The Mariners Finished Sixth-Worst In All Of Baseball in 2019

For the last time, I get to talk about how the 2019 Mariners started 13-2, only to go 55-92 the rest of the way. Suffice it to say, the final 147 games were a better representation of this team’s true abilities.

Last in the A.L. West, four games behind the Angels, 29 behind the Wild Card-bound Athletics, and 39 behind the 107-win Astros. For draft purposes, we were just a single game better than Toronto for the fifth overall draft pick. I don’t know if that final win would’ve meant anything as far as a tie-breaker for that spot (as we “won” the season series against the Blue Jays), but if it prevented us from moving up a spot in the draft, then once again a meaningless late-season win will have done real, lasting damage.

Let’s rattle through some numbers: 68-94, a -135 run differential, a team slash line of .237/.316/.424; a team ERA of 4.99 (with a 5.00 FIP). Something interesting about this team is just how truly awful the Mariners were against the best of the American League. Against the Astros, Rays, Yankees, Twins, and Indians, the Mariners had a combined record of 7-38, which means against everyone else in baseball we were 61-56. The great team the Mariners could actually handle was the A’s at 9-10, but I find that very interesting. On the one hand, it’s a clear indictment that there’s an obvious difference in talent level between the Mariners and the best of the best; however on the other hand – while the M’s ended up with one of the worst records in all of baseball – we could hang with the clods in this Gods N’ Clods American League. So, we’re middle-of-the-road among the losers, but we are SO FUCKING FAR AWAY from the elites.

As we’ve discussed all year long, it was never about the results (except for my bloodlust for a higher draft pick), it was about developing our future stars. In that sense, I think this year was a moderate success. From just a clubhouse standpoint, I thought the team played hard all year. Maybe some lulls here and there – particularly with certain defensive struggles and base-running mistakes – but nothing alarming. At no point have I felt an overwhelming need to see Scott Servais fired and have a bunch of heads rolling. I thought he did a great job managing an impossible-to-win situation. He obviously doesn’t have forever to right the ship; if he wants to stick around for when this team gets good again, this probably has to be the nadir. I’m sure the higher ups will want to see steady progress in the right direction as soon as 2020, with a likely Playoffs Or Bust scenario in 2021 (depending on how much improvement we have next year). I’m not saying I believe the Mariners will make the post-season by 2021 – indeed, I’d bet hard the other way, if I’m being honest – and so this is just my way of saying that I fully expect this team will have a new field manager the next time we’re ACTUALLY contending for the playoffs again. It’s sort of a bummer, because I think Servais is the right man for the job, but it’s an impossible task he’s saddled with. The Mariners haven’t made the post-season in forever and as such, the fans aren’t going to wait around forever. If we’re not hovering around .500 next year, I think he’ll get the axe when it’s over (especially if attendance continues to go down as much as it did between 2018 & 2019, what with all the improvements to the stadium the Mariners are doing this offseason).

On the field, I guess I have cautious optimism about some of the strides the younger guys made, but what other choice do I have? I’m already on record as not believing this organization is anywhere close to the post-season, but it’s also not totally impossible to be pleasantly surprised.

The pitching is obviously the biggest concern, and there’s really not much to like about what we’ve got in the Majors so far. Marco Gonzales is the only guy who qualified by pitching enough innings, so that should tell you a lot. He was fine. He should be a reliable innings-eater who has more good games than bad ones; imagine Jamie Moyer with a better fastball and worse change up. As a #2, he’s less ideal; as #3 he’s good enough; as a #4 he’d be perfect. But, he’s nobody’s idea of an ace, yet he was far and away the best pitcher on this team.

The good thing about pitching is that it can vary so much from year to year, so it wouldn’t shock me to see a bunch of guys who just got their feet wet in 2019 taking huge steps forward in 2020. Kikuchi is obviously the one we most want to see make that leap, as he had about as rough of a debut to the Major Leagues as we ever could’ve predicted. I think we all thought he’d be more of a finished product at this point; now I pray that he isn’t. Because, if this is just who he is, then he’s of no use to this organization.

We don’t have Felix to kick around anymore, and I have to believe LeBlanc’s starting days are over for this team (aside from the occasional spot-start, if he’s even still here at all and we don’t trade him). So, we should see a lot of the younger guys going forward. I fully expect to see Justus Sheffield in the rotation out of Spring Training; there’s nothing he has left to do in AAA that he can’t do here against legitimate competition. We need to see what he has, and if he’s destined to be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher or not. To his credit, he made remarkable progress after seemingly going the other way to start the season. I hope we’re able to unlock whatever potential he has inside of him.

After those three (Gonzo, Kikuchi, Sheffield), I really have no idea. I’m pretty sure they’ll go out and sign a veteran on a cheap deal to help be a presence for the younger guys, but that final spot has to go to another youngster; maybe Justin Dunn? We’ll see.

I’m not even going to bother discussing the bullpen right now. It was as big a disaster as we ever could’ve hoped for, and I believe the primary reason why we lost so many games, so in that sense they did what they were supposed to do. Now, after getting a look at so many different guys, here’s hoping we can cobble something together to give them more of a chance to continue developing.

I would argue the biggest bright spots for this team came on the hitting side of the ball, but I also really question how many of these players will be around long term. J.P. Crawford seems like a good bet to be our starting short stop for a while, but is he good? He showed glimpses of greatness, but also long bouts of ineptitude with the bat. I liked what I saw out of Shed Long, and hope he gets a regular role with this team going forward, but he might not be anything more than a super-sub. Austin Nola was a nice find, but he’s not the future starting first baseman for this team in 2022; that’s supposed to be Evan White (and maybe as early as next year). That effectively makes Nola yet another super-sub.

We all loved what we saw out of Kyle Lewis in his cup of coffee this September, but it was just that: a September call-up for a first-time Major Leaguer. Can he carry it over into Spring Training and beyond? Dan Vogelbach hit a lot of homers, but not much else. Domingo Santana was a solid presence in the middle of the lineup when he was healthy, but he was also the absolute worst in the outfield. Mallex Smith got better as the season went along (and led the league in stolen bases), but he’s nobody’s idea of a centerfielder of the future. Dylan Moore is just a guy. Most of the younger guys we saw weren’t even good enough to be called out by name. The very best thing the Mariners had going for them in 2019 was the catcher position, led by Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy, but they’re not necessarily destined to be here forever either. They really just add up to one great catcher split in two, where one is shaky at defense and the other might just be better in smaller doses (and will be exposed if he’s ever given the everyday starting job). Then there’s Mitch Haniger, who was injured for what felt like the entire season. He didn’t look spectacular when he was out there, so I’m even less sure of him now than I was at this point last year.

More than anything, all we have is hope that the minor leaguers will continue to rocket their way up to Seattle. Which, you know, isn’t a ton to hang your hat on. I guess we’ll see. Again, what choice do we have, right?

My Confidence Level In The Mariners’ Rebuild So Far

Jeff Passan made a good point on Brock & Salk yesterday, when he asked who’s going to be part of the Mariners’ Major League team in 3 years. The more names you can pull from the current crop of players – either currently in the Bigs, or hopefully to-be-in-the-Bigs in 3 years’ time – the higher your confidence level should be in how the rebuild is going.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have a great handle on the minors, aside from all the names everyone talks about all the time, so my choices are going to be different from someone who’s an expert. But, that’s the way it goes. I’m going to split up everyone I can think of into three-ish categories.

High Confidence

  • J.P. Crawford (INF)
  • Kyle Lewis (OF)
  • Mitch Haniger (OF)
  • Marco Gonzales (SP)
  • Justin Dunn (P)
  • Justus Sheffield (P)
  • Jarred Kelenic (OF)
  • Julio Rodriguez (OF)
  • Evan White (INF)

These are guys I’m all-but-guaranteeing will be part of the Mariners in three years, which right away feels both inadequate and wrong. I mean, for starters, I see four outfielders here. I suppose one or more of them could flame out and end up as a utility player, but more likely we’ll see one or more of them traded to help in other areas of the roster. My hunch is Mitch Haniger would be the one to go by the time we get to 2022, which is making me REALLY regret going out and buying his jersey earlier this year.

Kyle Lewis’ first week with the Mariners has been nothing short of phenomenal, and he’ll absolutely come into Spring Training next year looking to win a job of some sort. Rodriguez and Kelenic will look to get more seasoning in the minors next year, but if all goes according to plan, one or both will at least get a cup of coffee before the end of 2020. Evan White feels like he’s probably a couple of years away, but he too wouldn’t shock me if he saw some time in Seattle next season.

As for the pitchers, Marco should still be around, but who knows? The younger guys are still too young to put too much money on staying as starters, vs. being relegated to the bullpen. Better prospects than Sheffield have been banished as such.

Medium Confidence

  • Omar Narvaez (C)
  • Tom Murphy (C)
  • Cal Raleigh (C)
  • Austin Nola (Util)
  • Mallex Smith (OF)
  • Domingo Santana (OF)
  • Yusei Kikuchi (SP)
  • Sam Tuivailala (RP)
  • Erik Swanson (P)

I feel like if Cal Raleigh is going to stick with the Mariners, it might take up to three years for him to fully earn a roster spot. I have to imagine one of the two vets we have on roster now will be gone, but I honestly have no idea who it would be. Nola feels like the perfect candidate to be a utility player who can cover first base and the corner outfield spots (saying nothing of his ability to be a third catcher). Mallex Smith would only still be here as cheap insurance in case our younger outfielders don’t pan out. Santana feels like a candidate to eventually convert to 1B/DH. Kikuchi will either have figured it out and will be a nice middle-of-the-rotation staple for this team, or he’ll be elsewhere. Tuivailala is the only reliever right now I have ANY remote confidence in; not that none of the guys we have on roster now won’t still be here, but relief pitching is the last thing you need to shore up after settling things down everywhere else (in other words, I see a lot of potential trade candidates on the Major League roster right now). I’m not convinced whatsoever that Swanson will still be starting in 2022, but I’m medium convinced he’ll still be with the Mariners in some capacity.

Medium-Low Confidence

  • Shed Long (Util)
  • Dan Vogelbach (1B/DH)
  • Jake Fraley (OF)
  • Joe Rizzo (Util)

Long has enough pop in his bat, and can play enough different positions, to be a quality utility player. But, can he hit for high-enough average and get on base to this organization’s liking? On the flipside, Rizzo already has the average, and he appears to be improving on his power, but the question is his versatility. I read that they’re playing him all over the field, which is great for his chances, because it feels like his bat will play. But, if he can’t hack it defensively and he’s a man without a position, he could be some strong trade bait. As for Vogey, his first half was encouraging, but his second half has me concerned. The power is great, the on-base percentage is great, but if he’s hitting around the mendoza line, I just don’t know if there’s ENOUGH power there to make him worth all the strikeouts and whatnot. Also, if he never hits lefties, it’s REALLY hard to platoon a 1B/DH type; ideally you want him in your lineup every day mashing dingers no matter who’s pitching. All I know about Fraley is he’s a pretty highly-rated prospect for the Mariners, but he has yet to really show much in his short stint with the team this year. He feels like more trade bait.

Low Confidence

  • Kyle Seager (3B)
  • Dylan Moore (Util)
  • Braden Bishop (OF)
  • Dee Gordon (2B)
  • Tim Lopes (INF)
  • Donnie Walton (INF)
  • Ryon Healy (1B)
  • Every other pitcher I haven’t listed above

I have to imagine the Mariners will do whatever it takes to make 2021 Seager’s last year in Seattle. He’s not worth what he’s making now, so by 2022, it should be pretty obnoxious. Healy’s injury status makes him a probable cut candidate as soon as the end of this year. Moore feels like a dime-a-dozen utility player who won’t be worth keeping around. Dee Gordon is another guy I gotta think will be gone before his contract expires in 2021. As for the younger guys, and anyone else I didn’t list, who the fuck knows? I know enough not to be super confident that they’ll be here in three years. If I’m wrong, then GREAT! That probably means they took serious leaps in their development. Who knows, maybe Bishop could be the next Chris Taylor with a simple change in his swing?! I mean, I doubt it, but you never know.

Anyway, to wrap this all up, I guess I give the rebuild a B- so far. I love the combination of those four outfielders I listed up top. I think our catching situation is pretty strong in the near future. First base should finally be locked down once Evan White makes it. I don’t know if I see a ton of hope on the pitching side of things, unless Dunn and Sheffield stick as starters and really start kicking some ass. If that’s the case, and you can pair them with Gonzales and Kikuchi, that’s a pretty solid rotation.

Still, gonna need some of these lower candidates to pop over the next couple seasons. If someone like Rizzo could lock down the third base job, and maybe Long the second base job, with some veterans crushing it in the middle of the lineup at DH … if you squint awful hard, you can see the makings of something special.

But, really, the odds of the Mariners being great in 2022 are remote any way you slice it. The Angels have the best baseball player in the world and when was the last time they really scared you? It goes without saying I doubt the Mariners will have someone in Trout’s league by then (which doesn’t even refer to the Astros and A’s and their crack development squads).

It Only Took 146 Games For The Mariners To Get To 60 Wins

The best Mariners game I’ve seen all year didn’t actually involve the Mariners at all! It was a Texas League Playoffs matchup last Wednesday, featuring the Arkansas Travelers against the Tulsa Drillers, televised on Root Sports, featuring Jerry Dipoto doing color commentary. The Travelers won a tense 2-1 battle, though sadly they would go on to lose the series in five games. Getting to see potential future Mariners stars at the AA level is really the only source of hope in this nothing of a season.

The M’s are 60-86 this morning, after a couple of wins to start this week’s Reds series. The only reason to ever look at the standings if you’re a Mariners fan is to see where they’ll be drafting next year. For the last few weeks, we’ve pretty much been stuck at the 6th overall draft slot. The Blue Jays are in fifth, 3 games worse, and the Royals are in fourth, a whopping 6 games worse. So, moving down in the standings to get a better draft pick seems pretty remote with only 16 games remaining (only 6 of which are against teams with winning records, and only 2 of THOSE games are against the Astros, which at this point should be considered certain defeats).

There is still a chance to get a slightly worse draft pick, though, which is not what I want to be thinking about right now. But, the Rockies – who have been terrible in the second half of this season – are only 2 games better, and the Pirates – who we play in Pittsburgh next week – are only 4 games better (likewise, the White Sox – who we play at home this weekend – are just 4.5 games better). The point is: EYES ON THE PRIZE! There are A LOT of terrible teams on the Mariners’ schedule (those teams I just mentioned, as well as the Orioles, who are the second-worst team in all of baseball by record); we need to continue to lose just enough to at the very least keep our 6th overall draft pick!

As for how this season has gone, I haven’t the foggiest. I still don’t think I’ve seen a 2019 Mariners game all the way through. I think I read somewhere that they either set a franchise record or a Major League record for most players used in a season, which feels about right. There are a ton of guys I’ve never heard of before (especially from the bullpen side of things), and the ones I have heard of haven’t been all that riveting.

The whole thing with a “rebuild” or a “step-back” or whatever is twofold: lose a bunch of games to replenish your roster with high draft picks, and play a lot of young guys to give them the experience they need to develop into stars in the near future. Well, that first part has gone pretty well (again, in spite of that 13-2 start that grows more baffling by the day). The other half of the equation is a mixed bag.

We got a whopping 63 games out of Mitch Haniger before injuries followed by repeated setbacks to said injuries derailed his entire season. Not that he was ever REALLY in danger of being sent to the minors or anything – he was generally considered to be one of our stars and leaders of this team – but he’s still a relatively young guy in the grand scheme of things, and probably could’ve used at least a good second half to springboard into a more promising 2020.

Likewise, Domingo Santana hasn’t played since mid-August. Mallex Smith had to be sent down for a spell to correct things about his defense and his swing. Shed Long and J.P. Crawford have both missed time with injuries in an all-important year for a couple of guys looking to compete for starting jobs in 2020.

On the flipside, our catcher position has arguably never been stronger! Omar Narvaez is far and away our best hitter, and Tom Murphy has been a revelation (when he was considered a journeyman backup at best when we brought him in). Austin Nola came from out of nowhere to put up some solid offensive numbers as a first base replacement for the injured Ryon Healy. And, even Kyle Seager has had a nice bounce-back campaign after a rough last couple of seasons; in just 90 games he has 22 homers and at least looks like the Kyle Seager of old, who earned that massive contract. It’s nice to at least not have a black hole at third base heading into next year.

Those guys have been solid, Crawford has looked like a viable Major Leaguer at short stop. Mallex Smith has 41 stolen bases to make up for some soft offensive numbers. Dan Vogelbach has had a rough stretch since the All Star Break, but he still has 30 homers and a .344 on-base percentage; if he ever figures out how to hit lefties, watch out! I feel like there’s enough potential on this side of the ball to make 2020 somewhat interesting.

The real bright spot for the organization has been what’s going on in the minors. Jarred Kelenic has rocketed all the way up to AA, and hasn’t really missed a beat. Kyle Lewis was just called up from AA for a cup of coffee and has hit two homers in his first two games. A number of other guys have blossomed to the point where we’re not only NOT the laughingstock of minor league farm systems, but we’re actually pretty respectable! Maybe not in the realm of the Astros/Braves/Dodgers/Yankees, but at least in the conversation down in that next tier. Kelenic could very well be in that Mike Trout mold of superstar, should things continue on this trajectory.

The pitching is another matter, of course. Marco Gonzales is what he is, which is fine. Sometimes, he’s really on it, but sometimes he’s got nothing. His 4.30 ERA feels about right for him; he’s certainly nobody’s idea of a #1 starter. But, as a #3, he’s okay. As a #4 he’s probably better. To say that Yusei Kikuchi’s rookie season hasn’t gone according to plan has been an understatement. A lot of mediocre-to-ugly stat lines, with his bright spots few and far between. You can see the potential is there, and the stuff is there. The best thing we can say is that if he’s going to have a season like this, better to get it out of the way now, when winning isn’t really the top concern. If he’s going to have a CAREER like this, though, then yeah, he’ll be a huge bust.

As you may recall, the Mariners spent a buttload of draft picks earlier this summer on pitching prospects, which felt like a total overreaction to the years guys like Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson were having. Swanson was always going to be a candidate to switch to the bullpen, and it appears that’s what the team has done with him in the second half of this season, which is obviously disappointing. That disappointment has only been worsened by the fact that he really hasn’t looked good in either role. There’s still hope for Sheffield, in spite of his ragged start to 2019. He was in Tacoma, he had some bad games in Seattle, he went back to Tacoma, then he was demoted even further, down to AA to get his mechanics right. That probably has more to do with the fact that the PCL is a home run factory what with the juiced balls and small ballparks, but that’s neither here nor there. Sheffield has pretty quietly had an improved second half, and in his two September starts, he’s combined to go 11 innings, giving up 12 hits, 1 run, with 5 walks and 11 strikeouts. It’s baby steps, but I’ll take it.

As for the bullpen, I couldn’t even start. I don’t even know who’s here anymore! Our saves leader – Roenis Elias with 14 – is on the Nationals, that much I do know. Our next-highest saves leaders have 4 apiece. I have to believe we’re at or near the top of Major League Baseball in BLOWN saves, but that’s not a stat they like to throw around very much.

To be fair, at this point in our rebuild, the bullpen is probably the last thing we should be worrying about. I said it earlier this season and it’s come to fruition: you want everyone on the team to play well, then you want the bullpen to absolutely tear every game apart. Gotta get that high draft pick! Gotta draft and develop well! Gotta get back to the playoffs somehow, some way! Gotta win a World Series before the Earth is swallowed up by the Sun!

Of Course The Mariners Can’t Even Tank Properly!

I returned from my big Clusterfest weekend dismayed to find the Mariners have gone on a little run of late, winning 5 of 6, including 3 of 4 against the very worst team in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles.

The Mariners are 36-47, which is still hilarious when you factor in our infamous 13-2 start to the season. But, it’s also ridiculously close to .500, particularly when you consider how bad this team has looked for the majority of this season. The Orioles – on the other hand – are a whopping 22-57! They’re doing everything within their power to lose and lose often; the Mariners, on the other hand, still seem to be straddling the fence.

Always and forever on the fence.

I guess it should be noted that there’s no one way to (re)build a franchise, but I think I can take a stab at it, based on who’s currently leading the way in the standings in 2019. Up in the top half of the league, we’re talking about a bunch of teams who were bad for a spell, drafted well, developed their stars, and when it was time to compete, beefed up their team salary with free agents and/or trade acquisitions to put them over the top. That’s not a tried & true formula for every single team; I don’t remember the Yankees or Red Sox really bottoming out, and likewise I don’t recall the Rays or Athletics ever spending ANY money ever. But, the point is, you never see teams middling their way to the top, which is what the Mariners are trying to do and it’s what they’ve done since their inception back in the 70’s.

Once the Mariners got REALLY bad in 2004, they should’ve immediately reversed course, dumped everyone, and gone for a full rebuild. Instead, heading into the 2005 season, the Mariners dropped huge gobs of money into the pockets of Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre (massive overpays for both, as Beltre never approached his 2004 season with the Dodgers, and Sexson was a gigantic drain for this franchise by the time his contract expired in 2008) and the rest is history.

The Mariners have been really unlucky in the last two decades to boot. In years where they were supposed to be bad, they competed out of nowhere; in years where they were supposed to be competitive, they’ve generally flatlined. It’s hard to want to stick to a plan when expectations are defied so often. I mean, what do you do when you resign yourself to sucking, only to find yourself in the thick of breaking a generational playoff-less streak?

But, it’s that very mode of thinking that’s torpedoed this franchise. Not having the wherewithal and the guts to stick with a plan. It’s why this team has churned through managers like a rabid dog with a T-bone steak. It’s why general managers have made panic move after panic move, forever in a reactive position based seemingly on emotions and the whims of an erratic ownership group.

If you look at the top half of baseball, there are the usual suspects, but then there are teams like the Twins, Astros, Indians, Braves, Cubs, Rangers, Brewers, Phillies, and Rockies. Teams clearly trending in the right direction, and teams who underwent massive rebuilds in recent years. Those teams used to be DREADFUL, and now they’re among the best. You don’t HAVE to be the Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers to compete at a high level; you just need to be smart and have a plan and GOD DAMMIT STICK TO THAT PLAN.

Okay. So, let’s say the Mariners finally have a plan. Let’s say 2019 is the first true rebuild in God knows how long. It’s still not the kind of rebuild I believe this team needs, nor is it even a rebuild that makes any sense. “Stepping back” in 2019 to be in contention by (hopefully) 2021 just isn’t realistic. Not when you’re talking about needing to fill 10/12 spots on a Major League pitching staff, including 100% of the bullpen. Not when you’re talking about a dearth of quality pitching in the high minors. Not when you JUST spent an inordinate amount of draft picks this year on replenishing your pitching (when those guys won’t be ready for the Bigs until 2022 at the VERY earliest).

The Mariners believe they currently roster – at the Major League level – players who will be part of the “Next Great Mariners Team”. Guys like Haniger, Gonzales, and Kikuchi. Maybe guys like Vogelbach, Santana, Narvaez, Mallex Smith, and J.P. Crawford. I’ll tell you right now, every single one of those guys have considerable flaws to their games, so you tell me: will the Mariners be competitive by 2021 or 2022? If so, how many of those players will still be on this roster?

The M’s are still the 6th worst team in baseball at the time of this writing, but there are at least 5 teams just ahead of them that will be vying for a Top 10 draft pick by season’s end. At this point, the Orioles, Royals, Tigers, Blue Jays, and Marlins all look like locks to make the Bottom 5 (our only hope is that the Orioles/Jays & Royals/Tigers are in the same divisions, so they play one another 19 times this year). Meanwhile, with how well the hitting has been at times, I could easily see the Mariners slide outside of the Top 10, at which point winning is doing more harm than good.

Then again, it’s not necessarily where you draft, but rather how you develop. That’s the biggest key to success in baseball, over everything else. Based on that, I’m just wasting my words on this team, because the Mariners have to rank among the worst in the game at development. You can hang bad luck on a few players, but the overwhelming majority of Mariners prospects have been just plain bad.

Yesterday’s Game Was Almost The Epitome Of A Perfect Mariners Loss

Picture this: a delightfully pleasant-weather spring day in Seattle. After a morning tastefully celebrating D-Day, as I do every year, I scrambled to get as much work done as I could, elated that my workday would be wrapping up around noon.

At the strike of twelve, I was in my Mariners hat and on my way out of the building. The wait for the light rail to arrive was longer than the ride from Westlake to International District, but it beats the hell out of walking all the way there I guess. I was starving, so I bought a $4 hot dog in the alley next to CenturyLink Field and had just enough time to wolf it down before I met my friends next to the Left Field Entrance.

Section 332 …

We got seats in section 332 for the 12:40pm start time and JUST missed first pitch, as we were waiting in line to get our first beers of the day. When we finally sat down, the Astros already had runners on base with nobody out. This was the second time Scott Servais used an Opener in this series alone – apparently he doesn’t trust soft-tossing lefties against the top of the order, because he did the same thing in the Wade LeBlanc start (who went on to pitch 8 innings of 1-run ball) – and it was the second time it totally backfired. In the aforementioned LeBlanc start, Cory Gearrin went 1.0 innings, giving up 3 runs in a 4-2 loss. I’m not saying had LeBlanc gotten the actual start – and subsequently went 8 innings of 1-run ball in this hypothetical scenario – that we would’ve won 2-1 (because, lord knows we’re more than capable of blowing a save in the 9th), but going down 3-0 in the first inning was a hole too big to dig our way out of.

Welp!

Yesterday someone named Austin Adams, who I’ve never heard of before, was somehow WORSE! Yes, he gave up 3 runs in the first inning, putting us in a would-be insurmountable hole against the likes of Justin Verlander (or so we thought), but he didn’t even have the decency of going a full inning! He threw 30 pitches and got 2 outs; starter Tommy Milone had to come in with a runner on base and get the final out of the inning (he would go on to throw 5 more on top of it, giving up a Wade LeBlanc-esque 1 run).

Can we fucking stop with the Opener now, Scott Servais? Or, at least, can we put a reliever in there who knows his ass from a hole in the ground? I don’t even know if that phrase makes sense here, but I’M STANDING BY IT!

The Mariners got a run back in the bottom of the first thanks to some weird defense by the Astros (deciding to NOT catch a pop fly by Encarnacion was an interesting choice, I must say), and then things settled in a little more predictably for a while. The Astros’ lead ballooned up to 5-1 before things started getting interesting.

We chased Verlander in the bottom of the seventh and worked a nice 2-out rally against the bullpen, pulling the game to 5-4. The Astros got one back in the eighth, and the M’s did the same in the bottom half. Then, against their closer in the bottom of the ninth, the Mariners pulled it to 6-6 to force the game into extras.

The Astros took the lead in the top of the tenth, but Omar Narvaez jacked a solo bomb to re-tie the game in the bottom frame. Things stayed that way until the 14th inning, when a line drive got past Domingo Santana in right for a leadoff triple (he would score the game-winning run on a sac fly). Spoiler alert, but the M’s lost with the bases juiced full of walks, but I’m gonna stop here for a moment to talk about Santana.

Servais wasn’t all Opener Gaffes this week; he also made what I thought was a pretty savvy move. For most of the year, the outfield has been Santana in left, Mallex Smith in center, and Mitch Haniger in right. It made sense. Haniger is probably better suited as a right fielder, and his strong arm plays well there. Smith was supposed to be a defensive whiz and a natural in center. And, while Santana’s natural home is in right, the left field in Safeco isn’t unreasonable, and it would seem to mask his weaker throwing arm (at least compared to Haniger’s).

Well, that ended up backfiring miserably, as Santana has led all of baseball in errors and misplayed balls while in left field, and Mallex’s defense has completely fallen apart for some reason since he re-joined the Mariners. So, this week, Servais moved Smith to left, Haniger to center, and Santana to right. That would take some of the mental pressure off of Mallex, and hopefully do the same for Santana. While we might have less range with Haniger in center, overall you’d think it would be a net positive throughout the outfield.

Well, that miscue by Santana in the 14th inning – taking a terrible GODAWFUL route to the ball, letting it get over his head, then bounce around allowing the runner to get to third – proves once and for all that he’s just not an outfielder. He’s a fucking defensive disaster. At this point, I don’t know if the team has any other choice but to keep him there, hope he improves, and find a way to trade him for prospects or something (assuming his bat continues to play).

It’s doubly imperative to keep him there, as Haniger left the game yesterday halfway through with an injury; we’ll see how long that keeps him out.

Anyway, yesterday was ALMOST perfect. The Mariners lost, which is important for us getting that top draft pick next year (still hanging tough with that 5th spot, 5 games back of Baltimore/Kansas City), but the Mariners were also entertaining in that loss! Hell, I was getting as hyped up as anyone with Vogelbach in there making life miserable for Houston’s pitching (he finished 2 for 5 with a run, an RBI, and 2 walks).

The only downside to the whole thing is, of course, the ballpark cutting off beer sales after 7 innings! There was DOUBLE that amount of baseball left to be played! We all ended up leaving the game early – some of us to go get another beer at a nearby bar – because we were TOO sober!

All in all, though, a pleasant way to spend a Thursday in early June.

Taking A Step Back I See What You Did There From Talking About The Mariners

If the Mariners aren’t trying to win this year, then I’m not going to try writing about them on a consistent basis.

Unfortunately, with no NBA in Seattle, and Hockey a few years away yet, that leaves a big, gaping hole in my summer content months. Usually, I try to at least half-ass a week’s worth of blog posts during the MLB season, but this year is just TOO much.

As long as this season keep spiraling out of control, I’m never NOT going to lead each post with a comment about how this team started 13-2, because the mere concept of that grows more implausible by the day. Here’s your regular reminder of how futile this team has been: the record is now 11-30 since that season apex.

Obviously, the Mariners are last in the A.L. West. 12.5 games behind first place Houston at the time of this writing. The Angels are a game better than us, but their team is also considerably better and has underachieved thus far to date. I am basing that last statement on exactly one piece of data: their -18 run differential against our -45. The good news is that, finally, the Mariners have cracked the Top 10 of next year’s MLB draft (if the season ended today, we’d pick 8th). We’re certainly within spitting distance of the worst overall record (6 games ahead of the Orioles with 106 games left to go … yes, I have absolutely initiated the Countdown For Tankocalypse 2019), and if we keep playing like we have over the last 41 games, we’ll get there in no time!

Is there any hope for the future amid all the nonsense? Well, Mitch Haniger apparently leads the American League in strikeouts; I guess that jersey purchase was a little premature. Our best hitters (Narvaez and Santana) are also the worst defensive players in the history of Major League Baseball (approximately). We have just the two competent starting pitchers (Gonzales and Kikuchi) and the bullpen has somehow managed to be even worse than it was this time a month ago. If it weren’t for the occasional Vogel-Bomb, I don’t think this team moves the needle even a teeny, tiny blip on my Interest-Meter.

Saying that I don’t care about the Seattle Mariners isn’t strong enough. I can’t even remember the last time I watched a full game; it might be the Opening Day game I attended in person! Of course, my work schedule plays a pretty significant role in whether or not I can watch during the week, but that still leaves Friday evenings and weekends free, and at this point they’re not even on my mind as options for my free entertainment hours. If the only draw for your team is a pudgy DH, I’d say things have sunk about as low as they can go.

I look at these Mariners and I compare them to a team like the Astros and it’s just depressing! I can’t envision a scenario where all the stars align and this team legitimately contends for a world championship. CERTAINLY not in my lifetime! Maybe not ever?

At this point, if you’re not putting the Mariners in the discussion of Worst Run Franchises In Major Professional Sports, then you’re overlooking one of the ragingest dumpster fires the sporting world has ever produced. I mean, at this rate, the M’s are almost DEMANDING that Scott Servais be fired by their putrid on-field play. At that point, it’ll be Ownership vs. Jerry Dipoto, and you have to wonder how many more days at the helm our embattled GM has left; because in that fight, Ownership wins 100% of the time.

Ideally, the Mariners will stick with the plan to rebuild. But, if the 2019 team stinks TOO hard, and loses 100+ games, then you have to wonder if Ownership will have the stomach. I can’t imagine the attendance numbers will look all that great when it’s all said and done. At that point, it’s only a matter of time before the Mariners renege on their rebuild idea, sign a bunch of Win Now free agents, and do just enough to once again miss out on a Wild Card spot.

If this sounds like something you’ve heard before, then congratulations, you’ve been a Mariners fan long enough for it to be considered a legitimate war crime.

You know, I run a Seattle sports blog that completely neglects the sport of soccer even though the Sounders are a delight year-in and year-out. Instead, I devote an irrational percentage of web space to a team in the Mariners that makes me physically ill. I’m not saying that I’m ready to pick up a new team and start writing about it; but I obviously have no problem DROPPING a team and ignoring them even when they’re in my own back yard.

Maybe it’s time to stop following the Mariners on a daily basis. Rid my Twitter feed of all the M’s beat writers and pretend like they don’t exist. Be one of those fair weather fans who spends their time at games guzzling tallboys and chit-chatting with friends over actually paying attention to what’s going on on the field. If nothing else, it would be better for my psyche.

The 2019 Mariners Went 18-14 In March/April

The M’s started out 13-2 on the year, and everyone was pleasantly surprised. Then, the M’s went 5-12 to finish the month, and everyone said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”

It’s been a topsy-turvy 2019, but when you start to dig into it, it makes a lot of sense. Against teams with winning records (Houston, Cleveland, San Diego, Chicago Cubs), the Mariners are 0-9; which puts us at 18-5 against the rest of the league. That’s pretty much what the M’s have been the last few years – as we’ve clung to the desperate notion of “contention” – beat up on the bad teams, struggle against the elite teams, and fall just short of the playoffs. Considering where we thought this team would be heading into the season – as one of those bottom-feeders – you have to figure this is the Best Case Scenario for this team. But, REAL contention, as a LEGITIMATE World Series threat, well, let’s not go that far.

The starting pitching is more or less what we thought it was: good enough to keep us in games. The hitting is probably a little better than expected – they’ll go to pound town on subpar pitching – but they still struggle against the better staffs. The bullpen is probably a little worse than expected: there’s no closer to speak of, and while they’re not blowing every single game, they’re still far from trustworthy. The most alarming aspect of the 2019 Mariners thus far is how absolutely abominable the defense turned out to be.

Oh sure, the loss of Seager created a massive black hole at third base; Healy will never be a fit there. That, in turn, weakened our first base defense a tick. Catcher was always going to be a negative for this team, because we went out and brought in the exact opposite of Mike Zunino. But, I’m not sure I expected Tim Beckham to be so terrible at short. Domingo Santana regularly misses even the routine plays in left. And Mallex Smith – until being sent down yesterday for his swing issues – is FAR from what was advertised as a plus defender in center.

That having been said, there’s been more bright spots than negatives with this team. Marco Gonzales is pitching like a ROCKSTAR right now! 5-0, 2.80 ERA, averaging over 6 innings per start. He is so far from what he was two years ago, it’s absolutely amazing. I would argue Felix is better than expected, but the bar was set pretty low, and there’s still a lot of season left to play, so I won’t be counting any chickens one month in. Roenis Elias has been a trouper for our bullpen (2.16 ERA, 4 saves), and Brandon Brennan – our Rule 5 Guy – might be our best reliever of the season so far!

The majority of the good vibes have been coming from the plate, though. Dan Vogelbach has been on fire (.310/.462/.732); Dee Gordon is healthy and hitting the cover off the ball; Santana, Narvaez, and Beckham have all been terrific with a bat in their hands. Encarnacion and Bruce, while their averages have been low, their power numbers are still spectacular. Really, the only downer has been Mallex Smith, but I would expect he just needs a couple weeks in Tacoma to get his head and his swing right.

So, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Mariners, but it’s also not all roses and sunshine. I’m coming back down to Earth a little bit when it comes to talk of them adding for a possible playoff run. Forget that. Stay the course. And, maybe blow a few extra games in May to make the front office certain we’re on the right track. The last thing we need to do is blow things up AGAIN by trying to add to this team when it has no business doing so.

Sure Enough, The Mariners Suck Again

In spite of what happened last night (an absurd 11-10 Mariners victory down in Anaheim, blowing what was once a 10-2 lead) I think we can all agree – based on losing six straight games to the Astros and Indians (going 0 for the Homestand, after building up so much good will en route to a 13-2 start) – that the Mariners do, indeed, suck again.

Take out the “again” part, because when have we NOT, amirite?

After last Friday’s so-so performance against Wade Miley and Co., the bats went in the tank for the remainder of the homestand. The Mariners scored 1, 2, 4, 2, and 0 runs respectively, to come hurtling back down to Earth. And, sure, I’ll come out and say it: we were facing significantly better starting pitching over those five games, compared to the first 16, so it probably shouldn’t shock anyone that the Mariners’ offense cooled off considerably. They were never going to stay as red hot as they were.

Ahh, the ebbs and flows of a baseball season … can gobble my modestly-sized dick!

Last night showed how the Mariners can suck in the other direction. How do you blow an 8-run lead over the course of two innings? By having probably the worst bullpen in all of baseball.

It was nice to see the bats re-emerge (Healy had 2 homers and 5 RBI, Narvaez had 3 hits and 4 RBI, Vogelbach got on base 5 times with his 2 hits & 3 walks), but once again it was a shaky performance from the bullpen and by connection, the manager. You got 6 innings of 2-run ball out of King Felix … so what are you doing trying to press your luck by sending him out there for the 7th? I don’t CARE what his pitch count was! You’re just asking for trouble.

He was pulled in favor of R.J. Alaniz, who is probably a guy I will never write about again, as I’m assuming he’ll be sent down to Tacoma today and never heard from again. He gave up 4 runs (earning a 24.00 ERA), but the guys after him weren’t all that much better.

In the end, though, it was 10-10 after eight innings. Somehow, the M’s pushed across a run in the ninth and Roenis Elias was able to shut it down. But, obviously, it never should’ve been remotely CLOSE to being that close, and yet it was. Because the Mariners suck. Now and forever.

Happy Friday everyone!

The Mariners Are Too Delightfully Ignorant To Realize They’re Supposed To Be Terrible

The M’s won 2 of 3 in Chicago to raise their record to 9-2. It’s as insane as it is beautiful!

I think we’re still all on the same page that the other shoe is going to drop at some point, but you can’t say this isn’t fun. The Mariners lead all of Major League Baseball in runs, hits, homers, and total bases; we’re second in doubles (tops in the A.L.), fourth in average (tops in the A.L.), sixth in on-base percentage (second in the A.L.), second in slugging (tops in the A.L.), second in OPS (tops in the A.L.), and second in run differential (tops in the A.L.). It’s the Dodgers, the Mariners, and everybody else.

And oh by the way, it’s the Mariners who lead everyone in the most important category of them all: Wins.

Of course, we’re not even halfway through the first full month of the season, so this constitutes more of a “streak” than a full-blown trend, but how can you not like what you’ve been seeing?

More importantly, if you were writing up the Best Case Scenario for what a Step-Back season would look like, this is it ALMOST to the letter.

Hitters are dominating.

More specifically: your future potential core looks terrific. Mitch Haniger is doing Mitch Haniger things. He’s not even fully warmed up yet, but more importantly he hasn’t taken any steps backward; there’s room for improvement. To the eye test, though, he’s right there. Then, there’s Domingo Santana, who looks like an MVP candidate through 11 games. He’s hitting over .300, he’s up there in homers, he leads the team in RBI and walks, and again with the eye test, he LOOKS like a #3 hitter in this lineup. We lost Cano, but we haven’t lost a step, and that’s important. Omar Narvaez is a welcome respite from Mike Zunino’s floundering at the plate. Mallex Smith hasn’t even gotten rolling, but he’s already wreaking havoc at the top of the lineup. Dee Gordon is doing Dee Gordon things. Tim Beckham still hasn’t cooled off. Even Daniel Vogelbach has exploded onto the scene, looking like that mashing DH prospect we all envisioned he could be when he first came here! And, while Ryon Healy hasn’t taken a step forward at the plate, considering he’s trying to muddle through a switch to third base, it’s remarkable in and of itself that he hasn’t taken a step back.

Then, on the flipside, your tradeable veterans are also looking solid. Jay Bruce’s average is down, but he’s leading a power-heavy lineup in homers. Edwin Encarnacion’s power is just starting to heat up, but he’s finding other ways to produce, hitting an even .300 and providing stability in the cleanup spot. A cold start for either of those guys would’ve reduced their value to absolute zero; this way should our winning ways slow down, and if a contending team has a need, we could flip them for better prospects than we gave up to bring them in.

On the pitching side of things, the starters look okay. Marco Gonzales is 3-0 and he’s coming off of a start where he pitched into the ninth inning while giving up just one run; he’s part of that future core. Yusei Kikuchi looks as good as advertised, but he also has room for improvement (a less-inept defense behind him would probably help make his numbers look a little better); he’s also part of the future core. Mike Leake is probably the best starter in the rotation in the early going; he’s a guy we will probably flip at the deadline for prospects. The rest of the rotation is made up more or less of placeholders, but it’s always better to see these guys succeed, in the event we want to wheel and deal later on.

The key to this whole Step-Back is seeing what you have out of your bullpen. What young guys do we have that we can build around for the near future when we hope to contend again? What guys can we trade? If the hitters hit well and the starters succeed, what do we care if the bullpen is a little wacky and gives up leads late?

The Mariners could very well be 11-0 if they had a competent bullpen; as it stands what’s making this Step-Back season not-quite perfect is that we’re not blowing ENOUGH leads! A quality offense, with quality starters, whose bullpen blows tons of games, rendering our record good enough for a Top 10 draft pick in 2020 is the ultimate Best Case Scenario, and I feel like we’re just about there.

In the meantime, if this team gains a little extra confidence with a scorching-hot start, who am I to complain? Let’s keep the good times rolling in this series against a down Royals team this week!

The Too-Late, Too-Sick, Too-Hungover 4-Games-In Seattle Mariners 2019 Season Preview Spectacular!

See, here’s the thing.

The Mariners started the regular season in Japan against the A’s for a 2-game set more than a week ago, right when I was starting my big yearly Reno trip for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. As such, I was too busy at work getting things ready for my absence to write a proper season preview.

Then, there was Reno. Last week’s Wednesday through Monday. Non-stop drinking and gambling and carrying on. I couldn’t exactly pull myself away to write thousands of words on the upcoming Mariners season!

Then, I was immediately confronted with a cold. On the brightside, it was my first cold since post-Reno week LAST year, but nevertheless I was so run down from the lack of sleep that something had to give. In theory, I could’ve written something, but it would’ve been through a foggy haze, and I don’t like to work that way.

I was limited to one work day this week as a result, where I was too busy getting caught up on everything that I’d missed, so Thursday was out. Then, I had the Mariners’ home opener that night! Finally, yesterday could’ve been an option, but I was still recovering from the previous night, so here we are. A rare Saturday morning blog post. No rest for the wicked.

***

First, a quick recap. The Mariners are 3-1 as of this writing. They managed to sweep the A’s in Japan behind solid, if unspectacular, starts featuring Marco Gonzales (Opening Day Starter) and Yusei Kikuchi, as well as a whole lotta power hitting from the offense (newcomers Tim Beckham and Domingo Santana looking particularly good early).

Then, the M’s got off to a tremendous start against the Red Sox for a game and a half. The home opener featured more solid, if unspectacular, pitching from Gonzales, as the offense bashed its way to a 12-4 win. My friends and I got to heckle the World Series champions; their fans got to remind us of their World Series championships; it was all in good fun.

Last night appeared to be more of the same, as the good guys got off to a 6-1 lead through four innings, but we let it get chipped away throughout the rest of the game without playing any more add-on, culminating with a 3-run homer in the top of the ninth to blow it 7-6.

So, there we are, 3-1. First place in the A.L. West on a formality. It’s only a matter of time before we tumble our way down the standings.

***

So, the biggest news of the early going is that Kyle Seager injured his something or other and is out for two months. This is his first trip on the IL, so it’s pretty amazing someone has been as durable as he has for so long. Nevertheless, it throws our entire infield out of whack.

Ryon Healy is a good defensive first baseman; now he’s a terrible defensive third baseman. That essentially guaranteed a roster spot for out-of-options Dan Vogelbach, who is vying for playing time at first with Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce, all three of which are absolute disasters on defense. While Dee Gordon is holding his own with outstanding play at second base, I don’t seem to recall Tim Beckham as being any great shakes at short stop (I do, however, seem to recall teams trying to move him to less-featured defensive spots around the infield, due to limitations in his range).

That leaves us with catcher. Omar Narvaez is the offensive answer to the Mike Zunino question; but at the same time he’s been rated as among the worst defensive catchers, if not the VERY worst. In all facets. Until the other day, David Freitas was the only other catcher on the 40-man roster, until we just acquired Tom Murphy, who is more in the mold of a Zunino, except with worse power and defensive abilities.

So, for two months here, we might be talking about the worst infield in all of baseball. With Beckham, Bruce, and Healy accounting for 5 errors already, in just 4 games, that would seem to bear out (on top of 1 passed ball from Narvaez in his 3 games). But, even when Seager returns, it’s hard to call this team a juggernaut in the field.

That alone puts a lot of extra strain on the offense, which through four games has certainly been up to the task, beating up on the aces for both the A’s and Red Sox so far.

Tim Beckham is hitting .500 with 3 homers and 2 doubles through four games. Domingo Santana is hitting .389 with 3 homers and 2 doubles. Mitch Haniger and Ryon Healy are both hitting .294 with a combined 3 homers and 5 doubles. Mallex Smith has already hit a homer and a triple in two games. The team in total has 12 homers, 9 doubles and a triple in the early going, having scored a total of 32 runs.

Now, obviously, there’s a lot of season left to play. I predict that Haniger will have probably the best and most complete season of all the everyday players. Healy will be streaky and hit anywhere from 25-30 homers with a low batting average. Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon should be pretty productive at the top and bottom of the lineup. Encarnacion and Bruce will probably hit for low averages, a good amount of power, but otherwise unremarkable (we can only hope they succeed early and are traded for younger, better prospects for the long term). Narvaez will be awesome and frustrating in the exact opposite ways Zunino was awesome and frustrating. I feel like all those stories are going to follow their respective blueprints to a T.

The guys I’m more interested in are guys like Beckham, Santana, Seager, and Vogelbach (saying nothing of the guys in the minors, who I’ll talk a little about later). This is a VERY important year for each of those four guys.

Beckham was a #1 overall draft pick in 2008, so clearly he was once presumed to be a great prospect. Now, obviously, that hasn’t panned out, as he’s had a pretty rocky career to date. But, there have been glimpses. In 2017, between two teams, he hit 22 homers and accounted for a 3.3 WAR. I’d like to believe yet another change of scenery – maybe combined with a hot start like we’ve seen through 4 games – could be the spark his career needs. Lord knows I’ll be the last guy to believe in J.P. Crawford’s longterm prospects as an everyday, elite short stop. If Beckham were to somehow put it all together, wouldn’t THAT be just the kickstart this team needs in its rebuild?

It’s also an important year for our very own Kyle Seager, who had enjoyed a charmed life up until recent years and the advent of the defensive shift. 2018 was his career nadir, so starting 2019 on the Injured List is about as poor a start as you can get. He’s earning a huge sum of money and is guaranteed through at least 2021, so it would be nice to see him get back on the horse and at least resemble his career norms again. My concern is that this injury setback forces him to press upon his return, resulting in even worse numbers both offensively and in the field. Being the Kyle Seager of old would make him well worth his money, though, and would reinforce the positive direction of this rebuild.

Dan Vogelbach is out of options, and is essentially a man without a position. The key for him is to either start fucking hitting (he has 1 strikeout in his lone AB, in pinch hit duty last night), or see this team trade away either Encarnacion or Bruce before Seager comes back, thereby guaranteeing him a spot as this team’s DH/1B sub. It’s now or never when it comes to the Mariners, so I hope he’s figured it out late in his career. I can’t imagine he has one shred of value as trade bait, so bolstering that would be a plus.

The guy I’m most interested in – regardless of the guys in the minors – is Domingo Santana, the power-hitting left fielder. The Mariners are in desperate need of superstars throughout their lineup, as arguably only Mitch Haniger fits that bill. The only other guy currently on the 25-man roster who has that potential is Santana. Thankfully, he (as with Beckham) has shown this potential as recently as 2017, putting up a 3.0 WAR season with 30 homers and 29 doubles. If that guy comes back, or gets even better, then we’re really talking. He’s still got two more Arb years on top of what he’s making now, so if this team is going to be contending for a World Series by 2021, I believe he’s going to have to be a huge part of it in the middle of our order.

So, you know, watch out for him straining an oblique or something. That’s our Mariners luck, right?

***

The pitching side of things is pretty mediocre.

The rotation is what it is; there’s no one who even RESEMBLES an ace. Marco Gonzales is ostensibly our best starter and prospect on the 25-man roster, but he’s nothing more than a #3 in my eyes. Kikuchi probably has a higher ceiling as a true #2, but the team is going to handle him with kid gloves – giving him a 1-inning start every fourth or fifth time out, to keep him fresh – so he also comes with the most variance. He could be great, or he could wear down in the second half and take a lot longer to get better. Thankfully, this team has no intention of contending this year, so we can be patient.

Mike Leake is another #3-type pitcher. He’ll be great sometimes and he’ll be downright awful sometimes. And, the rest of the time he’ll just be sort of adequate. He’s making a lot of money and word has it we’re looking to trade him, so obviously we’re not talking about part of our future. In that sense, I’ve already lost interest, except for what he can net us in trade.

Wade LeBlanc is a #4 or a #5 on a good team. On a great team, he’s probably a long reliever, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be useful. I think he’s more than capable of running back what he did in 2018, but again, he’s not really part of the longterm future, so whatever.

Felix has been demoted to this team’s #5, and I’m on record as doubting very much that he’ll still be on this roster by May. June at the latest. It’s best not to think about it; but the team has AAA prospects that we’re looking to give experience in the Majors, so as soon as they’re ready – barring injuries elsewhere in the rotation – I think Felix is the odd man out.

It’s really not a great rotation. Paired with an elite bullpen, with the offense as supercharged as it appears to be, I’d be more inclined to suspend disbelief on a playoff run. But, this feels like a rotation that’s going to give up anywhere from 3-5 runs per game, backed up by a bullpen that’s going to give up 1-3 more runs per game. And, when the offense goes cold – as it inevitably will, from time to time this season – the Mariners are going to be SUPER BAD, and will run off some hysterical losing streaks.

I don’t even know where to start with this bullpen.

Hunter Strickland – ostensibly our closer – just blew his first save of the year (2/3 in save opportunities in the early going) and may or may not have an injured arm/shoulder that could put him on the IL. We’ll know more later today. He’s far from the dominant pitcher we had in Edwin Diaz, so right off the bat we’re worse than last year; if he goes down with injury, the M’s are essentially without a closer. This could get VERY ugly.

Roenis Elias and Cory Gearrin have gotten a bunch of innings so far and have looked okay. As for the rest, I have no fucking idea. There are a lot of names I’m not familiar with, so I really don’t have a lot to add. Talk to me later in the year, when there’s more of a book on these guys.

My hunch is that none of these guys will be on the next Mariners playoff team, and therefore will add nothing to this team’s season but heartbreak.

***

All in all, I actually think the first four games are a microcosm of the season to come. I think for the Mariners to win games, we’re going to have to score a ton of runs. I think there will still be a good share of close games to dance our way around, and while we won’t lose all of them, I could see quite a few of our losses looking like the one we had last night: go up big early, have that lead slowly chipped away as our offense hibernates, only to blow it in the end. Ultimately, though, what will torpedo this season is something we haven’t seen a lot of: an offense that goes completely down the shitter. Not even the very best offenses are able to keep up this type of production for 162 games, and I fully expect this group of guys to come WAY down to Earth sooner rather than later.

Low batting averages, lots of strikeouts, and prolonged power slumps surrounding intermittent periods of offensive brilliance. Just because this year is starting out with one of those intermittent periods of offensive brilliance doesn’t mean that’s going to be the norm. Far from it. We could start stinking up the joint as early as tonight and it wouldn’t shock me!

I think the over/under on wins for the Mariners heading into the season was 74.5. I think we’ll hit the over, but I think it’ll be by the skin of our teeth. 75-87 is my prediction. The guys we desperately need to be great won’t be great. The high-level prospects will be mediocre. One or two hopeful minor league studs will suffer devastating injuries. And, this whole cycle of middle-of-the-road bad baseball will continue on into infinity as I die hopeless and alone, having never seen the Mariners play in a World Series.