The Mariners Have One Top Ten Position Player By WAR

It’s kinda crazy how inept the Mariners are on the non-pitching side of things.

The All Star Game rosters were announced over the weekend, and Logan Gilbert was the lone entry for the Mariners for a while, until Andres Munoz was later added due to … whatever. Guys opting out, guys being injured … whatever.

If you were expecting more than one or two Mariners to be on the American League roster, I’m afraid to tell you that there just weren’t a lot of options. Let’s face it, even for as good as the pitching has been, other teams have awesome pitchers too. I’ll admit, I’m a little biased towards Munoz; I think he’s been absolutely incredible, especially while fighting through nagging ailments. But, then again, the starting pitching has been the heart & soul of this team, and you can almost throw a dart at any of our five starters and find a great candidate.

Going by WAR, Logan Gilbert is the best on the team with 2.7 (that makes him 17th in baseball). Kirby is next at 2.0 (34th in baseball), followed by Munoz (1.7; 49th), Woo (1.4; 72nd), and Castillo (1.3; 84th). That just kinda goes to show you how mediocre Castillo has been, that Woo (in 11 fewer games) has been more valuable.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m getting on here today. I thought I would go through MLB stats by position and see where all the Mariners rank. I don’t know if there’s one singular way to rank them all; you can go by average or OPS or whatever. But, I went with WAR, because it’s easy, it’s on ESPN.com, and I don’t have to think very hard.

Long story short, Cal Raleigh is the aforementioned Only Mariner In The Top Ten At His Position By WAR. He’s 9th in baseball among catchers at 1.7. He’s second on the team, and if you were going to attempt to make an argument for a position player making the All Star Game, he’d be the only guy I’d even remotely listen to.

You wanna know where everyone else ranks?

Well, at first base, Ty France is looking just as cooked as we all feared he might be. He’s 29th in baseball with a 0.1 WAR. By comparison, former Mariner (and someone we easily could’ve retained, if we wanted to, for a reasonable cost to boot) Carlos Santana is 11th in WAR for the Twins (1.4). Also, not for nothing, but Mark Canha? The guy who’s seemingly rumored to be coveted by the Mariners at every trade deadline? He’s 28th in WAR among first basemen at 0.2. So … not the super upgrade you might think.

The less said about second base, the better. Know who’s the top-ranked Mariners second baseman? That would be Ryan Bliss, 25th in baseball (0.4). Know who’s the second-best Mariners second baseman? That would be Samad Taylor, who appeared in three games (and has otherwise been in Tacoma all year); he’s 43rd. You have to go all the way down to 56 before you run into Jorge Polanco (-0.4), so that’s neat.

At third base, making a somewhat respectable showing, we have Josh Rojas, who is 14th with a 1.8 WAR. Wanna know who the top-rated third baseman is at WAR? That would be the guy nobody wanted until LATE in Spring Training (aka, the guy the Mariners could’ve had, if they’d only spent the money), Matt Chapman, with a 3.6 WAR. 3 years, $54 million, for someone who would’ve been the best player on this team. Would’ve afforded you the option to move Rojas to second (when Polanco inevitably struggled), and probably would’ve given us more of a cushion in this A.L. West race. Awesome.

At short stop, I don’t even know what to do with this, because ESPN lists Dylan Moore here, who (I guess) is the 18th best short stop in baseball with a 1.7 WAR. J.P., having a very down year, is only 25th, with a 1.3 WAR. Know who’s right in the middle between those two? Jose Caballero (now on the Rays), with a 1.4 WAR.

In left field, the highest-rated Mariner is Luke Raley, who’s 21st with a 1.2 WAR. Know who’s rated one spot higher at 1.3 WAR? If you guessed Jarred Kelenic, you’d be correct.

Center field is where it really hurts, because this is where our supposedly-best player roams. Julio is only 14th with a 1.1 WAR, but also I don’t know how seriously I can take this list, because ESPN puts Teoscar Hernandez in this category. Anyway, he’s ranked 8th among “center fielders” with a 1.8 WAR.

In right field, you have to go all the way to 27th before you run into Dominic Canzone (0.4 WAR). You have to go all the way to 81st before you run into Mitch Haniger (-0.7 WAR), where you’ll find that there are only five right fielders worse than him in all of baseball.

Taking the outfield as a whole, the top three Mariners are Luke Raley (45th), Julio (48th), and … (drum roll) … Victor Robles (81st with a 0.6 WAR between the Mariners and Nationals). That’s the same Robles who we brought in last month, who’s appeared in only 17 games in a Mariners uniform (with all of 20 at-bats). His slash line with us is .350/.435/.600, leading me to wonder … should the Mariners be playing him more?!

To round things out, Mitch Garver is the 8th ranked DH, but according to ESPN, there are only 11 qualified designated hitters in baseball, and Garver has the worst WAR among DH’s who have a positive WAR (0.1). In other words, he doesn’t count for this thought experiment. Also, Shohei Ohtani has a 5.1 WAR exclusively as a DH, which is bonkers banana times.

Anyway, this roster is fucking depressing. Who’s ready for more baseball?! Because I know I sure as shit am NOT!

The Mariners Have The Biggest Divisional Lead In Baseball Right Now

Gotta get this post up before the inevitable crash!

After a 6-1 homestand – including a 3-game sweep of the Texas Rangers over the weekend – the Mariners now lead the A.L. West by 8.5 games. I think I read somewhere that this is the biggest divisional lead we’ve had since 2001, which was – of course – the last time we actually won the division. We are a whopping 17-5 against our division, including 4-2 against the Astros and 5-1 against the defending World Series champion Rangers.

For as bad as the actual start to this season was – 6-10 through April 14th – this is about as good of an outcome as you could hope for through June 16th. Not for nothing, but the Mariners are 37-21 since that nadir. Not too damn shabby.

At some point, we have to accept that this is who the Mariners are. They’re good. They’re not great. They obviously have some significant holes. An unluckier team might be down around .500, as opposed to 12 games over .500. But, this team isn’t going anywhere. Not without a significant amount of pitching injuries.

If this is what the Mariners are doing AS IS, that brings a couple questions to mind. #1 – what happens when certain players meet their inevitable positive regression? I’m going to go out on a limb and say Mitch Garver isn’t a .173 hitter all of a sudden. I’m also going to say that Jorge Polanco – when he comes back – will probably be better than .195. Now, I don’t know if those guys are going to be leaps & bounds better than what they’ve shown; I also don’t know if they’re going to continue to be around and given the playing time sufficient to pull themselves out of these respective season-long slumps. But, I would expect at least a little improvement.

I would also expect J.P. Crawford to go on a heater anytime now. Mitch Haniger, we know, has it in him. Now that Raley and Rojas have cooled off, can they readjust and get back to killing the baseball? And, we all know Julio and Cal have another gear that we haven’t quite seen yet.

So, what happens when those guys get it going a little more? Is that going to take place around the same time the pitching inevitably slumps? Well, that would be unlucky, wouldn’t it? Or, maybe perfectly lucky, depending on how clutch the offense can get.

My second question is that – if the Mariners are this good AS IS – how good can they be after adding a couple of competent bats at the trade deadline next month?

Well, obviously, that’s been a point of concern for me lately. Based on historical precedent, I don’t have a ton of confidence in their ability to deal well at the deadline.

If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you know I’m prone to worry about a lot of things when it comes to the teams I follow. This is the first time I’ve written about how these 2024 Mariners are the Real Deal. It would take quite a collapse for them to blow this 8.5-game lead in the division. We also compare favorably to the wild card teams in the American League, just in case this is the second-coming of the 2002 and 2003 Mariners, where we gag away our chances in the second half.

So, this leads me into my newest concern. It’s unfamiliar territory, yet one I think at least long-time Mariners fans can relate to: what if this team is built more for the regular season than it is the post-season?

You can’t deny that this pitching staff is as good as it gets in baseball. The rotation, 1-6, is lights out. In the bullpen, we’ve got an elite closer, a couple of nice leverage arms, and competence throughout. We’ve also got a couple of nice wildcards in Logan Evans and Gregory Santos to boost us in the second half.

But, what does this group look like in the playoffs?

Castillo has been good, but it’s not like he’s Felix in his prime. There’s occasional brilliance, but more often than not, it’s 6 innings and 2 runs. Which, don’t get me wrong, is GREAT for the regular season. If you’re throwing Quality Starts out there more often than not, you’re all right in my book. But, in the playoffs, it’s anywhere from a 3-7 game series. You don’t have a lot of chances. And, if your ace blows a game, that’s a big hole to climb out of. It’s not like we can rely on pulling Castillo prematurely, because usually those two runs are being scored early. And, with the way this offense struggles to score runs through the first two-thirds of games, you’re more likely to try to squeeze a little extra out of Castillo, who tends to get better as the game goes on.

Then, there’s Kirby, who has been really up and down this season. He’s put up a lot of 0- and 1-run games, but he also has five starts of 4 runs or more given up. In the playoffs, that’s a death sentence. Or, rather, in the playoffs – with this offense – that’s a death sentence. Because, I don’t care how much we’re able to do at the deadline, we’re still going to enter the post-season with a lot of question marks on offense.

Hell, even when the Mariners have had an elite offense – back in the 90’s and early 2000’s – they still struggled mightily in the playoffs. Why? Because you’re only going up against elite teams, and all elite teams have elite pitching staffs.

I’ve probably waffled over Logan Gilbert a thousand times in his career, but that game he pitched on Sunday against the mighty Rangers’ offense – 8 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 2 hits, 9 strikeouts – might’ve put him over the top for me, at least when compared to Kirby, if not to the entire starting rotation. That was an absolutely brilliant performance! He had everything working, against a really tough opponent who was trying like crazy to not get swept by their direct rivals.

What’s most encouraging to me about Gilbert is his ability to go deep into games. He leads the Major Leagues in innings pitched! He’s got a really good ERA – 2.93 – but it’s not Cy Young calibre just yet. He’s got a low WAR – 1.9 – compared to the other greats across baseball. And, obviously, his 4-4 record isn’t anything to write home about (mostly because it feels like he gets among the worst run support in the game today). But, there’s been a number of times this year where his starts have gone from potentially elite, to merely just good, thanks to a late bomb or run scored, when he’s trying to eke out another inning. If he can clean that up, he’s got Cy Young written all over him.

As it stands now, though, Gilbert seems to have the best and most varied arsenal of the bunch. Bryce Miller is close, but he lacks the command to know where everything is going to go. Gilbert looks pretty close to having mastered the command of his splitter and a variety of other off-speed stuff, to go with that outstanding fastball. Especially that splitter, though; he had that thing dropping like a yo-yo against the Rangers!

Kirby, on the other hand, is still pretty fastball-heavy. He’s trying with his off-speed stuff, but he’s not good enough yet to get those balls to consistently fall out of the strike zone. As such, he’s struggling with his swing-and-miss at times, and that’s hurting his overall numbers.

I would like to see this team really maximize Gilbert. If he’s not this team’s ace, he should at least be our number two in the playoffs. But, even then, will it be enough?

As I said before, when you get to the playoffs, they ALL have elite pitching. And, as we’ve seen all year, you don’t necessarily need elite pitching to shut down this Mariners offense. The funny thing about this offense is that it kinda doesn’t matter who they face. They’re going to score 3-4 runs per game against the best AND the worst. We’ve seen them eat into pitch counts against aces, we’ve seen them overcome deficits against top-notch closers … AND we’ve seen them suck against soft-tossing junkball pitchers. No rhyme or reason to any of it!

I will say that I’ve been fairly discouraged with our lineups against lefty starters. We tried a lineup last Thursday against the White Sox – during the Buhner Buzz Cut night that I attended with some friends – that was among the worst I’ve ever seen. A struggling Dylan Moore in the 2-hole; a miserable Mitch Garver batting cleanup and DH’ing; a bottom four of Tyler Locklear (who actually managed to hit a solo homer against a pretty elite starter), Victor Robles (who should be off of this team very soon), Ryan Bliss (who probably just doesn’t have it, and needs to go back to Tacoma), and Seby Zavala (who I thought would’ve been cut by now, since Garver has become Kirby’s own personal catcher). The offense was as bad as advertised in that one, yet an Emerson Hancock spot start (7 innings, just 2 solo homers in the third), and a clutch Julio bomb in the ninth to tie it, took that game into extras, where unfortunately they scored their ghost runner and we didn’t.

That was the difference between a perfect homestand and a still very, very good one.

Which is funny, because the Mariners were fortunate to take 3 of 4 against the lowly White Sox. We really played down to our competition in that series! It required beating up on their maligned bullpen to do as well as we did. Yet, we came back against Texas and really poured it on! That was nice to see, after some iffy baseball against the Sox.

Thus ends our stretch of 30 games in 31 days. A positively BRUTAL stretch that should be outlawed in the MLB at this point. If you can’t give teams one fucking day off a week, then what are we even doing as a society? Yet, we managed to go 19-11 in that stretch. That was a real Separate The Men From The Boys part of the season, and we passed with flying colors.

Things calm down a bit as we head into the All Star Break, but not before another extended east coast road trip, starting in Cleveland tomorrow before a Florida two-step to play the Marlins and Rays. If we’re looking ahead, there’s only a 3-game set in Boston in the second half, otherwise our road trips only go as far east as Pittsburgh. There’s five series total played in the central or eastern timezones outside of our division in the second half. There’s also only one more trip to Texas (we play the Rangers and Astros back-to-back in late September). So, once we get past this immediate road swing, it’s SMOOTH SAILING as far as travel goes the rest of the way.

Which Mariners Player Would You Want From Prior Eras To Be On Today’s Team?

Jay Buhner was on the Brock & Salk show yesterday, and they asked him, “Who on this year’s team would you want for those Mariners teams you were on?” It’s a fun question to debate, but it’s just pure fan service. I mean, it’s not like it could ever happen, so in a sense it’s completely masturbatory.

Far be it for me to turn down such an opportunity!

Jay Buhner said he’d want to play with either J.P. Crawford or Cal Raleigh. That’s hard to argue with. I mean, I absolutely will, because how could you not take a pitcher? Those mid-90’s teams had the very best version of Alex Rodriguez at short stop, which means you’re bumping J.P. to second or third. Which is fine.

I will say that if I were to take one hitter from today’s Mariners and put them on the 90’s squads, no one would be cooler than Cal Raleigh. I like Dan The Man Wilson as much as anyone, but the dude was a black fucking hole in the playoffs. But, you put Cal on that lineup with A-Rod, Edgar, Buhner, Griffey, Blowers, Tino Martinez/Paul Sorrento? With Cal’s penchant for the dramatic late in games and late in seasons? That’s just beyond an insane lineup.

But, it’s silly. Either you take Andres Munoz and swap out Bobby Ayala’s worthless ass, or you take Luis Castillo and pair him with Randy Johnson, to further crush it with the rotation. Don’t sleep on adding another elite starter to the 1995 team. If we have Castillo in there, maybe we don’t have to go 5 games in the ALDS against the Yankees. Maybe we are better able to line up our rotation against the Indians in the ALCS. Can you imagine Castillo in there instead of Tim Belcher or Andy Benes?

That being said, the Mariners were shut out twice in the 1995 ALCS; indeed, in all four losses we scored 2 runs or fewer. So, maybe Cal would’ve been just the ticket.

As for those early 2000’s teams, I don’t think there’s any question: you put Luis Castillo in that rotation with Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer, and Paul Abbott, and you throw Aaron Sele off a fucking cliff. Talk about a guy who was built for the regular season! That guy was a fucking trainwreck in the playoffs! Just fucking murdered us against the Yankees in back to back years; 16 innings across 3 starts, giving up 12 runs. And that’s JUST against the Yankees! For as worthless as Arthur Rhodes was in those series, I’ll take another ace, thank you very much.

But, let’s get back to the title of this post: who would I want from back then to be on today’s team?

Well, as much as I love a great pitching staff, and as tempting as it would be to add Randy Johnson to this group, that’s probably unnecessary, especially when you factor in how challenged this team is offensively.

It’s a clear 3-man race between A-Rod, Griffey, and Edgar. I would say Ichiro and Buhner are definitely honorable mentions, but the 2024 Mariners need more pop than Ichiro is capable or willing to provide, and more of a batting average than Buhner could possibly bring to the table.

The knock against Griffey and A-Rod is that they play two of the positions we’re strongest at. That being said, just move J.P. to second or Julio to right and call it a day. Of course, the knock against Edgar is that he plays no position, but I mean come on. Garver fucks off and it’s a complete 180 at DH.

Part of me feels like I’m over-thinking this. Ken Griffey Jr. is one of the best baseball players of all time. OF COURSE you take The Kid! I guess I’m a little wary because of his post-season numbers. They’re not great! Then again, none of the three are really all that spectacular. Edgar gets all the credit in the world for what he did against the Yankees in 1995, but his career numbers in three ALCS’s are pretty putrid (.156/.239/.234).

You know what? Fuck it. I want A-Rod here. Jorge Polanco is SO FUCKING BAD. Shit-can him, move J.P. to second. I feel like the upgrade of prime, Mariners-era A-Rod over Polanco is better than the upgrade we’d get with Griffey over take your pick in the outfield. Raley is obviously your third guy, probably platooning with Dylan Moore. So, Griffey over Haniger? Don’t get me wrong, that’s a pretty big leap too.

You know, it really says a lot about how shitty the 2024 Mariners lineup is that there are so many colossal black holes you’d love to swap out for Hall of Famers.

Just give me Ichiro, Griffey, Julio, Seager, A-Rod, J.P., Olerud, Raleigh, Edgar, with a bench full of Buhner, McLemore, Wilson, and Nelson Cruz, and throw them together with today’s pitching staff plus King Felix, Randy Johnson, Jeff Nelson, and Mike Jackson, and let’s go win a World Series!

It’s Almost Hilarious How Bad The Mariners Are At Adding To The Big League Club

Earlier in the week, I wrote about a bunch of former Mariners and talked about how they’re doing on their new teams. Some are doing great, some are having terrible seasons, and a lot of them are in the squishy middle.

I’ve also spent all season writing about how bad most of the new Mariners are, as well as how bad a bunch of longtime Mariners have been. It’s truly mindblowing how God awful this offense is. And yet, here we are, in first place in the division – thanks to an elite pitching staff – and we’re talking about this team making deadline deals in hopes to bolster our playoff chances.

But, are we sure we want THIS group of front office people making those decisions?

Who are the biggest offseason players we brought in to try to turn things around after a disappointing 2023? Mitch Haniger, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Luis Urias, and Luke Raley. They’ve all been terrible except for Raley, who has been good. Not great, not a difference-maker. Just, not the fucking worst like those other four guys.

So, let’s go back to the trade deadline last year; who did we bring in? Dominic Canzone and Josh Rojas. Canzone has flashed competence, but has mostly been wretched. Rojas has been good. Not great, not a difference-maker. Just, not the fucking worst.

You can come back and tell me that you need good players like Raley and Rojas, and I won’t argue with you. But, every hitter on the Mariners who isn’t the fucking worst is good. Just okay. Julio has been good. Cal has been good. Ty and J.P. have had their moments. Dylan Moore has been fine. Right now, I would lump all of those players together; they’re all the same. They’re all just kinda meh.

We can keep going backwards. Who did we bring in ahead of 2023? Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, Tommy La Stella, and Teoscar Hernandez. Three pieces of shit and one good player.

In 2022 – when we finally broke the curse and made it back to the playoffs – we brought in Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, Carlos Santana, and Eugenio Suarez. Winker was a colossal bust, Frazier was a dud, Santana was mostly bad (with a precious few bright spots), and Suarez was good (until 2023, when he was bad again).

In 2021, we brought in Abraham Toro at the deadline; a total and complete nothing. We also traded for Jake Bauers, who was even less than nothing. That wasn’t much of a year for trades or free agents, because we were still in rebuild mode.

But, just look at that track record! Who are the veteran players we acquired who were worth a damn?!

There’s an argument to be made that – when it’s all said and done – Josh Rojas will have been the best of the bunch, if he isn’t already. A journeyman, soon-to-be 30 year old infielder; THAT is the best veteran acquisition we’ve made on the hitting side of things in the Jerry Dipoto Era.

And this is the leadership group we want to entrust with our ballclub next month at the trade deadline.

You wonder why I’m so nervous about what’s going to happen?

Don’t get me wrong, this team has nailed pitchers. Luis Castillo, A+. Robbie Ray, B-. Damn near everyone in the bullpen? Gold stars all around! And, I would give them kudos for the players they’ve drafted, or otherwise fostered from very young prospect status. Julio, Cal, J.P., the rest of our starting pitchers, Munoz, Brash … that’s a core you can write home about.

Which brings me around to my ultimate point: maybe this organization should do what it does best. Maybe they should stick with their own prospects that they’ve developed and nurtured over the years. Maybe it’s smarter to be more patient and wait for them to be ready for the Majors.

Because whenever we try to go out and get some veteran help to have a positive immediate impact? It seems to end in total and complete failure. No one ever plays up to the backs of their baseball cards. No one is a sure thing, unless that “sure thing” is to come to Seattle and suck ass. Doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, on the cusp of the Major Leagues, or smack dab in the middle of your prime; odds are, if you come here, you’re going to turn into a turd.

So, maybe skip that step. Because it’s not going to work out anyway, and it’ll come with the added detriment of also giving away potentially-useful players to other teams. Fuck it, the Mariners are mediocre. But, making a bunch of trades to blow up your farm system is a surefire way to ensure we’re not only bad now, but for years to come.

Stick to your guns! I’m starting to get used to the 54%. It’s all we deserve.

The Mariners Are About To Have A Terrible Road Trip

This 10-game road trip was always going to be a bear to get through. The Orioles and Yankees are two of the best teams in all of baseball, and the Nationals are no slouch. They have the kind of hitting that can cut through our elite pitching, and they just need live bodies to be able to keep our hitters at bay. But, they don’t just have live bodies, they also have very good pitching in their own right.

That’s kind of the thing I don’t think gets talked about enough with the Mariners. Yes, we have great pitching, and yes, over the long haul that’s going to keep us right in line with contention. But, other teams have great pitching too! They might not have 6 viable starters like we’ve got, but they’ve still got good-enough guys. Most – if not all – of these elite teams have at least 1 or 2 tip-top pitchers, maybe more. Even if they’re not one through five better than us, they’re close enough. And that’s all they need to be to best us in a 3- or 4-game series.

That’s all they’d need in a hypothetical 5- or 7-game playoff series.

Being so extremely one-dimensional can only take you so far. You need to be a complete team if you want to hang with the big boys. Otherwise, you just play teams tough, and maybe lose an 18-inning, 1-0 game.

Anyway, the Mariners lost 2 of 3 to Baltimore over the weekend. On Friday, Bryce Miller had a real stinker, giving up 5 runs in the first. He settled down enough to keep it at 5 runs through 5.1 innings, but then the D-squad bullpen guys gave up four more to lose it 9-2. Dylan Moore had a solo homer.

On Saturday, we had another Luis Castillo Quality Start (6 innings, 2 runs), which was good enough for a no decision, as he left the game down 2-0. We used our good relievers to try to keep it close and give our offense a chance, and thankfully they finally managed to show up and do their fucking jobs. 2 runs in the 7th (highlighed by a Ty France double) and 2 runs in the 8th (with Cal Raleigh and Dylan Moore RBI doubles) gave us a 4-2 lead. Andres Munoz gave up a harmless solo homer, but netted his 8th save of the season.

That brought us to Sunday, where we lost 6-3. George Kirby gave up 5 runs in 6 innings, they had their ace on the hill, and we finished 2 for 9 with RISP. That’s the difference between the Orioles and the Mariners. I feel like they can shut us down whenever they want, but our pitchers are going to continually struggle against their top tier hitting.

Now, we go to New York to face the Yankees, where I fully expect us to lose a minimum of 3 games; maybe all 4. This is the part of the season where things start going from bad to worse. If I were a betting man, I’d be betting the Taylor Family Farm on the Yankees, and raking in the winnings.

The M’s Bounced Back Against The A’s

Kind of a weird weekend series for the Mariners. I don’t think ANY of the three games went as we might expect.

Friday night saw the return of Bryan Woo. As it happened, 2024 Woo looked a lot like 2023 Woo. A lot of fastballs, a lot of strikes, pretty reasonable pitch count; on the downside, he ended up getting tight in the fifth inning and had to be pulled (4.1 innings, 1 hit, 0 runs, 1 walk, 3 K’s). It won’t equate to another IL stint (just yet), but it is pretty concerning. Even more concerning is that this isn’t the first time he’s had this feeling on his way back to full strength.

On the good side, his arm tightened up because he had to rest so long between the fourth and fifth innings, because the Mariners were scoring so many runs. I think it’s a fair trade; give me 8 runs, I’ll suffer a starter not being able to go five full innings. Dylan Moore kicked some fuckin’ ass in this one, going 3 for 4 with a homer and 5 RBI. Ty France bounced back with two hits (including a 2-RBI double), and Luke Raley also chipped in with an RBI double and 2 runs scored.

It was nice to get the win, and not have to use anyone of import out in the bullpen, on what could’ve otherwise been an ugly night. Instead, that ugliness ended up taking place on Saturday, as we lost by an identical 8-1 score.

We were limited to 3 hits and 0 walks, which is how you waste a perfectly good Bryce Miller Quality Start (6 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts). But, the bullpen did us no favors, with Stanek giving up a run, Speier giving up 2 runs, and Bazardo (back from AAA) giving up 3 runs.

The Mariners’ offense bounced right back, though, scoring 8 more on Sunday to win 8-4. Julio had two hits with a homer, Garver also had two hits with a homer, even the backup catcher got in on the action with his first homer of the season. Pair that with a Luis Castillo Quality Start (6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, 0 walks, 8 strikeouts) and some competent bullpen work, and you get out of the weekend with a series win.

In other news, I called it with Matt Brash. He had surgery recently and is out for the year. What I wasn’t expecting was Gregory Santos not being back until maybe July. That’s rough. That makes me think this team probably needs to acquire another bullpen arm or two.

In some good news, J.P. Crawford is getting ready to go out on a rehab assignment. And I think I heard something about Dom Canzone swinging a bat down in extended spring training. So, you know, that’s something.

The Mariners Are Playing Like A Playoff Team Right Now

That’s a great Atlanta Braves team right there, probably the eventual N.L. East champions and maybe even a World Series participant this season. And the Mariners just beat them two out of three games.

I wouldn’t say it was easy. In fact, if a couple things happen differently, there’s a reasonable argument to be made that the M’s should’ve been swept. But, our pitching did its job and the hitting did just enough. This felt a little bit like playoff baseball, or what people think “playoff baseball” looks like in the regular season. How soon we forget what it ACTUALLY looks like, which is starters going MAYBE five innings, and their very best relievers working repeatedly on zero days rest. That’s not what this was. This was relying on your starters to go 7 dominant innings. This was getting awesome production from everyone in your bullpen, not just the top two guys. And, sure, there was a 5-out save sprinkled in, but there was also no chance he was going to appear in any other game this week.

We kicked things off on Monday with a thrilling 2-1 pitcher’s duel. Bryce Miller bounced back to go 7 strong, holding one of the better lineups we’ll see all year to 2 hits, 1 run, and a walk, while striking them out a whopping 10 times. Unfortunately for Miller, he had to settle for the no decision, because the M’s were held hitless through 7 innings and scoreless through 8. Ultimately, all it took to win this one was a bloop (by Polanco) and a blast (by Garver), to walk it off and give our newcomers something to celebrate.

Tuesday’s game was almost as impressive, with Luis Castillo also going 7 strong, holding them scoreless on 3 hits and a walk, with 7 strikeouts. For those keeping track at home, Castillo had three pretty crummy starts to kick off the season (12 runs in 15.2 innings) and four straight quality starts to follow (5 runs – 4 earned – in 26 innings). An ERA that was pushing 7 is down under 4 where it belongs.

We almost gagged that one away, though, with another brutal outing by Stanek, who got one out in the 8th and gave up 2 runs in the process. As he clearly didn’t have it, we hustled Munoz in there to get us out of the jam (though he did give up an inherited runner, and very nearly blew the save then and there). Once that nightmare subsided, Munoz had a relatively easy go of it in the 9th, to get his fifth save of the season.

The Mariners did all their damage before the fifth inning, with a 2-run Polanco homer kicking things off in the third, and a Moore RBI double in the fourth to give us the cushion we needed. Unfortunately, that clutchness failed us on Wednesday, as we lost 5-2, while being held to 2 for 11 with RISP.

I’ll be honest with you, I predicted a Mariners loss heading into that game, given all that happened leading up to it. I knew Munoz wouldn’t be used. I was pretty sure Stanek would be given some rest. That meant Speier would be held back unless we had a late lead for him to protect. Also Known As: we’d be getting the back-end of our bullpen, and a shaky Emerson Hancock, to try to keep the Braves at bay.

What I didn’t see coming was a brutal Haniger flat-out drop of a can of corn in right that led to four unearned runs in the 4th. Hancock couldn’t get out of the jam, and we were down 5-0 as a result. However, the bullpen kept the Braves scoreless from there, which is phenomenal! If we didn’t have that drop, maybe we sweep with another 2-1 victory. Or, if the offense had a little more going for it, maybe we pick Haniger and Hancock up and win it a little ugly.

But, it’s hard to be too upset about a series victory against a team like the Braves. They’re GOOD, and we hung right there with them. That has to be a confidence boost for a team that’s coming back from a horrendous first couple weeks of the season.

6-10 was our record midway through April. We’ve since won 11 of 15 games – largely on the strength of our pitching – to pull ourselves up to 17-14 and in first place in the A.L. West. Now, we’ve got an off-day, followed by a weekend series down in Houston. Then, it’s four games in Minnesota next week, who are on a major hot streak of their own after a slow start.

You can just feel the baseball oozing off of this season.

The Mariners Are Down J.P. Crawford, Continue To Win Anyway

There’s definitely an argument to be made that this isn’t really any big loss. J.P. Crawford – like most Mariners hitters – is off to an excruciatingly slow start. .198 batting average, .296 on-base percentage, four extra-base hits in 22 games, and there’s even been some defensive lapses that might not show up in your average stat sheet, but have still hampered this team at times.

That being said, other than Julio or Cal, J.P. is the guy we can least-afford to lose time. He plays the toughest defensive position, he’s our leadoff hitter, he’s one of the few competent lefty bats we have on the roster, and in spite of his slow start, I fully expect him to turn it around anytime he gets back on the field.

What’s even worse, though, is his injury. The dreaded Oblique Strain. Depending on how lucky you are, you’re either out for a month, or a year and a half if you’re Mitch Haniger. There’s luck involved, there’s giving it time to heal, there’s walking that tightrope of not rushing it and making it worse, while still getting your body back into baseball shape in order to not miss too much time, when every single game matters. Honestly? I’d rather he just kicked a water cooler and gotten hurt like Jarred Kelenic did last year; at least there’s a viable timeline you can follow, when you know he’ll be back in your lineup. J.P. Crawford could be back before the end of May, or he could have to wait until September. Or he could come back, play a while, re-injure it, and find himself once again down for the count.

So, NOT IDEAL.

Yet, the Mariners managed to go 1-1 against the Rangers without him, and 2-1 against the Diamondbacks. Heading into the Braves series, we were up to 15-13 and in first place in the A.L. West!

Of course, we’re talking about a team that’s absolutely laying the league to waste with its pitching. There was a 4-0 shutout in game one against Texas, with Logan Gilbert going 6.2 innings. There was a 5-1 loss in the middle there, with Bryce Miller getting roughed up a bit. But, we came right back to win 4-3, with another Luis Castillo Quality Start, and some more shut down bullpen work.

We won our fourth consecutive series by taking the first two against the Diamondbacks (sans Paul Sewald, who has started this season on the IL). Game 1 was a 6-1 blowout (thanks in large part to a Haniger Grand Slam), with Emerson Hancock going 6 innings and giving up just the one run. In game 2, we won 3-1 behind another George Kirby masterpiece (7 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 1 walk, 12 strikeouts). Even though we took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning of game 3, we couldn’t quite lock it down, losing 3-2. Nevertheless, Gilbert went 6.1 innings, giving up two of the runs, striking out 9 along the way.

This team is in an interesting groove right now. I’ll be honest, I don’t know if I totally believed in the pitching. I mean, I figured it would be good, but not good-enough, you know? Like, they’d keep us in games, but ultimately the offense would be their undoing. I think part of that disbelief has to do with the bullpen, which has been the biggest pleasant surprise of the young season so far.

All the way up and down that bullpen, you’re seeing some phenomenal numbers! Who knew Gabe Speier had this kind of dominance in him? Who saw Trent Thornton bouncing back after looking like ass for most of his career? Look at what we’re getting from guys like Cody Bolton, Brett de Geus, Tayler Saucedo, and Austin Voth! They all have ERAs under 3. We’ve seen some cracks in the armor of guys like Andres Munoz and Ryne Stanek, but they’re still – by and large – throwing flames and getting us out of big spots more often than not (their numbers are nothing to sneeze at either, also in the sub-3 ERA range).

What does that mean? Well, for one thing, we’re not having to over-work our starters. We’re able to pull them before they turn into pumpkins, without giving up the game entirely. They can focus on being economical with their pitches and just getting through six innings.

Everyone said this pitching staff – particularly the rotation – would keep the Mariners afloat. But, they’re doing so much more. They’re REALLY kicking some fucking ass! It’s all so much better than I ever could’ve imagined. And, not for nothing, but Bryan Woo is one or two more rehab starts away from coming back. We have SIX stud starters, when most teams struggle to even have three!

There’s still a lot of work left for this offense to start pulling its weight. It’s not helping that we’re forced to make Dylan Moore an everyday player. But, at some point, they’re going to have to get it together, if we want these Mariners to truly contend for a playoff spot.

The Mariners Head Into An Early-Season Showdown With The Rangers

Last year, the Mariners went 4-9 against the Texas Rangers. We had a winning record against everyone else in the division, including a 9-4 record against the Astros. Our record against Texas – it could be argued – single-handedly prevented us from making the playoffs.

What’s even worse is that 3 of the 4 victories happened in the final series of the season. It would’ve required a gargantuan series sweep to give us a chance of making the playoffs; instead, we came up two games short. That means, heading into that series, we were 1-8 against the Rangers; we were remarkably inept against the eventual World Series champs, until it practically didn’t matter.

That can’t happen again this year.

There’s probably never going to be a good time to play the Rangers this year, but I will say that it’s a helluva lot more encouraging to face them towards the end of April rather than at the beginning. While the Mariners are still quite flawed, at least the pitching has started to get into a groove, and the hitting is starting to come around.

We parlayed our sweep of the Reds into a 2-1 series win down in Colorado. Friday’s game was snowed out, if you can believe it. Thankfully, we’ve got an off-day today, so yesterday’s doubleheader shouldn’t have any sort of lasting impact.

Luis Castillo kept our streak of quality starts intact on Saturday, with a rather easy 7-0 victory. He went seven shutout innings, giving up only 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 9. That was nice to see, knowing we’d have a long day on Sunday; the bullpen was largely spared. On the flipside, the Rockies might be the worst team in all of baseball, so let’s not go crazy patting him on the back.

Cal Raleigh and Julio Rodriguez both had big games, with 4 hits each. But, this was a true offensive juggernaut, with the team going 5 for 12 with RISP.

We proceeded to biff the first game of the doubleheader on Sunday, losing 2-1 in extra innings. The game was scoreless through regulation, thanks to some nifty Dylan Moore defense in left, and a well-placed Fan Interference call in the bottom of the ninth on a would-be double (but certainly not a homer, since he actually reached out over the fence and over both the playing field and Moore’s outstretched glove). George Kirby gave us five shutout innings, when he apparently wasn’t feeling his best. The rest of the bullpen did their jobs, until they didn’t. The Mariners scored once in the 10th, on an RBI single from J.P. Crawford. But, Andres Munoz got jumped all over, failing to generate an out while gagging away the game. It happens.

The second game went much more favorably, 10-2 in our favor. Emerson Hancock gave up 2 runs in the first, but still went six innings, keeping them to 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 4. The offense proceeded to mash, with Cal, Julio, and Luke Raley each generating 2 hits. Even Seby Zavala chipped in with his first three hits of the season, to stave off his inevitable release.

All in all, this team is in as good a shape as it’s ever going to be, all things considered. Jorge Polanco still isn’t doing much of anything, and Munoz has had more hiccups than I like to see (without Brash or Santos here to pick up some slack). But, all in all, the bullpen has been solid all year, the starters are on cruise control, and the rest of the hitters seem to be coming around.

We’re 11-11. The Rangers lead the A.L. West at 12-11. This is our shot to really make a name for ourselves and stake our claim to the division.

What we CAN’T do is blow all three games, and suffer a repeat of last season. So, figure it the fuck out Mariners!

Another Series Played, Another Series Lost By The Mariners

The Mariners scored a season-high 6 runs on Wednesday to salvage one game of the 3-game series in Toronto. Five of those runs came in the 10th inning.

If a Mariners game leaving regulation tied at 1-1 sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it also happened in the Red Sox series, when we gave up 2 runs in the top half of the 10th, before exploding for 3 runs in the bottom half to walk it off.

The Mariners have played 13 games this season. They have a 5-8 record. Two of those wins came in our only two extra-innings games. I think you know where I’m going with this. From innings 1-9, the Mariners have scored a total of 34 runs, or 2.62 runs per regulation-length game. And they’ve scored 8 runs in the 10th inning of games. So, really, it’s just a matter of keeping the game tied as long as possible!

There’s nothing good or pleasant to say about this team, so I have to resort to that kind of bullshit to keep myself entertained. We lost on Monday thanks to another lousy fucking start from Luis Castillo. Another 5-inning, 4-run affair from the world’s most mediocre ace. That’s three games now, none of which have seen him get out of the 6th inning. He’s given up 4 runs in each of them, 2 homers, and 25 (!) hits. At times, he’s wildly unlucky, with guys poking filthy stuff off the plate for singles; at other times, he’s serving up ding-dongers right down the middle. It all adds up to him being unquestionably our worst starter so far; yeah, I said it!

We lost on Tuesday thanks to another abysmal outing by George Kirby. Looks like I was premature in labelling him the best starter on the team after his initial outing. Once again, he got crushed because he doesn’t know how to NOT throw strikes. Free-swingin’ teams are going to have a field day every time he takes the mound, because all he wants to do is throw first-pitch strikes, second-pitch strikes, and third-pitch strikes. Until he learns to start pitching backwards – because CLEARLY his reputation preceeds him – I just don’t see how he’s going to develop into a fully-rounded pitcher.

We also lost those games, of course, because the offense failed to bail out our struggling starters. To the bullpen’s credit, they only gave up 1 run across 7 innings of work. But, there’s no comeback and very little fight in this offense.

I mean, shit, we damn near squandered another gem from Logan Gilbert on Wednesday. He went 7.2 innings, held them to 1 run on 5 hits and a walk, while striking out 8. He couldn’t quite get through eight, even though he was at 89 pitches, but Andres Munoz got him out of the jam, and kept the game tied through the bottom of the 9th.

That’s when, finally, guys started hitting. Cal Raleigh had a 2-run bomb, Ty France had an RBI double, and Mitch Haniger had a 2-run single.

If I had to dig deep and find something vaguely interesting to talk about this offense, I think it has to be this: last year – and for probably the last decade-plus – we lamented the lack of production out of the bottom of the order. To the point where many fans have charged that these black holes are keeping us from making the playoffs. I know I’ve definitely banged that drum!

But, when you sit down and think about it logically, the fact of the matter is, the Mariners are only going as far as the top of the order takes them. If you’re sitting there worried about what hitters 7-9 are doing, you’re missing the point. This season – through 13 games, anyway – is really proving that point. Because it’s largely been the bottom of the order that’s been doing the most damage.

Dom Canzone might not be an All Star or anything, but he’s far and away leading this team in slugging with .567! He’s the team leader in homers with 3, he’s tied for the lead in extra-base hits with 4, he’s second in RBI with 6, he’s second in total bases, and tied for first in WAR. And he’s only tied for sixth in hits with 7! When he puts the bat to the ball, it goes far, and I just might have some words to eat after calling him the Spring Training Mirage.

Ty France has been hitting so much at the bottom of the order that he’s worked his way back up to the 3-hole! He’s got a .316 average and leads the team with 12 hits (even though he missed three games with paternity leave)! Dylan Moore, Josh Rojas, and even Luis Urias are all slugging over .400, which isn’t any kind of phenomenal bar to clear, but do you know how many of our top-of-the-order and middle-of-the-order hitters are slugging over .400? Mitch Haniger, end of list.

Cal Raleigh, J.P. Crawford, Mitch Garver, Julio Rodriguez, and especially Jorge Polanco have all SUUUUUUUCKED so far. Polanco has done so poorly he’s dropped to fifth in the lineup, and I don’t think we’re too far away from him getting a rest day, or dropping towards the bottom for a spell.

Those are your studs. Those are the guys (plus Haniger) you’re counting on to take you to the promised land. And you’re getting next-to-nothing from them.

So, yeah, that’s where we’re at. We have an off-day, then it’s home for the Cubbies. I guess the good news is the fact that no one is really running away with the A.L. West yet. Not that I’m standings-watching or anything.