The Mariners Are Trying To Get Their Season Back On Track With A Series Win Over The Mets

This probably represents the best the Mariners have played over a three-game series this entire season, given the level of competition and our own fan expectations heading into the weekend. We were a couple of breaks away from sweeping this one! Of course, as it is against any quality opponent, we were also probably a couple of breaks away from getting swept. That’s baseball for you; it’s maddening.

It would figure that the only game I saw a significant portion of was on Saturday, when we lost. I was at a concert on Friday, so could only follow along via Twitter. Those who watched must’ve been treated to a delightful pitching duel! Max Scherzer was his usual strong self, going 7 innings, giving up 1 run. But, Marco Gonzales damn near matched him, giving up 1 run in 6.2 innings. The fact that he gave up his run in the first makes the subsequent shutdown all the more impressive.

Our offense managed to manufacture a run in the fourth and again in the eighth to seal the deal in a 2-1 affair. Winker and France had RBI singles; Crawford and Suarez had our only other hits. Meanwhile, Paul Sewald got four outs without giving up a run, and Drew Steckenrider got his second save of the season.

On Saturday, George Kirby wasn’t quite as dominant as his first start, but the defense behind him also let the team down, so who’s to say who deserves more of the blame? Kirby went 4 innings, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) off of 3 hits and a walk, with only 1 strikeout. The M’s were down 4-0 heading into the sixth inning before our offense was finally able to get going.

Newcomer Steven Souza – who was pretty free-swinging in this one, from what I saw – had an RBI single in the sixth for his first hit in a Mariners uniform. He’s here to keep right field warm while Jared Kelenic goes down to Tacoma to get his head (and bat) right, so best not to expect too much. He does have more experience than I thought he would (having never heard of him before), kicking around the Majors since 2014. Of course, the Rays got the most out of him, with a 4.2 WAR season in 2017. Hard to see him getting back to those lofty heights while playing in Seattle.

The big story was a Jesse Winker 3-run bomb in the top of the seventh, to temporarily tie the game at 4-4. The Mets pitching was pretty strong to this point, but we finally broke through against their bullpen. Like the Mariners, Winker is also trying to get his season on track; it’s weird to see how much Mets fans hate him. Presumably because he always kills them? Too bad for him we’re done playing them for the year.

As I mentioned, the tie was short-lived, as Andres Munoz gave up a go-ahead solo homer in the bottom half of the inning. We would go on to lose the game by that very score, 5-4. France, Crawford, and Suarez all had nice days at the plate in this one as well. Not to mention Torrens, who got on base with 2 hits and 2 walks, to drastically improve his slash line.

I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for Sunday’s finale, so I opted to re-watch most of season two of Stranger Things instead. I ended up missing one of the craziest wins of the year! Robbie Ray, once again, was spotty in this one, going 6 innings, giving up 5 runs, but striking out 9 and generating lots of swings and misses.

The Mets went up 1-0 with a solo homer in the first, then the M’s tied it in the third. We went up 4-1 in the fourth off of an impressive rally, but then promptly found ourselves down 5-4 in the bottom half of the inning. That took us to the absurd sixth inning, where Julio Rodriguez hit a massive solo homer to tie it, only to be out-done by Cal Raleigh’s 2-run go-ahead bomb. Julio added an RBI single in the seventh to put the M’s up 8-5, and we would need every bit of that 3-run lead.

Romo and Sewald got us to the ninth with a 3-run lead, but Drew Steckenrider – having a VERY up and down year – struggled to get the lone out he got, while giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. That left Scott Servais in the very unenviable position of throwing Diego Castillo out there, who has been unquestionably terrible of late. Yet, with runners on second and third, he managed to get two strikeouts – sandwiched around an intentional walk – to lock down the win 8-7.

Today, we go to Toronto. We’ve been told ahead of time that there will be certain Mariners unable to play this week, as they’re not allowed into Canada due to COVID restrictions. So that’s fun. We’re already pretty injury depleted, and the Blue Jays have a tremendous offense, so I’m expecting a total shitshow. Thankfully, it’s only three games, and hopefully this rest will do the unvaccinated players some good.

The Mariners Lost Another Series, Still Can’t Hit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Made Matt Brash A Reliever And I’m A Man With Hurt Feelings

My kneejerk reaction is that I hate this move. My measured and composed reaction – after giving this some thought – is that I’m not happy, with equal parts anger and sadness.

To be fair, if I had any interest in being fair, I guess I have to say that there’s a lot that’s up in the air, and a lot we don’t know. From what was reported, this is something the Mariners are trying, specifically for the 2022 season, because they believe they have a need for some bullpen help, and they think Matt Brash can help in that area. That doesn’t mean he can’t spend the following offseason reverting back to being a starter, while working on his pitches that aren’t his fastball and slider (in hopes of building up his overall arsenal, and making him a more viable starting candidate in 2023 and beyond). He could also struggle as a reliever in the short term, and return to being a starter – in the minor leagues – before the 2022 season concludes.

I guess we first have to talk about this alleged “need” for more Major League relievers. That’s debatable. The bullpen was supposed to be this team’s biggest strength heading into the season. But, as we’ve seen already – one month in – there are already some cracks the team is dealing with. Sadler, Giles, and Romo (among others, I’m assuming, who I’ve forgotten for the moment) are missing extensive time. Castillo, Steckenrider, and even Sewald have already gotten blown up a time or three, and those are supposed to be the majority of the A-Team Bullpen. And, as we’ve been talking about since before the season even started, bullpen comes with the highest of variance from season to season, so you can never have enough bullpen help.

Okay, so I’ll buy that. Brash can, most likely, help out our Major League bullpen.

If that’s the case, then why wasn’t he put into the bullpen from the get-go?

Well, because he’s been kicking some fucking ass up and down the minor leagues as a starter! It was only natural, then, to have him go into Spring Training in a competition for the team’s fifth starter job. Mind you, that job was available for one of two reasons: either the team was unable to find a veteran to fill that void, or because they believed someone internally – someone like Brash – was qualified to earn that spot in the rotation. As it shook out, the duel was between Brash and George Kirby. Brash won the job on the merits of his Spring Training (and, again, his prior track record of dominating in the minors).

So, why the fuck do you only give him five regular season starts before demoting him from the Majors and from the ranks of the starting pitcher?

Was this all a sham? Was he only here as competition for Kirby? If that’s the case, either the team always intended for Kirby to win the job, and Brash forced their hand otherwise, or the team always wanted Kirby to lose the job to justify sending him down to the minors until the month of May, thereby allowing the team to earn an extra year of club control. I don’t know if that’s even a thing anymore – with the new CBA the league is playing under – but it would make a lot of sense if that’s the case.

I don’t think it was a sham, though. The Mariners seem to be all-in on ending this playoff drought, and I don’t think they’d roll with Brash for five turns in the rotation if he wasn’t qualified to pitch at this level.

What I do think is that Brash struggled – as everyone expected, because he’s so young and inexperienced – and now the Mariners are panicking, because they can see things starting to fall apart, and they need to do whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs. For reasons that are sort of unclear, because I don’t think any high-level jobs are at stake. Playoffs or not, I think Dipoto will be back for at least 2023. Same goes for Servais (besides that, Servais isn’t the one making this decision; Dipoto is).

It’s the panicking that’s most frustrating, because this DEFINITELY isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Mariners make an asinine move like this. We all remember the Brandon Morrow saga. He was the starter we drafted – ahead of Tim Lincecum, two-time Cy Young Award winner, I might add – who was skyrocketed into the Majors as a reliever because the team thought that would be the quickest way to help in the short term. He was okay, but when it turned out that he wasn’t enough to boost us into the post-season, we opted to try and move him back to being a starter. That ultimately failed and he was traded to the Blue Jays for Brandon League and a minor leaguer. Morrow showed some real bright spots and even dominance as a starter for the Blue Jays, but the damage was done. His growth was stunted, injuries mounted, and he eventually ended his career as a reliever once again.

What a fucking nightmare! And now we’re doing it again to this kid, and he’s powerless to stop it.

My hunch – however misguided it might be – is that the Mariners have had this in the back of their mind for a while now: that Brash was always destined to be a reliever. His performance this season would seem to check that box. If we look at the glass as half-empty, then Brash is a two-pitch pitcher (fastball & slider) with no feel for anything else (change-up & curve), and no real command for any of them. With a limited pitch count as it is – given his youth, and this team’s philosophy to restrict innings on our young arms – we’re not likely to ever get him deep into ballgames. So, instead of killing the Mariners every fifth day, and instead of wasting time in AAA trying to develop his arm as a starter, we’re just going to get a jumpstart on his reliever career now, in hopes that we can salvage what we’ve got and move on (with an outside shot that he develops into a lockdown reliever in late-game, high-leverage situations by season’s end).

But, again, if you believed that about him – that he was always destined to be a reliever – then why not make him one earlier? Did you need him to see incontrovertible proof that he sucks as a starter to get him to accept the demotion? Because, I have news for you: he might NOT suck as a starter! But, you’ve taken away any possibility to the contrary by making this move.

If Brash is great as a reliever, then odds are he’s going to stick to relief work. If he sucks as a reliever, then you’ve wasted a year of his development, AND you’ve killed his confidence. Moving him back into a starter role will almost certainly fail, because he’ll have it in the back of his mind that he not only couldn’t hack it as a starter in his first cup of coffee with the big league ballclub, but he also couldn’t hack it as a reliever. The lowest of the low. The Justus Sheffield’s of the world.

It’s just so short-sighted. This year isn’t about making the playoffs as a fringe wild card team. This year is about sticking to the fucking plan, developing the young guys, and hoping they make a huge leap forward in 2023 and beyond, when we might be contending for the division and maybe even the World Series! I don’t understand why we’re not giving Brash the demotion to Tacoma – that he’s earned through inconsistent play – to get a breather and continue tinkering with his pitch arsenal. Maybe he figures out how to better throw in and around the strike zone (without catching SO MUCH of the strike zone that he gets crushed), and gets his redemption later in the regular season? Instead, we have to hope he morphs into a dominant 8th or 9th inning closer-type, or else he’s just nothing.

And, maybe worst of all, now his trade value plummets! He was once a fucking steal of a trade target from the Padres (for Taylor Williams, whoever that guy is). Now, he might as well be Taylor Williams!

I’m just so disgruntled. This feels like the first domino that falls before a total collapse. Everything was going so well in the big Mariners rebuild, and now … we’ve done what we always do: we Mariners’d everything up.

It’s been a little bit, but the Same Old Mariners are back in action. Sometimes, it’s comforting to know there are certainties in the world. The sun will rise in the morning. Traffic is always going to be miserable. And the Mariners are going to fuck things up and stay as far away from the World Series as humanly possible.

George Kirby’s Debut Can’t Paper Over How Terrible The Mariners Have Been Lately

Making the Sunday finale your only victory of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays is annoying in so many ways. By the time you get to that game, you’re so fucking sick and tired of the Mariners’ bullshit, you can barely muster the energy to watch. However, it’s a joyous occasion nevertheless, and sends you off into a new week with a better taste in your mouth. Nevermind the fact that for three days prior, they’ve been shovelling shit into your mouth; that last spoonful of sugar makes things seem like they’ll be okay.

Of course, it wasn’t just three days of shit, just three days of shit courtesy of the Rays. Prior to that, we were swept in three games by the Astros. If you want to take it back even further, it’s been shit in 10 out of 11 games prior to Sunday. I’d say we got our fill.

On a semi-related tangent, this is why the Mariners have been so reluctant to extend Mitch Haniger. We needed him desperately for this stretch, and where has he been? Sure, it’s terrible luck that he got COVID (although, I mean, if he’s not vaxed against it, then I don’t know if I feel sorry for him in that regard) and backed that up almost immediately by spraining an ankle, but this is the sort of hard-luck shit he’s had to deal with for most of his career. He has supremely terrible injury luck! So did Franklin Gutierrez and a million other guys throughout the history of this game. If you can’t count on someone to be on the field almost everyday, then what’s the point in signing them to a long-term extension?

I don’t want to get into the minutiae of this Rays series; in the grand scheme of things, who cares? We officially went 2-5 against them this season, so that’s a playoff tiebreaker we won’t have, if it comes to that. On Thursday, Robbie Ray had “One Bad Inning”, which is an excuse I’ve always hated, dating back to the Jeff Fassero days. You can have one bad inning out of seven innings pitched until the cows come home, but if you give up 4 runs in that inning, and lose 4-3, then I’m sorry, but you didn’t have a good game that day.

We had a chance to break this streak on Friday, but Paul Sewald had a rare blown save/loss by giving up a 3-run homer in the ninth. I was in attendance on Saturday, but even that wasn’t enough good luck to turn things around, as Diego Castillo had a total meltdown (5 runs, including a grand slam, without registering an out).

The saving grace (sort of) was that Kirby start on Sunday. He looked every bit the elite, ace-type prospect everyone’s said he is, by going 6 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 0 walks, while striking out 7. He touched the upper 90’s with his fastball and averaged in the mid-90’s. His breaking stuff was pretty nasty. He saw a lot of full counts – from what I saw, on the little TV, while re-watching the first season of Stranger Things on the big TV – but was able to challenge hitters and keep them off-balance.

Even then, the M’s did everything they could to try and lose it, not scoring until the bottom of the ninth. After the Rays finally scored in the top of the eighth, it looked like the Mariners would lose 1-0. Then, Mr. Clutch, Abraham Toro, pulled a solo homer into the right field stands to tie it up. Paul Sewald got back on the horse to keep the Rays off the board in the tenth, giving Ty France a chance to win it with a single in the bottom half. An exciting, 2-1 extra innings victory is a helluva way to end the six-game losing streak, but I’m still going to bitch about those losses for a while.

The Mariners are 13-16. They’re still hitting like shit up and down the lineup. Ty France can’t do everything. J.P. Crawford came up with back spasms in Saturday’s game (in a stupidly futile attempt to dive into first base, most likely), so he’s day-to-day. No word on Haniger’s return, but I’m sure he’s going to keep making it worse instead of letting it heal on its own. Kyle Lewis is in Tacoma trying to work his way back, but I’m not holding my breath. That Ken Giles signing – a 2-year deal, knowing the entire first year would be lost to injury – sure looks idiotic now that he’s on the 60-day IL and is looking like he’ll miss both fucking years.

Oh, and in all of their infinite wisdom, the Mariners have decided to not only send Matt Brash to Tacoma, but have converted him to a reliever in hopes that he’ll be able to return to the Major Leagues this season in time to help us with our playoff run. This is a topic for a separate post, because I have a lot to say on this particular issue. Spoiler alert: the Mariners are idiots probably.

And, just in case anyone was wondering about potential help coming from the minors, in case this Kirby experiement also goes tits up and we need a veteran starter to eat innings, I wouldn’t count on it. Nick Margevicius just got cut for extreme incompetence, Justus Sheffield is also getting rocked in Tacoma, and you’re better off not looking at the stats of the other guys we have starting down there. It turns out, the PCL is a total wasteland in every single respect (hitting is too easy – making the jump from AAA to the Majors extremely difficult – and pitching is almost impossible to do well).

It’s May in Seattle, which means it’s time to lose all faith in the Mariners. Right on schedule!

The Mariners Did A Number On The Astros

My friends and I kept up on our almost-every-year tradition of going to Opening Day and, as expected, there were some strikes and gutters (as there is with pretty much anything). The game was a full-blown sellout, which meant that by the time I looked into buying tickets, I couldn’t even bother with Ticketmaster. That comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll save for another time. Long story short, four tickets in the 300-level ended up coming to $52 apiece, including fees and whatnot.

They weren’t the best seats in the world, nor the worst. The four of us had our own row, which is nice. No getting up and down for restless patrons needing to pee or buy food every other inning. But, we were right on the stairwell going into the upper 300-section, in clear view of the 300-level walkway, which meant occasionally people were standing in our way. Thankfully, we had a VERY good usher in our section – literally the only time I’ve ever said that at a Mariners game – who was not only on top of getting people out of our sightlines, but was very chill about our (mostly) clean jeers of certain Astros players.

With it being a sellout, that comes with the usual sellout issues. Namely: people. A lot of them. The Mariners have done a lot to try to speed up the concessions process. They have refillable sodas now where the people can just do it themselves. They have cashless concessions, so we’re not dealing with old people fumbling for quarters. But, I don’t know what to tell you. The walkways were constantly jammed pretty much from the first inning onward. We got there right before first pitch and were able to get food and drink okay. But, once the game got going, it was a nightmare to ever leave your seats. I don’t know if they were having technical issues, or if that’s just the way it is whenever you have anything approaching a sellout crowd, but if the Mariners end up being really good, this could be the norm more often than not, and they probably need to figure something out on those occasions.

One solution should be: have more vendors walking around. Where are all the guys with tubs hanging around their necks, hollering about beer and peanuts and whatnot? The lower sections might’ve had a couple, but the 300’s got the shaft, and that feels like a mistake. We needed beer, we needed hot dogs, and we needed popcorn but would’ve gladly settled for peanuts if it meant not having to miss 1-2 innings of action just to go out and get it. By the way, I don’t even know if they have hot dog vendors walking around anymore, but dammit, they need to come back, because there’s nothing like a plain ballpark hotdog!

I will say that getting INTO the stadium was pretty painless, so that was nice. I had expected a lot more trouble with that part of it, and was pleasantly surprised.

The game itself was fantastic! Five stars, no notes!

As you can imagine, I hate the cheating Astros. I hated them before it was cool to hate them. I even hated them before they were cheaters! They’ve never had any business being in the A.L. West and it’s ridiculous we’ve had to endure them for as long as we have. So, anytime you can beat their fucking asses by double-digit runs, you have to relish the experience.

It didn’t hurt that we had the over 8.5 combined runs, as well as the Mariners to win the game outright. If only Kelenic’s fly ball to right in the bottom of the fifth had another 10 feet or so on it, we would’ve REALLY made a killing (but that’s neither here nor there).

Marco Gonzales was remarkably efficient in this one, going 7 innings, giving up just the 1 run on 4 hits (no walks), with 6 strikeouts, all on 93 pitches. That was a far cry from his first start of the season, but I’m willing to call that one an outlier for the way our error derailed things. It was great to see Marco bounce back, and I hope this portends to better things to come this year over last.

Offensively, the M’s did everything to make me eat my words about how bad they looked up until that point. Adam Frazier had 4 hits (including a double and a triple), 2 runs, and 4 RBI. Suarez had a 2-run bomb and 3 RBI. Winker and Haniger both had 2 hits. Ty France had 2 RBI, Tom Murphy had 3 runs scored, J.P. Crawford scored 2 runs, and Kelenic and J-Rod both had positive contributions. Up and down the lineup, everyone chipped in!

It just felt like a celebration from the very first inning, and it was great to see the likes of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman get the everloving shit booed out of them. My friends and I were on it all the way through, and like to believe we had an effect. Fuck those guys, and everyone else on those cheating Astros teams. The fact that Altuve couldn’t even finish the game (I like to believe he asked to be taken out because he couldn’t handle it) was the cherry on top.

Of course, nothing can ever be perfect. Justin Verlander started on Saturday and went 8 shutout innings, en route to a 4-0 Astros victory. I missed this one, but I wouldn’t say I was “missing” it, Bob. Flexen had a so-so Quality Start (6 innings, 3 runs), but we were never going to win this one regardless. We had 3 hits on the day, two by France. So, you know.

But, we bounced right back with a 7-2 victory on Sunday! Matt Brash got his first win, going 5.1 innings, giving up 2 runs (both in the sixth inning on a 2-run homer). He was … effectively wild in this one, walking 6, but he only gave up the two hits (both in that sixth inning). It was never going to be a true No Hitter for Brash, given the limitations on his pitch count this season, but it was great to see him handle some adversity when he didn’t totally have command of his stuff. It gave the M’s enough time to stake him to a big lead.

We scored 1 in the first on a Suarez double, then rallied for 5 more in the fourth, highlighted by a France 3-run homer. Frazier and Kelenic both had two hits apiece, and Torrens, Toro, and J-Rod all chipped in. Take that, Fun Differential! We’re +4 in run differential on the year!

Paul Sewald closed out the sixth inning without any more damage, and the rest of the bullpen was lights out from there. This time, it went Steckenrider, Munoz, and Castillo over the final three frames. Interesting to see Munoz already in that mix, but his stuff is so nasty, you can see why.

We get our first off-day today, followed by a home set against the Rangers. Now, we’re in it! Baseball season! Catch the excitement!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who I Like

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

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

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

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

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

Who I’m Unsure About

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

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

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

Who I Don’t Like

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

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

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

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

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

Who I Like

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

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

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

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

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

Who I’m Unsure About

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

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

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

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

Who I Don’t Like

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mariners disappoint yet again, news at 11.”

The Mariners Split The Series In Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No: The Least-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#21 – Juan Then

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

#20 – Aaron Fletcher

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

#19 – Justus Sheffield

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

#18 – Matt Brash

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

#17 – Wyatt Mills

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

#16 – Joey Gerber

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

#15 – Justin Dunn

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

Maybe?: The Medium-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#14 – Erik Swanson

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

#13 – Andres Munoz

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

#12 – Yohan Ramirez

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

#11 – Ken Giles

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

#10 – Diego Castillo

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

#9 – Anthony Misiewicz

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

#8 – Nick Margevicius

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

Yes: The Most-Trustworthy Mariners Pitchers Of 2022

#7 – Logan Gilbert

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

#6 – Marco Gonzales

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

#5 – Chris Flexen

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

#4 – Paul Sewald

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

#3 – Robbie Ray

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

#2 – Drew Steckenrider

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

#1 – Casey Sadler

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

Seattle Mariners Trade & Free Agent Targets For 2022

I’m gonna tell you right now, that title is misleading! Because I have zero idea who is actually available in trade or free agency across the Major League Baseball landscape. Besides, I don’t like getting into the weeds of playing fantasy baseball like that; let the more thorough and dedicated Mariners blogs try to tackle that speculative nonsense.

I’m here to talk about the holes on the Mariners, where they need to fill with outside guys vs. where they can afford to fill with prospects.

The easiest start is to look at the guys we have who we want to keep around. They are, in no particular order:

  • J.P. Crawford (SS)
  • Ty France (1B/DH/2B)
  • Abraham Toro (2B/3B)
  • Mitch Haniger (RF)
  • Jarred Kelenic (CF/LF)
  • Kyle Lewis (CF/LF)
  • Cal Raleigh (C)

Even though I’ve listed three outfielders there, and you have to figure Julio Rodriguez is going to earn a call-up at some point in 2022, I think the M’s will nevertheless seek out a veteran outfielder to throw into the mix. Meaning that I don’t see Fraley being quite so prominent a figure in that group; maybe as a reserve, but I could see him getting dealt just as easily. If we go for a high-priced free agent outfielder, we can let Haniger walk at the end of the 2022 season, or try to trade him mid-year, if things aren’t going so well in the standings. That would then open the door for J-Rod in the second half of the season and beyond. Kyle Lewis is obviously the wild card here; will he return from his knee injury? Will he ever be able to play a full season? You have to anticipate he’ll be in the mix for a good number of DH days in a best-case scenario, but I don’t think you can count on him being a full-time player until you see him prove it on the field.

The other obvious addition is either a second or third baseman. The loss of Kyle Seager is significant here, but we were always looking to improve on that spot in the lineup anyway. I expect Toro to take whatever position is left over; I’m hoping there are lots of good free agent options available. Even if we have to pull in a short stop, we should be able to slide Crawford over to second base without too much of a headache.

We also need another catcher. Tom Murphy isn’t really worth keeping around; his bat is fundamentally broken. The new guy should be a relatively good catcher who can play on a regular basis, as we still don’t know if Raleigh is our #1 just yet.

Go ahead and pencil in White and Torrens for bench spots with Fraley at the moment, though I don’t know how long that’ll last. Will Dylan Moore be back? Doubtful, but we’ll see.

Let’s look at the pitching:

  • Chris Flexen (SP)
  • Marco Gonzales (SP)
  • Logan Gilbert (SP)
  • Paul Sewald (RP)
  • Drew Steckenrider (RP)
  • Casey Sadler (RP)
  • Diego Castillo (RP)
  • Ken Giles (RP)

The Mariners need two starting pitchers, minimum. I would expect one to be a quality, top-of-the-rotation type of guy, and one maybe more of a middling veteran to eat up innings. We’ve also got three minor league prospects at the top of our farm system – Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, and Matt Brash – who are all ready to bust down the door in 2022. Brash very nearly made his debut last month, but ultimately wasn’t needed. I think it would be foolish to bank on one of those guys taking a job out of Spring Training, but I would also expect one or more of them to be called up before June to help out with injuries and whatnot. If 2022 isn’t the playoff campaign we all hope it is, then my guess is we’ll see all three of those guys get opportunities to make the rotation for 2023 and beyond.

As for the bullpen, your guess is as good as mine as to what that’ll end up being. Bullpen pieces get moved all the time. Guys get injured, guys get worse for no reason. Every time we think we have the bullpen figured out heading into a season, it seems to always blow up in our faces. But, from the looks of things, we have lots of guys in the minors who are in the mix. I would love to see a better left-handed bullpen option emerge, either from within or outside the organization.

I’m looking at two big bats (one outfield, one infield), a solid starting-calibre catcher, two starting pitchers, and a lefty reliever. Once Seager and Kikuchi are gone, we will have well below $40 million on our payroll, so there is PLENTY of room to spend. We also have assurances from ownership that the Mariners are in a position to increase spending, which you would hope would be a given, but with this organization you never can tell.

The Mariners should be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Hot Stove portion of the offseason. Does that always translate to wins on the field? As the San Diego Padres just showed us: not always. There’s reason for optimism in 2022, but I’m incapable of giving 100% blind faith over to this organization that they’ll do the right thing and make the right moves. I’ve been burned too many times; we all have.

Nevertheless, as I’ve mentioned before, I do feel an excitement level for next season that I haven’t experienced in decades! Good or bad, the 2022 Mariners will be interesting as hell.

The 2021 Seattle Mariners State Of The Union

We just wrapped up a wildly entertaining and overachieving season by the Seattle Mariners. They won 90 games for the first time since 2003 and fell just two games short of the playoffs. We’re in the thick of a full-on rebuild, but it’s the fun part of the rebuild: where things turn from being a perennial loser to hopefully a perennial winner. If things go according to plan, the 2022 Mariners should make the postseason for the first time since 2001 – breaking the longest drought in all of the major North American sports – and the 2023 Mariners should start contending for American League pennants and World Series championships.

There’s also a Glass Half Empty outlook to this whole thing. Because this is Seattle, and these are the Mariners, so of course we have every reason to believe it’ll all go to shit like everything else in our sports universe.

Let’s start with the hitting: the Mariners were dead-last in the American League with a .226 batting average. We were second-to-last with a .303 on-base percentage and .385 slugging percentage. That’s all good for a second-to-last OPS of .688; we were one of only two teams (the Texas Rangers, at the exceedingly UNFUN portion of a rebuild, where they’re legitimately one of the worst squads in all of baseball) with an OPS under .700. And, as far as pitching goes, we were very much middle-of-the-road across the board.

We were 90-72, but ninth in the American League with a -51 run differential. Our Pythagorean win/loss record indicates we should’ve been 76-86 (per Baseball Reference). So, how do you make sense of a season like this? Well, the M’s were 11-28 in blowouts (games decided by 5 or more runs), but we were 33-19 in 1-run games.

It boils down to the starters being good enough to keep us in most ballgames, our manager pulling the right strings regarding when to take them out of harm’s way, and a bullpen that, in part, was one of the best units in the league. And, our hitters being among the most clutch I’ve ever seen. They didn’t hit much, but when they did, they made those opportunities count! Often late in games, to either come from behind, or break a tie to win it in thrilling fashion.

So, where do we attribute the Mariners’ success and ultimate failure?

Well, for the highlights, look no further than J.P. Crawford, Ty France, Mitch Haniger, and Kyle Seager, on the hitting side of things. They had an inordinate amount of impact on just how well the Mariners performed this season. It’s not even close; the drop-off after those four guys is insane. You don’t LOVE to see something like that, because Seager is gone next year, and Haniger only has one year of Arbitration left before he might walk in free agency.

What you want to see is the young guys stepping up and assuming huge roles; I’ll discuss these guys in a separate post, but suffice it to say, they weren’t quite up to the task just yet.

But, Crawford and France are still pretty young, with lots of team control remaining. They’re not nothing!

If you think about the Mariners in 2-3 year chunks, then we’ve got at least those two guys in the fold and producing at a high level. We can always extend Haniger after next year, or if we don’t, that means we likely have someone else of a high calibre who can fill his shoes (Julio Rodriguez, for instance).

In the meantime, as I’ll get into another time, it’s far from doom-and-gloom with the young guys. Plus, it’s not like we’re going to rest on our laurels with the guys in the farm system. We’ll bring in veterans in free agency and trades to fill out the lineup, and make up for the loss of Seager.

As for the starting pitching side of things, who doesn’t love what Chris Flexen did as a bargain-basement signing? He led the starters in innings pitched, WAR, ERA, and wins, and he did it with sustainable stuff that should continue to play as a solid #2 or #3 starter. Marco Gonzales continued to do Marco Gonzales things. And, Logan Gilbert had a strong first season, seeming to improve as the year went on (more on him later).

The downside is, that’s pretty much it. James Paxton got injured on day one. Yusei Kikuchi likely pitched his way off the team (losing a 4-year, $66 million option in the process), though he could always exercise a 1-year player option for $13 million (but, that seems unlikely, as you’d think someone else would fork over more guaranteed dollars and try to fix his issues). Justus Sheffield was one of the biggest disappointments on the team and his future is very much in doubt. Justin Dunn lost half his season to injury, but wasn’t all that effective in the half he was healthy. Tyler Anderson was a competent back-of-the-rotation starter we acquired at the trade deadline, but he’ll be a free agent this offseason and will be looking for a significant raise.

I would argue the Mariners need at least two starters, and it’s debatable as to whether or not the young guys in our farm system are ready yet. If we’re trying to make the playoffs in 2022, entrusting two more rotation spots to rookies seems like a bad idea. But, we have to do better than Sheffield and Dunn, so they better figure something out.

The bullpen was the biggest pleasant surprise on the team. Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider, and Casey Sadler were all lights out! Diego Castillo was fine, though it’s hard to want to trust him in the highest-leverage situations. Kendall Graveman was excellent when he was here, and he netted us a nice little return in Abraham Toro; plus we could always sign him again this offseason if we wanted!

The thing is, we have team control with all of those guys (save Graveman), and I haven’t even gotten to the younger guys who I’ll talk about later. Nor did I mention Ken Giles, who missed this year with injury, but is signed through the 2022 season and is slated to return and be a big part of this group! The bullpen went from being arguably this team’s biggest weakness heading into the 2021 season, to being arguably its biggest strength heading into 2022. That’s HUGE (with the usual caveat being: bullpens are notoriously volatile from year-to-year, so they could all shit the bed as well).

So, what’s the state of the union as we exit 2021 and head into 2022?

I know the marketing materials would tell us it’s all looking up, and I’m buying right into the rose-colored glasses this organization is trying to peddle, but I think they’re right! I like the looks of things for the Mariners in the coming years. I’m not going to sit here and guarantee a playoff spot in 2022; I could easily see this team taking a step backwards.

Odds are, the 2022 Mariners won’t be quite so lucky in 1-run games. Odds are, the 2022 Mariners won’t hit quite so well in the clutch. Odds are, the 2022 Mariners will continue to suffer injuries to key guys (anyone remember Kyle Lewis?).

The thing is, we could see all of that; we could even see the 2022 Mariners end up as a sub-.500 ballclub in the overall standings! That having been said, we could see all of that while the team itself continues to grow and get better. Maybe we start out slow, losing games we expected to win, but in the process we get to watch more young guys make their Major League debuts. We get to see other young guys continue to blossom into Major Leaguers and All Stars. Maybe 2022 is the final step-back before things all skyrocket in 2023 and beyond.

The point is, there will be more bumps in the road. Things never EVER go according to plan. But, that doesn’t mean the overall outlook isn’t high. Just don’t put too much pressure on the year right in front of us. It might take two years, and that’s okay.

But, if we’re not in the playoffs by 2023, there should be hell to pay. Because how do you fuck up an organization with a farm system this stacked? Well, if anyone can fuck it up, you know the Mariners can!