.

We return for our home opener tomorrow, against the Astros. I’ll be there with my friends! I can’t wait. I should also be getting up my season preview tomorrow as well; only a week late, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Who’s begging for this? Never you mind! This press conference is over!

The Mariners Split The Series In Minnesota

I was in Mexico all of last week. It was a delightful trip and consequently, I didn’t see one minute of the Mariners through the first three games of the season. I would say it’s not necessarily a coincidence that my trip was so delightful, but actually the M’s went 2-1 in that stretch.

Of course, that meant I didn’t have a chance to do my usual preseason preview. I’ll get around to it, probably. But, for now, let’s get into this Twins series a little bit. I was able to follow along on Twitter, and read a few box scores, so I think I got the gist.

To kick things off, the opener on Thursday was postponed due to snow. It’s like having games in open air stadia in the midwest in early April might not be the best idea in the world. You have a team in Seattle with a retractable roof … why aren’t we hosting every Opening Day? It makes zero sense.

Anyway, the rest of the series went off without a hitch, weather-wise. The M’s jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to a Haniger 2-run homer. That was all we would score. Yet, Robbie Ray followed up his Cy Young season with 7 innings of 1-run ball, the only pitcher in the Majors to throw 7 complete innings on opening day. Sewald and Steckenrider locked down the 8th and 9th innings for the hold n’ save.

Other than Haniger’s bomb (and France’s single, who would score on that bomb), Winker had two hits. There were plenty of walks in this game, but fewer hits (7 to 5). Note the foreshadowing.

Offense wasn’t a terrible burden in game two, as we won 4-3. BUT, it required a 2-run rally in the 9th, meaning between the last 8 innings of game 1, and the first 8 innings of game 2, the Mariners scored all of 2 runs.

Yet, there was Logan Gilbert, making the start, going 5 strong innings, giving up 1 run, striking out 7. The bullpen was solid, minus a 2-run bomb given up by Andres Munoz that very nearly blew the game, but instead earned him a win.

France, Crawford, and Murphy had big games offensively, and Julio Rodriguez got his first hit and run scored in the 9th inning rally to make an impact.

The pitching & defense model didn’t hold on Sunday, as we lost 10-4. Marco Gonzales gave up 6 runs (2 earned) in 2 innings, and that was all she wrote for a de facto bullpen day. Haniger had another bomb (the 3-run variety) to make it momentarily close. But, the D-squad bullpen got the nod in this one and couldn’t keep it there.

Finally, even more infuriatingly, the M’s were shutout 4-0 on Monday. I got to see this one, surprise surprise, as they saved their worst effort for when I showed up back in the States. Chris Flexen battled, but got pulled with a couple runners on in the fifth for Anthony Misiewicz, who just doesn’t have it half time time. He’s not a guy you can rely on with runners on trying to get out of a jam, even if he’s a lefty facing lefties. He’s going to go somewhere else eventually and turn his career around, but he’s never going to be the dominant pitcher I know he can be with Seattle.

Ultimately, when Dylan Bundy is spinning webs on you, it didn’t matter. Just an awful approach and execution by the offense (not to be outdone by the opener against the White Sox, but pretty close).

The offense was this team’s biggest question mark heading into this season, and sure as shit, they’re shitting the bed early. We’ve got lots of black holes and lots of guys looking to break out of slumps and salvage their seasons before it’s too far gone. I fucking hate it. This is not the start the Mariners needed to try to break their playoff drought.

I think the pitching will be solid all year – though the bullpen is showing significant cracks already – but we’re going to be frustrating as all hell if the offense continues to play at the bottom of the league.

What The Hell Are The Mariners Doing For A Fifth Starter?

I’m a little concerned, everyone. After the Winker trade, I heard the Mariners were mostly done making moves, at least when it came to adding to the offense. But, I fully expected there to be more moves to be made for pitching. Starting pitching, especially, but you obviously wouldn’t throw another reliever out of bed for eating crackers.

With Casey Sadler going down for the year (underrated VERY important piece to our bullpen’s success last year, and an all-around bummer of an injury considering how much fun he was to watch), the signing of Sergio Romo is a nice little pick-me-up for that bullpen (even though his second half in 2021 was far worse than his first half), but that doesn’t explain the total lack of activity when it comes to the rotation.

I generally like the first four starters the Mariners are planning to roll out:

  • Robbie Ray
  • Chris Flexen
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Logan Gilbert

Nice mix of veteran and youth, nice mix of hard throwing and off-speed savvy, all guys either in their primes or approaching their primes (with no one over the hill).

But, if you look at the rest of the 40-man roster, it’s a shitload of relievers! I see only two, maybe three, starting prospects in that particular bunch:

  • Justus Sheffield
  • Matt Brash
  • Nick Margevicius

Sheffield stinks. He’s washed up. Because he’s cheap, you can conceive of him in a long reliever type of role in the bullpen – making spot starts here and there – but he gets hit too damn hard to be a reliable presence in the rotation. Margevicius is a slightly less-bad version of Sheffield, in that he doesn’t get hit quite as hard, but is still otherwise a pitch-to-contact lefty with little-to-no strikeout ability. The only reason I’m not as down on him is because he spent most of 2021 injured, but shit, I don’t even know if he’s healthy now or not! He might not even be an option.

Then, there’s Brash, a promising young prospect who has never pitched above the AA level. I think we all love his stuff and his potential, but are we really going into this year just handing him a rotation spot out of Spring Training? I think most of us would prefer to give him a softer landing in Tacoma, just in case there are any kinks to work out. But, that would necessitate having a better option in a Mariners uniform for that fifth starter job, and I don’t know if that person exists at the moment.

Another option – off of the 40-man roster – includes George Kirby, an even better-looking prospect who also has never pitched above the AA level. Brash and Kirby look far-and-away to be our best options, but that’s a harrowing thought going into a year where expectations are for the Mariners to finally make it back to the playoffs.

We like Logan Gilbert a lot too, but remember all of his growing pains last year? Prior to September (when he started figuring things out), he averaged 1 start per month of 6 or more innings. It takes a lot of kid glove treatment to get a rookie through his first Major League season without totally obliterating his confidence.

Also, remember last year when we clung to the 6-man rotation for longer than was practical, necessitating many multiple Bullpen Days? Are we going back to this plan, at least to start the season, in an effort to build up rotation arms so they can pitch deeper into ballgames? Because as it is, we don’t even have a great 5th starter option; now we might be thinking of going with a 6th even-worse option?

This is a fiasco! I don’t understand why we haven’t made a move outside the organization to bring in another starter. What are we waiting for?! I’m more or less fine with the accumulation of offensive talent Dipoto has brought in, but he has severely neglected the rotation.

Bringing in another starter isn’t going to “block” one of these prospects. Injuries – especially to pitchers – happen all the fucking time! I’d like to have a little more certainty – not to mention a little more depth – heading into this all-important season. Because, what happens when we go into April with the guys we have now, and THEN the injuries start mounting? What kind of filler nonsense are we going to have to watch until our good arms come off the IL?

This is my nightmare. Welcome to Mariners fandom, for anyone who’s new.

Ranking The Trustworthiness Of The Mariners, Part 1: The Pitchers

Look, we’re in the throes of the dead part of the year. It might not be quite so dead if the Supersonics were still around, or if the Kraken were worth a damn, but here we are: grasping at straws, writing about the upcoming baseball season during a lockout with no end in sight. Worst of all: this post is almost certainly going to be out of date and moot as soon as a new CBA is signed and the Mariners can start shuffling their roster around. Weeee!

At the moment, the Mariners have 21 pitchers on their 40-man roster. As is common knowledge, even though the hypothetical regular season is just over a month away, the Mariners’ roster is anything but finalized. I would not expect the following 21 pitchers to all be on this 40-man roster on March 31st; moves will be made, and some of the people I talk about will cease to matter. At least, when it comes to Mariners fans like me.

I split up the 21 pitchers into three categories: Yes, No, and Maybe? It just so happened that each category had an equal seven members, so let’s go through them, starting with the least trustworthy pitcher and work our way up to number 1.

I suppose I should set some groundrules and define what I mean by “trustworthy”, but why don’t we get to that as the post goes along. There’s already been too much preamble, as far as I’m concerned (but I’ll be damned if I’m going to censor myself!).

No: The Least-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#21 – Juan Then

Then is an interesting starting pitching prospect who needed to be added to the 40-man roster, lest we risk losing him to the Rule 5 draft that happened some time ago. He’s yet to pitch above A-ball. Prior to the pandemic, he looked like he might be a quick riser through the minor leagues, but his 2021 wasn’t great. There’s absolutely no way he’ll pitch for the Major League ballclub this year, and odds are he’ll never play a game in Seattle as a member of the Mariners. My guess is he is trade fodder for a team looking to shed salary and build up their farm system.

#20 – Aaron Fletcher

He’s a lefty reliever who’s had a couple brief cups of coffee with the M’s in 2020 and 2021 and has a pro ERA over 12. He SUUUUUCKS. He’s young enough to turn things around, and the M’s don’t have a ton of lefty bullpen options at their disposal, but nothing I’ve seen as of yet leads me to believe he’s ready for the rigors of the Majors.

#19 – Justus Sheffield

He was once projected as a possible #1 or #2 starter, now there’s talk of him being shifted to a permanent bullpen role. He had a decently-effective 10-start 2020 season (with zero pressure), but his 2021 was a disaster. He started 15 games, struggled pretty much throughout, went on the Injured List (even though it was dubious that he was actually injured in any meaningful way), returned as a bullpen arm, and continued to struggle. I think he’s toast. He’s got no life on his fastball, and he can’t get by on nothing but sliders, because by and large his slider is only effective when it’s out of the zone, and if you see it coming, as a batter it’s easy to lay off of it.

#18 – Matt Brash

He’s another guy with no Major League experience, yet the unknown factor puts him above both Sheffield and Fletcher. He skyrocketed through the minors – spending much of 2021 in AA – before getting called up to Seattle late last year. He never did get into a game, but there was rampant speculation he was set to start one of our final games. He’ll almost certainly get called up to Seattle at some point this year, but it’s always best to temper expectations with someone so inexperienced. Nevertheless, I would expect some ups to come with the requisite downs, which already puts him ahead of the curve compared to the three guys behind him.

#17 – Wyatt Mills

He had a pretty brief cup of coffee in Seattle last year, but his numbers in Tacoma were pretty great. I would expect him to take a step forward in 2022. I don’t remember a lot about him, but for the Rainiers he had 51 strikeouts in 28.2 innings, so I’m assuming his fastball is pretty elite. Get it under control and you’ve got something.

#16 – Joey Gerber

There’s a pretty significant caveat here: I kinda/sorta trust him IF he’s healthy. But, he missed all of 2021 with injury, so that’s why you find him in the bottom third in terms of trustworthiness. Nevertheless, in 2020 he was one of our better relievers, so we know the stuff is there. Can he get it all back? That remains to be seen. I expect him to start his 2022 in Tacoma (assuming he’s off the IL and throwing again), eventually working his way back up to Seattle as need arises.

#15 – Justin Dunn

I kinda think I have more confidence in Dunn than I should. He often gets lumped in with Sheffield, as both are working their way through the organization at a similar pace. Dunn also had a solid – if unspectacular – 2020 season. Unlike Sheffield, Dunn actually flashed some improvement in 2021. Now, granted, Dunn was still effectively wild – walking a ton of guys, while not necessarily giving up a lot of hits – but his FIP went down almost two full points, and his strikeout rate improved. He seemed to be in better physical shape in 2021, and that translated to an improved fastball. Command has always been his bugaboo, but you’d think experience would help him rein that in a little bit. Unfortunately, his 2021 was cut short due to injury; his final appearance came in mid-June. He kept trying to return, but repeatedly suffered setbacks. It doesn’t appear he had surgery on his shoulder, so we’ll see if he was able to fully recover with conservative care. We’ll also see if he gets any more chances to start, or if the team moves him to the bullpen full time. Lots of questions here.

Maybe?: The Medium-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#14 – Erik Swanson

Swanson came over in the Sheffield deal and I’ll admit, I wrote him off after his 2020 season. He was another starter, but he got demoted to the bullpen a year prior to Sheffield. As it turns out, though, that was the best thing for him. Swanson was a middle-tier reliever in a VERY good 2021 M’s bullpen, providing solid numbers throughout his 33 appearances. There are times he’ll get knocked around, but he flashed a live fastball and kept us in a lot of games a lesser reliever might’ve let get out of hand. Still, if there’s a negative regression candidate, I think Swanson is our guy; I could see his ERA balloon back up over 5 or 6 runs relatively easy. His secondary pitches aren’t super thrilling; until he builds them up, he’s going to continue being overly reliant on his fastball, which is hittable for Major League batters.

#13 – Andres Munoz

He got in one game at the very end of 2021, pitching 0.2 scoreless innings. The good news is: he recovered from his injury. The bad news is: he’s had almost two full years off. His fastball is electric, but he’s probably a guy we don’t want to push too hard in the early going. He’ll have every opportunity to win a bullpen job in Spring Training though, and the sky is the limit on his potential. But, I’d like to see him do it a few weeks before I start buying in 100%.

#12 – Yohan Ramirez

Ramirez is another guy with a live fastball, but plenty of control/command issues. Nevertheless, he came up HUGE in some high-pressure spots in 2021. He also shit the bed pretty spectacularly in equal numbers, so the potential is there, the health is there, but the limitations are pretty stark. Thankfully, there are plenty of right-handed bullpen options ahead of him, so we don’t NEED him right away.

#11 – Ken Giles

We signed Giles prior to the 2021 season knowing full well he was injured and would be missing the entire year. But, we signed him specifically so he could be a significant bullpen piece in 2022; this was the plan all along. He’s a veteran with plenty of closing experience, and was one of the best relievers in baseball in 2019. Another heater guy, he should slide in quite nicely with our returning bullpen guys. We don’t need him to be a closer, but it’s nice knowing he’s there in case the others aren’t quite as good as they were last year. The risk, of course, is that Giles has had two years off, essentially. Will he last the duration? Or, is he just a walking injury waiting to happen?

#10 – Diego Castillo

I’m probably lower on Castillo than I have any right to be, but this is a guy whose ERA numbers have always outperformed his FIP numbers. He also was decidedly worse last year with the Mariners than he was with the Rays (prior to our trading for him). Not that he was terrible with the M’s, but every appearance felt like a rollercoaster (askew hat tip to Fernando Rodney). I don’t trust him! I know he’s pretty good, but for the life of me I don’t trust him. Part of trust is knowing what to expect ahead of time, and I feel like I never know if we’re going to see the Good Diego Castillo or the Bad Diego Castillo.

#9 – Anthony Misiewicz

Now, with Misiewicz, there’s a guy you can set your watch to! He’s the top lefty reliever in the bullpen, so right away not a lot is expected of him. Even with the rule changes to how relievers are used, more often than not you can get away with having him throw less than a full inning. That’s when he’s at his best. Trying to stretch him into multiple innings is when you’re looking at disaster. However, given his youth, and the volatile nature of relievers, I’ve got a gut feeling that he’s due for some positive regression. Having said that, bank on this being my worst take of this post; putting him anywhere near the Top 10 is probably foolish, but I yam who I yam.

#8 – Nick Margevicius

Here’s another guy who I have to say at the top: IF he’s healthy. I like him, though. As a long reliever, I think he’s effective. He’s a nice guy to have in the bullpen if a starter struggles or gets hurt. He’s nice lefty insurance in case our other bullpen lefties struggle. All in all, he can do a lot of things that help a ballclub. More often than not, he’ll keep you in ballgames. That’s all I ask from a guy like this. Granted, his terrible career numbers are his biggest detriment (and the reason why he isn’t in the good category), but he’s still pretty young.

Yes: The Most-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#7 – Logan Gilbert

I should say at the onset that I’m VERY high on these top 7 pitchers. So, just because Gilbert falls in at #7 doesn’t mean I’m questioning him. I’m just being a little overly cautious. He was a rookie in 2021 and I think it’s safe to say he out-performed expectations. Most importantly: he improved as the season went along, becoming one of our very best starters by season’s end. That’s tremendous for someone so young; he should be a mainstay in the rotation for many years to come. He might not be an Ace, but he’s a solid #2 or #3, right now. All that’s left is to be consistently great, throughout the year. There will still be occasional bumps in the road in 2022, but they should be fewer and further between; that’s exciting.

#6 – Marco Gonzales

Marco was on a steady upward trajectory through 2020 before regressing a bit in 2021. I will say that he was throwing better at season’s end, and it’s likely he was dealing with a lot of injury issues throughout the season, but some of his poor starts were just disconcerting enough to sour me on him a tad. A tad! I still think for what he is, he’s good for this organization. Marco will still keep the M’s in ballgames more often than not. He’s just not, you know, an Ace. Thankfully, we no longer need him to be. As a #3 or #4 starter, I think he’s just fine.

#5 – Chris Flexen

This might be a little low for someone who was unquestionably the best Mariners starter of 2021, but a lot of the projections have Flexen as a significant negative regression candidate. It did seem like he wiggled off the hook quite a bit last year, and he might not be so lucky a second time around. The flipside to that argument is: he figured out how to be a starting pitcher over in South Korea and now he’s a completely different animal. That’s what I’m hoping for – that’s why I still have him in my Top 5 – but I’m allowing for there to be more bad outings out of him in 2022. That doesn’t mean he’ll totally faceplant; I still expect him to keep us in games by and large.

#4 – Paul Sewald

Now, HERE is probably my second-most laughable ranking of this post. Sewald was hands down the best pitcher in the organization last year. But, he was almost unsustainably elite last year, and I have a hard time believing he’s going to continue being That Guy going forward. Don’t get me wrong, he was one of my favorite Mariners last year. But, you could see him start to get touched up towards the end of the season, and that strikes me as very ominous. I hope I’m wrong!

#3 – Robbie Ray

If there’s anyone destined to rip our hearts out, it’s the guy who has parlayed one elite pitching season into a big-money, long-term deal. He had one previous All Star year in 2017, but his 2021 Cy Young season is why he’s here. The pressure is on, because not only is he our Ace, but he’s joining an up-and-coming roster with increased expectations. I’m heading into this year with love in my heart, confident that his stuff will continue to lead the way. But, in the back of my mind, there are dark, sinister thoughts of the albatross he could morph into, from the very onset. The Mariners have a long and fucked history of free agent starting pitchers coming in here and stinking straight away. I hope he’s not another notch on our bedpost.

#2 – Drew Steckenrider

It’s a total mindfuck to have my top two most-trustworthy pitchers be two other righty relievers not named Paul Sewald, but I don’t know what to tell you. I like Steckenrider. I don’t think he’s a closer, though he has that experience. I thought Scott Servais used him perfectly last year, pitching him based on matchups. Sometimes he was our closer, but sometimes he came into the game in the 7th or 8th innings. He’s just a steady, hard-throwing righty who produced crazy-effective results.

#1 – Casey Sadler

Have you seen his numbers?! Sub-1 ERA. Has a fastball in the upper 90’s, yet his best pitch is his slider; I love everything about his repertoire! He’s decidedly not a closer – and there’s no reason to expect that to change – but as a guy you mix and match with, I think no one is better on this team. The best thing about the bullpen in 2021 was how there weren’t really any super egos. The guys settled into their roles, but nothing was set in stone. They went into games on an as-needed basis, and absolutely dominated. It gives me hope for 2022, even though I know in my mind the likelihood of negative regression hitting all of these guys collectively.