The Mariners Signed Mitch Garver

We’re looking at 2 years, $24 million. So, that’s a chunk of change, and a bit of a committment.

It’s a relief that the Mariners are coming to their senses on this whole DH thing. Part of me wonders if their prior stance – that they were aiming to use the DH as a rotating “rest day” of sorts for the regular starters – was all a smokescreen, because the organization was being too cheap to actually go out and sign someone of import. Either way, Garver WAS a catcher. But, since the Mariners have done nothing but bring in catchers this offseason (Blake Hunt in a trade with the Rays, Seby Zavala in the Suarez deal with the Diamondbacks), there’s not really room at the inn for another one. At first, I was moderately concerned that this was going to precede some sort of blockbuster Cal Raleigh trade, but I’ve been assured by people in the know that Garver is going to be our DH. At least through 2023, if not for the next two years. With maybe some first base mixed in.

Garver has been relatively productive in his 7-year Major League career. He won a Silver Slugger Award in 2019 with the Twins. That year, he whacked 31 homers, with a .995 OPS in 93 games. His, uhh, availability has diminished since then. Post-COVID, he’s averaged just under 70 games, thanks to a barrage of injuries that all seem to be related to his body breaking down under the influence of his catcher duties. Taking away those duties, in theory, should prolong his ability to perform at the plate. Then again, he’ll be 33 years old in mid-January, so I guess we’ll see.

Last year, he hit 19 homers and had an OPS of .870 with the Rangers. He also missed most of April and all of May with injury, but again we hope that won’t be a problem in his new role.

Are we concerned that he’s played 8 games in Seattle and has thus far never even gotten one hit?

I can’t say that I’m super jacked about this signing. I have long ago given up hope that the Mariners are going to do anything this offseason that will move the needle. I think Salk on the radio yesterday said something about this being a replacement for Teoscar Hernandez’s production at the plate. Except, ideally, with fewer strikeouts and more on-base ability. I’d like to sit here and proclaim delight at no longer having a black hole at DH, but I’m going to be on a Wait & See track with any and all moves the Mariners make. Someone said he rakes against lefties. I’m pretty sure that’s also what they said about A.J. Pollock. At least Garver is a few years younger.

Now, we just have to find a Suarez replacement, a Kelenic replacement, and someone to actually play in right field and second base. No biggie.

What does this mean for what money we have left to spend? Did we just use up over half on one guy? I hope he’s worth it!

One backup catcher the Mariners won’t be signing is Tom Murphy, who inked a deal with the Giants for a couple years. Pretty good money for someone who has been as injury-prone as he has. I hope he kills it down in San Fran.

The Mariners Traded Eugenio Suarez For Junk

I’d be lying if I told you I understand what the Mariners are doing. Usually, when it’s this early in the offseason, I’ll sit back and say, “Let’s wait and see what other moves are coming. Because surely THIS can’t be the plan!”

The last move that made sense from a roster construction perspective was a little over a year ago, when we traded for Teoscar Hernandez. Your miles may vary on whether or not the move actually worked out, but at least it made some kind of sense. Then, starting with us giving away Kyle Lewis for nothing, trading for Kolten Wong, and bringing in A.J. Pollock and Tommy La Stella – while extending Dylan Moore and essentially guaranteeing him a near-everyday spot in the lineup – the moves started to get blurry to me. They stopped making sense. I kept waiting and TRYING to see, but the closer we got to the start of the season, the more it became clear that this was it. This was the team. We were done making moves, and content to suck it.

We all saw how that turned out.

There hasn’t been a lot going on with the M’s so far this offseason. We let Teoscar Hernandez go away without a fight, which seemed like a bad move at the time, considering I figured there was little risk of him signing his qualifying offer. I haven’t heard of him signing anywhere, but I also don’t think he’s finished as a Major League baseball player. In conjunction with that, comes the news that the Mariners traded away Eugenio Suarez to the Arizona Diamondbacks, just as they did with Kyle Lewis, Ketel Marte, and Paul Sewald. In return for this deal, we get back Carlos Vargas (a relief pitcher) and Seby Zavala (a backup catcher). Pretty much the least you can get in return for a viable starting third baseman.

If I squint, I can sort of see what’s going on here: the Mariners just shed themselves of 425 strikeouts between Hernandez and Suarez. They were the second and third-most strikeouts in all of Major League Baseball last year. Nevertheless, they also accounted for a combined 4.3 WAR between them. That’s not an insignificant amount of production we need to recoup somehow, someway.

There was another deal that happened a couple weeks ago – indeed, on the first day of my honeymoon – that I was going to let slide under the rug and never think about, because it seemed so inconsequential. However, in the wake of the Suarez deal, there have been rumblings. Distressing rumblings.

The Mariners traded reliever Isaiah Campbell – one of our bevy of rookie arms from this past season who was fine at times, but far from great – to the Red Sox for infielder Luis Urias. I had assumed Urias was just another Quad-A utility infielder to throw on the pile. I think I had good reason for this assumption: he’ll be 27 next year, he hasn’t done much of anything at the Major League level, he’s coming off of really a nothing season, and his good numbers were from 2-3 years ago when he played for Milwaukee. That’s a prototypical guy you take a flier on in Spring Training, who maybe ends up as your 25th or 26th man.

However, once the Suarez deal went down, there were some people In The Know saying that this paved the way for Urias to be our starting third baseman, which is absolutely shocking to me! I really want to dismiss it, and again retreat into my cocoon of Wait & See, but coming off all the inaction of our previous offseason, I have to at least somewhat take this threat seriously.

I guess Urias doesn’t strike out as much. That’s something. He also doesn’t hit for average, hit for power, walk a ton, or steal any bases. Maybe his defense is good? That’s fine, but so was Geno’s. This feels like a significant downgrade, and that’s before you consider the hit to morale in the clubhouse. A clubhouse that’s been pissing and moaning for the better part of two years, whenever we get rid of highly-regarded teammates (Graveman, Sewald, now Suarez).

The fact of the matter is, the 2023 Mariners already had at least one significant hole to fill in our everyday lineup (probably more like two or three, but let’s not be greedy). Now, with the loss of Hernandez and Suarez, that’s a MINIMUM of three major holes (and, again, probably more like four or five). We’re going the wrong direction. Our goal was supposed to be improving upon the 2022 playoff squad, to start fighting for a World Series. We sat on our hands last season and regressed our way right out of the playoffs. Now, we’re actively ridding ourselves of productive players, and potentially replacing them with cheap nobodies who will do nothing for us.

Granted, in defense of Mariners brass, both Hernandez and Suarez took steps back in 2023 compared to 2022. If either one of them had managed to just maintain their level of production, we easily would’ve been in the playoffs. But, you can’t dismiss the possibility that they just had down years, and will bounce back in 2024. These are pros, and baseball is wonky as hell. Sometimes you have a bad season for unexplained reasons. That doesn’t mean you’re just finished forever.

As for our return in the Geno deal, Seby Zavala looks like a disaster at the plate. Maybe I’m being a little hard on him, but we’ll see. This surely means the end of Tom Murphy, which I’m fine with. I like Murph as much as the next guy, but he can’t stay healthy, and this team (and Cal Raleigh in particular) is severely taxed whenever he goes down. Zavala appears to be a quality defensive backstop, and if he can just be better than Brian O’Keefe, or whoever in the hell we had in 2022, then bully for us. But, a backup catcher isn’t going to move the needle on this team’s playoff chances.

Carlos Vargas has appeared in exactly 5 Major League games, all in 2023. He’s only 24, and allegedly throws the ball hard, but he also doesn’t seem to have great command yet. This trade will work out if we can harness his power and get him in the strike zone (without getting hit too hard in the process), but I read somewhere that there isn’t a lot of movement on his pitches. It seems like we just traded Isaiah Campbell for an Isaiah Campbell clone. Which means we traded Suarez for Urias and Zavala. Which feels like an absolute massacre for the Mariners.

My faith in the Mariners was already dwindling. Now it’s almost gone completely. I hope they do something awesome soon.

The Mariners Did Not Extend A Qualifying Offer To Teoscar Hernandez

I’m not going to lie to you, in an offseason that started – for all intents and purposes – at the very end of the regular season, at least as far as the Mariners are concerned, this organization has bungled things in a way I never could’ve possibly expected. First, the end-of-season press conference fiasco, and now this.

The whole impetus in trading for Teoscar Hernandez in the first place – giving up a potentially-useful reliever (something this team desperately needed by season’s end) and a lottery ticket prospect – is that the Mariners would get a year of his services in the middle of our lineup, and then either opt to extend him for 2024 and beyond (if things went well), or let him walk with a Qualifying Offer attached to his name, thereby receiving draft pick compensation whenever he signed elsewhere. Sure, it’s just another lottery pick, but with how the Mariners like to do business, that seemed like an ideal outcome, all things considered!

Somewhat expectedly, things did not go well for Teoscar. He’s a righty slugger who strikes out a lot and spent half his games hitting in T-Mobile Park; if you didn’t anticipate some struggles, then you clearly haven’t been following the Mariners for very long. He had two good months in 2023 to salvage what ended up being his seasonlong slash line of .258/.305/.435:

  • June – .303/.376/.573
  • August – .365/.396/.654

The other months were pretty abysmal. True to form, his home/road splits were pretty garish:

  • Home – 79 games, .217/.263/.380
  • Road – 81 games, .295/.344/.486

So, yeah, he let the ballpark and the marine layer get into his head. I don’t know how that explains why he had 64 singles on the road vs. only 40 at home, but maybe that marine layer is a little thicker than we ever thought. Either way, he was not the Value Add we all needed him to be. When he was going good, the team won games. But, about 2/3 of the time he sucked, and the team fell short as a result, unable to compensate for his underperformance on top of everyone else’s underperformance (save J.P.).

What I don’t understand is, why not roll the dice? Sure, he’s 31 years old, but it’s not like a player of his age, with his prior performance, hasn’t commanded an insane amount of money in free agency. All you need to do is point to those home/road splits and SOMEONE would’ve given him a 3-year deal! The free agent market is barren! And every team needs help with a power bat!

Were we SO afraid that he’d accept the QO (valued at just over $20 million) that we couldn’t even risk it? That seems silly. He would’ve gotten a better deal somewhere; I’m convinced of it. Are we so set at the position that we couldn’t use him for another year, if indeed he did decide to return? Clearly not! There’s a nonzero chance that with his experience in 2023, he could’ve adjusted and hit closer to his career norm. Regardless, it’s exceedingly unlikely that he would’ve accepted the QO anyway, so what are we even doing here?!

Even if you think he’s fallen off a cliff and is done as a valuable Major Leaguer, that doesn’t mean some other team isn’t foolish enough – or desperate enough – to give him a wad of cash. Where’s the risk? Show me where the risk is. Because I don’t think there’s any chance in hell that he would’ve come back.

All we did was make it easier for him to sign elsewhere. Is that the tactic? Are we trying to play nice with potential free agents out there? Trying to show them that we’re good to our players – even our exiting players – to let them know that Seattle is a good place to work? Even if I buy that for a hot second, you know what those players actually care about? How much money you’re going to give them.

This is just bungled mis-management, plain and simple. Unless I’m totally off-base, and the market for him is so thin – to the point that both the Mariners and Teoscar’s agent know it – that he actually would’ve returned on a $20 million deal. In this case, I can tell you right now, it’s more about the money than it is about him as a player.

Would I want him back? In a vacuum? Probably not. I would lean towards 2023 being the start of him falling off a cliff. That being said, in a vacuum, I don’t know if I’d necessarily be against trying him out as a mostly-everyday DH, even at a $20 million cost. For one more year? Given how the free agency market looks, our non-Ohtani options available to us (because I don’t see us actually having any chance in hell at signing Ohtani), why not? He shouldn’t be your everyday right fielder, but as a DH, you could do a lot worse. The Mariners certainly have as much experience in trotting out lackluster designated hitters as anyone, since Edgar retired anyway.

But, the Mariners have a finite amount of money they’re willing to spend. Even after what happened this past season, with how we underperformed, with how the Rangers just won their first-ever World Series, with this team being under a microscope with both fans and its own players alike, they’re still going to short-change us in the spending department. They’re going to make excuses about why players don’t want to come here. They’re going to justify their decisions by pointing to their farm system and Julio and Cal and J.P. and their bevy of young starters. They’re going to nickel and dime us and then continue to raise ticket prices and the cost of having Root Sports on our cable packages. It’s the Mariners’ Way.

Even if Teoscar has a thin market under the QO, we’ll never actually know, because he doesn’t have the QO. He’s free to sign with no penalty! Watch it be for a bundle too. If it is, I think it’s pretty safe to say that bundle still would’ve been there with the QO. If you’re going to pay him $50+ million guaranteed, you’re going to be willing to part with a middling draft pick.

I’ll admit, when I first heard the news, I thought maybe this was the Mariners’ way of trying to bring him back to the organization at some valuation under $20 million. Maybe 2 years $30 million or something like that. Get some front-end savings, while retaining the stability of a streaky-yet-sometimes-potent power hitter. But as I sat with it for an extra day, it just feels like the Mariners gave up on even being competitive this offseason. We’re so unwilling to do anything big, we won’t even extend the minimal risk of a qualifying offer to earn a free draft pick.

Instead, what was our first big move of the offseason? Well, we traded a AAA reliever I’ve never heard of for cash, and we traded a promising-looking low-level catcher for a not-so-promising-looking upper-minors catcher with the Rays. Tatem Lewis is the guy we got rid of, so watch for him to be a smashing success with Tampa. Instead, we get a guy named Blake Hunt, who’s poised to compete at the backup catcher spot with Tom Murphy. Really, what it means is that Hunt will start out at AAA – eliminating the need to roster Brian O’Keefe, thank Christ – until Murphy inevitably gets hurt. Then, we’ll get to enjoy seeing Hunt do his best O’Keefe impression. Fun!

My confidence in this organization isn’t at an all-time low. There have certainly been lower moments as a Mariners fan over the years. But, I will say my confidence is flatlining pretty hard at the moment. It’s not dead and buried and decomposing, but doctors are administering CPR and warming up the paddles.

What The Mariners Need To Fix Heading Into 2024

Whenever you hear someone from the team talk about what went wrong with the 2023 Mariners, and what they need to do to get back to the playoffs in 2024, they make it sound like it’s just a small tweak here and there. I got into the positives of the 2023 squad, and yeah, there’s a lot of good pieces here. But, I would also say it’s not an insignificant undertaking!

I counted 12 positives, and that’s including Teoscar, who is not a guarantee to be back. He’ll likely be extended a qualifying offer, which everyone believes he will turn down. At which point, either you find a way to sign him as a free agent, or you have to go out and fill that spot in right field. Regardless, 12 is less than half of the Major League roster. Even if you add a few of those bullpen pieces to the mix, you’re still hovering around 50% of the team that could definitely use an upgrade. That’s hardly a small tweak here and there!

If we’re talking about reasons why the Mariners fell short this year, you have to start with Ty France and Eugenio Suarez. Ty has been a regular whipping boy this season, for good reason. He has drastically fallen off a cliff these last two years, to the point where he was barely above replacement level in 2023.

In 2021, I would’ve said Ty France was one of our most important players. His batting average has slipped 41 points, his on-base percentage has slipped 31 points, and his slugging has fallen a whopping 79 points. Its been a disaster, on top of which, his strikeouts are climbing. He’s doing nothing well, and even his defense – by the numbers – has fallen off. He somehow managed to avoid the IL, and he had a career high in HBP; that’s what he has to hang his hat on. He has 2 arb years remaining, and I’m not even sure we should give him that much. It might be better for everyone involved for him to just move on, except I don’t know what’s out there to fill in at that spot. It’s not like we can trust in Evan White. Free Agency sounds like a wasteland. We’ll probably have to fill that spot via trade, and so help me if we bring in another one of these Quad-A guys to try to hit in T-Mobile Park.

The only hope is that his year two arb number doesn’t increase much, and that he follows through with the program at Driveline (and it somehow manages to stick). I know they worked wonders for J.P., but I can’t imagine Ty France has been going out and doing nothing the past two offseasons; Driveline is no guarantee of future success.

Eugenio is a slightly different story. His batting average and on-base percentages year over year are pretty close to one another; it was just his power that took a bit of a dive (31 homers in 2022, 22 homers in 2023). That’s a little trickier to explain. His line drive percentage actually went up this year – which might speak to the uptick in doubles – but his fly ball percentage dropped. His pull percentage spiked, while his balls to center and right fell. His hard hit rate and ground ball percentages were both static, and his strikeout rate actually went down a tick (even though his overall strikeouts went up, mostly due to his playing in every single game). Is that just bat angle? Is that the way pitchers were throwing to him? Were they busting him up and in, and that reduced his effectiveness in getting the ball to leave the park?

He also just turned 32 years old, so we can’t necessarily rule that out. Either way, I don’t see him going anywhere. Or, let me put it this way: I don’t see both him AND France leaving (maybe one or the other). But, you can’t try to replace both of those guys plus Teoscar; that’s just too much to try to accomplish in one offseason.

There wasn’t a bigger (and better) story than Jarred Kelenic for the early part of the season. This was truly a make-or-break season for the youngster, and he seemed to take the biggest step forward of anyone in a Mariners uniform. The first couple months were outstanding! It’s too bad they were overshadowed by the rest of the team struggling as much as they did.

His first 53 games – through the end of May – saw him hit .277/.333/.513, with 14 doubles, a triple, and 10 homers. His final 52 games – June through the end of the year – saw him hit .226/.320/.316, with 11 doubles, a triple, and 1 homer.

So, what was that all about? How much did the stint on the IL for kicking a water cooler have to play into it? Well, considering he was struggling mightily leading up to it – hence his physical display of frustration – you can’t blame it ALL on the layoff. Did pitchers adjust to whatever adjustments he had made in the offseason? Probably. Was he ill-equipped to then adjust again? Sure seems like it. What does this mean for his Major League career going forward?

Well, I think it’s safe to say he salvaged some of his value, which is a plus. But, can you really go into next season with him as your everyday left fielder? Or even your most-days platoon left fielder? For what it’s worth, I don’t know if his splits necessarily dictate that he HAS to be a platoon guy. He had a slightly higher batting average and slugging percentage against lefties, and was actually luckier with BABIP against righties than lefties. So, I think he’s fine to be an everyday outfielder. I still think there’s room for him to grow as he continues getting comfortable at the Major League level. But, he goes in the tank for far too long to be considered dependable, and he doesn’t strike me as an All Star type player. He might luck into a hot half-season and get handed a spot one year. Overall, though, I think he’s destined to do whatever it is he’s going to do in another uniform. I believe this will be the offseason we package him to another team, in hopes to bring in a veteran we can count on.

The rest of the problem children include Jose Caballero, Mike Ford, Kolten Wong, Dylan Moore, Dominic Canzone, A.J. Pollock, Josh Rojas, Sam Haggerty, Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Cooper Hummel (remember him?), Tommy La Stella, and Brian O’Keefe. I can’t possibly devote an entire paragraph or series of paragraphs to these guys, because we’d be here all day. Suffice it to say, they’re all fringe Major Leaguers (at best), and were eating up WAY too many spots in our lineup for this offense to be even remotely effective. Some of them had decent stretches (Ford had 16 homers on the year, Caballero was an on-base machine for a while, Rojas and Marlowe had brief hot streaks), but on the whole, these are not the types of players you want to pin your hopes on.

On the pitching side of things, you have to begin with Robbie Ray and the fact that he only made the one start this year. Now, do we know if he would’ve been good this year? Remember how poorly the end of his 2022 season went. But, that could’ve been a fluke. The bottom line is that a guy you were expecting to eat up a significant chunk of quality innings wasn’t around for you. It accelerated the development of Miller and Woo – which in the end might’ve been a bonus – but you could see those guys start to wear down towards the end of the year. Would they have been fresher if we could’ve held them back a little longer? We’ll never know, but it sure seems likely.

Marco Gonzales only made it 10 starts this year, and continued his gradual downturn ever since 2020. We’re still stuck with him for one more year, and I find it hard to believe we’ll be able to find a trade partner for him. On the one hand, he’ll be healthy by the start of 2024, and you can’t have too much starting pitching; on the other hand, he’s useless as a member of the bullpen, and if he keeps Woo or Miller from starting for too long, it’s going to be enraging.

The biggest tragedy of this year might’ve been the injury to Emerson Hancock. We only got about two and a half starts out of him, but he looked fairly promising in his limited action. And it happened right around the time Bryan Woo was returning from his brief IL stint, when we were supposed to head into the dog days of summer with a 6-man rotation, to hopefully keep everyone fresh. How important was THAT in derailing our season? Who’s to say? It’s one more What If to throw onto a season full of ’em.

And we’ve already gone into the bullpen of it all. There were gods and clods, and the clods were pretty damn mediocre. Trading Sewald, so far, looks like a disaster. But, that’s one of those things you can’t measure in two months’ time. You have to look at it over the next 2-3 years and see where everyone lands. I’ll say this: I don’t have any confidence in Canzone or Rojas. But, I also think we’re right around the corner from Sewald turning into a pumpkin. In which case, it was all for naught, and very well might’ve been the single biggest factor in sinking our season.

So, TL;DR, what do we need to fix? Well, we need to upgrade at either 1B or 3B. We need to fill RF with either Teoscar or Other. We need a bona fide fucking DH, because this horse shit we’ve been doing isn’t going to fly.

The Mariners are so full of shit with this DH thing, by the way. It was supposedly a means to give regular guys off-days, but how often was it used for that purpose, really? Suarez played at third damn near every day. France rarely went off first. J.P. never sits. Instead, that spot went to Teoscar on occasion (which was really a means to improve our outfield defense), Cal once in a while (when Murphy was healthy and able to back him up), and people like Ford, Pollock, Haggerty, Rojas, and the like. Lots of bullshit bench guys getting DH starts and doing nothing with them! Just sign a great hitter and park him there! Enough with this experiment that you’re not even using as you say you will!

Also, we need a proper second baseman, a proper backup catcher (who can stay healthy all year), and an outfielder or three (depending on what happens with Teoscar and Kelenic). Oh, and replenish the bullpen with at least one heavy duty arm (so it’s not just Brash, Topa, and Munoz and that’s it).

So, yeah, there’s a lot to do, and only one offseason to do it.

What We Can Be Happy About With This 2023 Mariners Season

I get it: being out of the playoffs is pretty irritating. This isn’t what we expected coming into the season; we were supposed to be a team on the rise and a team taking a step forward, after finally breaking the playoff drought in 2022. We had the core nucleus, we had the pitching, we just needed guys to play to expectations and we should’ve been all right. Did we do enough to get over the hump and become a division winner? No. We had a chance! Houston came down to Earth a little bit – which is something we definitely needed to happen for that to come to fruition – but we never expected Texas to be as good as they were, and that wrench ultimately ended our season.

Now, we have to move on. We have to look forward to next year. With a little bit of time to sit in our resentment, and reflect on what’s been done and what’s been said, now it’s time to rationally look back at what went right. We know what went wrong. The bottom of the order and the bench stunk. Many guys didn’t play to expectations. But, there were some positives as well, and we can’t just ignore them because we’re mad at the end result.

This organization isn’t going to blow everything up. The front office is staying intact. The manager and coaches are all being retained. There are guys under contract who likely aren’t going anywhere, and players with club control who still figure into our future plans. Unfortunately, we’re in a similar situation as the end of the 2022 season: needing to fill in around the margins. We didn’t get it right last offseason; we must get it right this offseason.

First and foremost, how do you not love what we got from J.P. Crawford? He came into 2023 as a legitimate fringe player. His 2022 season was arguably the worst of his Mariners career. He had terrible Spring Training numbers. He started out the year batting 9th, as everyone was calling on this team to upgrade at the short stop position. 2023 was as Make Or Break as it gets. And, to his credit, he put in the work last offseason at Driveline, he picked himself up, and he had the very best season of his career. He was a 5.0 WAR player; that’s leaps and bounds better than he’s ever been. He got his batting average back up to where it’s been in the past, he increased his on-base percentage quite a bit, and he slugged off the charts at .438. He hit 19 homers; 10 more than he’s hit in any other year! His 54 extra base hits were a career high. He pretty quickly found himself at the top of the batting order and never relinquished it, which I find most encouraging. That means he didn’t suffer a lot of prolonged, aggravating slumps. He was a guy we could always count on; for most of the year, he was the ONLY guy we could count on.

That’s a tremendous foundation on which to start. Short stop is secure for the foreseeable future. His defense seemed to bounce back a bit, he’s probably the best leader we could hope for among this player group, and where do you need to be strongest on a baseball field? Up the middle.

Which brings us to Julio. I can’t say it was a better season than 2022, but I do believe he took a step forward. Julio had a rough April in 2022, before going on a tear. In 2023, he REALLY struggled through June. Sophomore Slump was being bandied about. I think we all believed he’d pull out of it at some point, but I wasn’t sure he could get anywhere near where he was as a rookie.

Then, in July, he started picking it up. And that August, MY GOD. .429/.474/.724 slash line for the entire month; he was otherworldly! All of a sudden, he DID start to get back to where we all expected. But, then he cooled again in September. His slugging was still there, but everything else severely diminished. His WAR was 5.3 – tops on the team – but his entire slash line was a little bit worse compared to 2022. He had more doubles, homers, and stolen bases, but he also played in 23 more games.

All in all, I’m not worried about Julio. I think 2023 was a great learning experience for the young superstar. But, it wasn’t a wasted year for him, either. He didn’t have a learning experience while taking an extreme step back; he was still the best and most important player on this team, and I expect him to take these first two years and move forward as one of the best players in all of baseball.

Finishing with the Up The Middle motif, we have Cal Raleigh. Thank Christ for Cal Raleigh! This was his first full year. His first full year as the unquestioned #1 at catcher. And his first year where he wasn’t in jeopardy of being sent down to Tacoma to work on some things. He improved his batting average and on-base percentage, while taking a quiet step back in slugging. He had career highs in homers and doubles, but again, played in 145 games (compared to 119 in 2022). Where he REALLY took a step forward was with his defense; he was throwing dudes out left and right, really shutting down the run game of opposing offenses (in spite of the fact that this pitching staff isn’t always the greatest at holding runners).

I wouldn’t say Cal is a finished product either, though I don’t know if I would expect him to hit considerably above his .232 batting average. What matters is, like J.P., he didn’t suffer crazy lulls. He was pretty consistent all year. And, if you’re going to give me 30 homers from a catcher, I’m going to take that every time! Going forward, we don’t have to worry about Cal; he’s the guy. He’s going to be here for a good, long while. Hopefully, we can sign him to a long term extension sooner rather than later, because I think he’s going to be worth every penny. The concern lies in who his backup is going to be. Tom Murphy is a tremendous backup – when healthy – but he’s proven that we can’t count on him in that regard. We don’t want to blow Cal out with overuse, even though he’s a stud and wants to be out there every single day.

There’s a steep drop-off from there, as far as everyday players are concerned. I don’t want to get too into the weeds with Teoscar Hernandez – because I don’t know where he’s going to be next year – but I thought he did okay. He gave us almost what he showed he was in Toronto in 2022. Worse slash line, WAY too many strikeouts, but he was a 2.1 WAR player and that’s not nothing. He hit 26 homers and 29 doubles, while playing in 160 of 162 games. Yes, he had an abysmal start to his Mariners career, but he got it going as the season went along (and also enjoyed a torrid August), showing you what he’s capable of. I get the feeling it took him some time to figure out how to hit in this ballpark, but to his credit, he figured it out. He wasn’t a total waste of space like Jesse Winker and some of these other guys we’ve brought in. His overall numbers and production were pretty much what I would’ve expected out of a healthy Mitch Haniger, though I will say the defense was often a problem.

That’s all I got for the offense. On to the pitching.

Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, excellent work, no notes! They had wonderful seasons. All 190+ innings pitched, all sub-4 ERAs, all with 179+ strikeouts, all with WHIPs 1.10 or lower. All 3.1 WAR pitchers or above. They obviously didn’t win as many games as we’d like (between 13-14), but that’s a reflection of the team as a whole. All had 18+ quality starts (out of 31-33 starts). It’s as ideal of a Top 3 in a starting rotation as you could hope for: all young, under contract/club control for years to come, and all elite in their own ways. On top of which, it was just Logan’s third Major League season, and Kirby’s second. The training wheels are off for all of these guys; we get to head into 2024 knowing that 3/5 of our rotation is not just set, but among the best in all of baseball. They continue to get better! They continue to introduce new pitches and find new ways to get batters out! Hell, I welcome the further influx of George Kirby knuckleballs! Bring it all on!

Now, were they all totally consistent all year long? No. Castillo and Kirby really came up short in that final week and a half. There were enough instances this season where their lines really left me scratching my head. But, that’s pretty nit-picky. On the whole, all three of these guys were tremendous, and I’m happy to go forward with them.

Sticking with the rotation, how do you not like what we got from Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo as rookies? They very much WERE under strict pitch counts and innings limits. They weren’t perfect, but they had ERAs of 4.32 and 4.21 respectively. They had K/9 rates of 8.2 and 9.5, which slots them quite nicely with our Top 3 listed above. Going into 2024, a rotation of just those five guys looks – on paper – to be outstanding!

We don’t know exactly what they are yet, though. They’re still very raw, very young, very inexperienced. I don’t know that they have a great command of their secondary/off-speed pitches. They were both fucking bananas against righties, but really had their struggles against lefties, and that has to get fixed if they expect to stay in the Major Leagues for the long haul.

  • Miller vs. Righties: 7.20 K/BB, .200/.234/.315, in 282 PA
  • Miller vs. Lefties: 2.94 K/BB, .303/.358/.558, in 255 PA
  • Woo vs. Righties: 7.25 K/BB, .179/.226/.268, in 191 PA
  • Woo vs. Lefties: 1.52 K/BB, .283/.389/.540, in 180 PA

That’s too stark of a difference. It’s a little Matt Brash-y. Excellent numbers for a reliever, but not so hot if you want to hack it as a starter.

With Marco Gonzales coming back for one more go-around – assuming we can’t find a trade partner for him – and with Robbie Ray still on the books for a tremendous amount of money (though, I was dismayed to hear he likely won’t be back until midseason, which means he probably won’t be back to normal until 2025), I think there’s a general sense among the fanbase that one of Miller or Woo won’t be here next year. That one will be traded to help bolster other areas of need. It makes sense, though it’s unfortunate. I can’t help but feel like it’s a case of We Can’t Have Nice Things. Just when we lock down the rotation as solidly as possible, we have to bust it up – YET AGAIN – to help out our feeble offense. I was surprised to hear that Woo is more liked than Miller, as far as the scouts and analytical people are concerned. That’s interesting, considering Miller passed the eye test a little bit more. He’s a little further along in his development, has more innings under his belt, and doesn’t have the injury history of Woo. But, whatever, I guess. Both guys looked awesome, and I hope we’re able to find a way to keep ’em around.

I can only go as far as Matt Brash, Justin Topa, and Andres Munoz with the bullpen. We had other nice-ish pieces – Gabe Speier, Tayler Saucedo, Isaiah Campbell all got an extended run, and looked decent as back-end of the bullpen kind of guys – Eduard Bazardo had good-looking stuff, Ty Adcock got a cup of coffee and looked decent, Prelander Berroa got a tiny cup of espresso and looked like a guy with tremendous upside, but I don’t know how much you can count on ANY of those guys. Especially when you consider, in 2022, we had the likes of Diego Castillo (who spent most of 2023 in Tacoma), Matt Festa (who had solid numbers in Tacoma, but isn’t even in the organization anymore), Penn Murfee (who got hurt, and isn’t expected to be healthy in time to start 2024), not to mention Paul Sewald (who famously was traded at the deadline). There’s so much flux with any bullpen, year to year, that it’s kind of pointless to project. If we get anything out of any of these lower tier guys in 2024, it’ll be gravy. I’m expecting nothing; I’m not even expecting they’ll be on the team.

You have to say Matt Brash was the best reliever on the team, especially after Sewald went to Arizona. There’s a lot to like here. 107 strikeouts was fifth on the team, behind our top four starters. 13.6 K/9 led the team. 3.06 ERA was very respectable. I wouldn’t say he gave us quite what we were expecting, but I think that’s because we were expecting the moon and the stars. Every report about his offseason was about how he might have the best slider of all time, in baseball history. Shit like that. As your #3 reliever behind Sewald and Munoz coming in? I think I expected something like a sub-1 ERA and maybe no more than 1 or 2 blown saves. Instead, you know, he was on the hook for 5 blown saves, and he got dinged with 4 losses. He had a somewhat rocky first couple months, but then improved over the rest of the season, and became the pitcher we all thought he’d be. He was the most reliable reliever we had by season’s end. And I think he improved enough – and worked on his pitch mix enough – to get even better in 2024.

Justin Topa came out of nowhere, as an older pre-arb player – to totally blow away expectations. Before 2023, he had played in no more than 7 games in any given season with the Brewers; this year he was in 75. He had an 8.0 K/9 rate, and had the best WAR of any Mariners reliever with 1.6 (over Brash’s 1.3). He wasn’t perfect – none of these guys were – but he was maybe the most consistently-good reliever we had, with no prolonged slumps. Every once in a while he didn’t have it, but you could say that about anyone; Topa didn’t cost us very many games, and was an incredible asset overall.

Andres Munoz, at least for me, barely qualifies for the theme of this post. But, he’s under contract through 2028 and isn’t going anywhere. He was fine. He wasn’t what he was in 2022, but an early-season injury took him out of commission for a good chunk of games. For as amazing as his stuff is, he was a little too inconsistent for me. As one of five regular relievers with 10+ K/9 (12.3), it’s clear his arm talent is pretty rare. But, his walk rate spiked, his K/BB rate dropped considerably (6.4 in 2022, 3.0 in 2023), and his splits vs. lefties and righties flip-flopped. He was better against lefties than righties in 2022; though still amazing against righties. But, while he was still strong against righties in 2023, he took a big dive against lefties, for whatever reason.

Ultimately, I’m not too worried. Though, I will say it’s concerning that he got hurt again. Remember, he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 coming back from injury. He might just be a guy – with the way he throws – that he’s going to break down sooner than you’d hope. The M’s will want to take a good, hard look at this bullpen, and have more contingencies in place, so we’re not forced to rely on guys like Trent Thornton, Dominic Leone, Luke Weaver, and Juan Then types.

So, when you hear about the Mariners talking up their core guys, these are who they’re talking about. It’s a fine core! I like all these guys. But, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are guys who had really BAD 2023 seasons that need to be called out; we’ll get into that next time.

The Mariners Had The Worst Weekend Possible

That’s a harsh way to look at a 4-game series where the Mariners won 3 games, especially against a team that had so thoroughly owned us this season (we finished 4-9 against the Rangers; essentially the story of our year), but that’s what you get when you dick around all month, ruining all the momentum you had in a torrid August.

The Mariners finished 11-17 in September. Can’t do that. Not if you want to make noise in the playoffs.

Anyway, nothing mattered this weekend, because the Astros swept the Diamondbacks. We could’ve swept Texas and we’d still be in the same place we are right now: out of the playoffs. What makes matters worse is that we HAD a chance to prevent the Astros from winning the division. All we needed to do was lose in the finale on Sunday. Instead, we somehow clung to a 1-0 victory, thereby ensuring that the reigning champs have this week to reset their rotation, rest their bullpen, and get nice and ready for another dominant playoff run.

Yay.

Our season technically ended Saturday night. That just so happened to be the game me and my friends were going to. It’s the annual Oktoberfest game, where they have a give-away of a special Oktoberfest beer stein or boot or whatever they decide to come up with. By my count, I’ve gone six times so far; it’s the best give-away the Mariners do all year. For the price of your ticket, you get the stein or boot or whatever, AND you get a voucher for one free drink. Can’t beat it!

Unfortunately, I should’ve known I was going to be in for an annoying day when I got an email that morning from the Mariners saying our steins were delayed. I don’t know how that happens when you know about it all fucking year, but there you go. I ended up having a pretty nice day anyway, but that had everything to do with me being with my lovely fiance and my terrific friends (and nothing to do with the product on the field – another inept 6-1 loss – nor the product they were selling in the stadium).

Luis Castillo couldn’t get out of the third inning, at least not without giving up 5 walks, 5 hits, and 4 runs. That’s back-to-back pisspoor outings from our “ace” against our two direct rivals for the division. One could argue, if he was his usual dominant self in these final two games against the Astros and Rangers, we’d be division champs right now. Or, at the very least, in the playoffs. Of course, it also didn’t help that the offense could only muster a single run in each of those contests, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Mariners were trying something a little different with their 200-level concessions (I didn’t scout the other levels, but I’m sure this wasn’t the only spot), where they sell the hot dogs and sodas and whatnot. They had all the hot food sitting out, presumably under a heat lamp. So, you grab what you want (in my case, two of those junior dogs and a pretzel), take them to the check-out, order your drink and pay. Made things a lot faster! But, the hot dogs were cold and the bun tasted a bit stale. Also, I’m staying away from those pretzels from now on; they aren’t great.

Probably the most annoying thing was the fact that they weren’t taking our free drink vouchers that came with the give-away. You’d think we just drew a Mariners logo on a piece of paper and were trying to pass it off as a coupon! We went to the bar area in the 200-level and they turned us away, saying you had to get the drinks from a concessions stand. So, we went to a place that had the hard ciders we wanted – in this case, the pasta station – and they started to turn us away too. Luckily, we were standing right behind someone higher up who works for the Mariners, and they were able to text someone in charge. But, if they weren’t standing right there at that exact moment, we’d probably still be looking for a place to take these damn things!

I’ve never had this much trouble with an Oktoberfest. It was honestly really disappointing. I invited a bunch of people who’d never been to an Oktoberfest Mariners game, and it’s just a shame that there had to be so many snags.

After Saturday’s game, Cal Raleigh came out and admonished the Mariners for not spending enough, and not bringing in enough quality players to fill out this roster. HE SPEAKS FOR ALL OF US, MARINERS!!! The team made him apologize on Sunday morning, but he still got his point across, and J.P. Crawford (as well as others) backed him up after the game Sunday afternoon.

You can’t field a playoff team with the likes of Haggerty, Ford, Caballero, Canzone, Rojas, and Dylan Moore taking up everyday at-bats. Not when Ty France, Jarred Kelenic, Eugenio Suarez, and Teoscar Hernandez are so fucking streaky (to be kind; some of them were outright disasterous). Second base, DH, and left field were fucking black holes YET AGAIN. As was backup catcher after Tom Murphy went down, but what else is new? When you’re already going super-cheap on your bullpen arms – and you’ve got a ton of cost-controlled starters – it’s fucking ridiculous that this team pinches pennies the way it does. Trying to get by with the likes of A.J. Pollock, Kolten Wong, and Tommy La Stella; you should be FUCKING ASHAMED of yourselves, Mariners front office!

I don’t know how to feel looking ahead to next year. On the one hand, I guess we have to like where the rotation sits. Castillo, Gilbert, and Kirby should all be full go’s. Miller and Woo should have increased workloads. Ray will be back. You have to think we’re taking whatever we can get in trade for Marco. But, then there’s the bullpen we have to find a way to reload (presumably with more retreads that we hope we can fix).

It’ll ultimately come down to what we can do to improve the offense. I guess we like J.P., Julio, and Cal. Suarez probably isn’t going anywhere. J.P. said he’s taking Ty France with him to Driveline to fix his swing, but will he even be around after what’s become of his Major League career? Teoscar is a free agent; maybe we put a qualifying offer on him and keep him for one more go-around. Kelenic … we’ll see. We still need a boost at second base, and DH is still a nothing-burger. And the bench … ye gods.

Nobody wants to come here and hit in our stadium. That means trades. No one in the minors is ready for a call-up just yet. Our best prospects will be heading to AA – at best – in 2024. They won’t be ready until 2025 at the earliest. Is it another year just like this one? Or do we flush our farm to try to win now? Will that even bring in enough to put us over the top?

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, compared to how we felt at this time last year. This might be the most important offseason we’ve ever seen around these parts. And, for the first time since the Jackie Z era, I’m having my doubts that we have the management in place to get it done.

As usual, the common denominator is ownership. It’s all on them. So, I guess we’re fucked.

The Mariners Stopped The Bleeding With A Series Win Over The Angels

That 10-game road trip felt like a month, didn’t it? It’s a good thing literally all the good players on the Angels are hurt. But, even then … couldn’t get the sweep.

Monday’s 8-5 loss was as irritating as every other loss we’ve had recently. We took a 3-0 lead in the first, gave it all back by the fourth. The game remained tied at 3-3 until the ninth, when the Mariners had a chance to walk it off. Three straight sharp singles loaded the bases with nobody out and Kelenic coming to the plate. He promptly struck out. Dylan Moore grounded into a fielder’s choice with the infield pulled in. Then, Canzone rolled over to first base to send it to extras.

The Angels hit a 2-run bomb in the top of the 10th to take a lead, but miraculously, Julio tied it with a 2-run bomb of his own in the bottom half. But, then the wheels came off in the 11th, as the Angels added three more to put it out of reach. We ended 3/12 with RISP, and left with more questions than answers from a bullpen that’s been repeatedly failing us in the later innings. I don’t know what the analytics say, but anecdotally, this group has been ass in the highest-leverage situations (unlike in previous years, when maybe we were luckier than we should’ve been). More and more, I think we’re going to point to the loss of Paul Sewald as the reason why this team fails to go all the way. Canzone sure hasn’t done much, and Rojas has once again cooled off considerably after a hot streak.

Turning things around, the Mariners executed a much-needed 8-0 victory on Tuesday. Bryan Woo looked outstanding (5.2 innings of 4-hit ball with 8 strikeouts), and we managed to close it out with Eduard Bazardo eating up 2.1 innings, and Dominic Leone finishing the ninth. THIS is the role those two were meant to fill; unfortunately, games haven’t been this out-of-reach lately to utilize them properly.

We had great games from Julio and J.P., as well as much-needed sparks from Suarez, France, and Moore. There hasn’t been a lot of production of late from the bottom of our order. Guys like Haggerty, Ford, Canzone, Rojas, Caballero, and O’Keefe have all been balls for the better part of a month and a half. It would be nice if we can get a blistering streak out of someone like Moore to fill that void. Also, it was nice to see Luis Torrens return and hit a rather meaningless double late in the game. O’Keefe is NOT a Major Leaguer, and Tom Murphy isn’t coming back anytime soon (if ever). We can’t afford to play Cal literally every single game the rest of the way.

On Wednesday, we got back to basics with some good ol’ fashioned Mariners baseball, in a 3-2 victory where Castillo pitched another Quality Start (6 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts), and the bullpen was nails from there (Topa, Brash, and Munoz locking it down). All of the scoring was completed by the end of the fifth inning, so it really was a lot of pressure pitching down the stretch. Good to see, after so much shakiness lately.

That caps off the Angels for 2023. We went 8-5, which is pretty appropriate. We’re 8-2 against the Astros, and 9-1 against Oakland, so let’s hope we can keep beating those teams. For what it’s worth, we’re 1-5 against Texas, making the seven times we see them in the last 10 games vitally important. Can we go 6-1 against them? Seems unlikely, but will be necessary if we hope to win the A.L. West.

We have this weekend series with the Dodgers coming up, before we close out against the remaining divisional opponents. We are 81-65, a half-game behind the Rangers (in the loss column), with them playing in Toronto today. We’re 1.5 games behind the Astros for the division (one in the loss column, two in the win column), and they’re off today as well.

We are currently one full game ahead of Toronto for the third wild card. The Blue Jays have lost three straight against the Rangers in this series, which is honestly pretty good for us, because they were on a massive hot streak before that (albeit, against a lot of the same bad teams we played in August). Toronto has 6 against the Yankees, 3 against the Red Sox (both have fallen WAY out of playoff contention), and 6 against the mighty Rays. We will be rooting heavily for the Rays over the next couple weeks.

So, that’s it. There are three teams all within a game and a half of one another for two wild card spots, and there are three teams all within a game and a half of the A.L. West. Win the west, earn a first round BYE, and you’re able to set your rotation and rest your overworked bullpen. Win the second wild card, and you “earn” a series against either the Rays or Orioles in their home stadium. Win the third wild card, and you get the privilege of facing the lowly Twins (who are currently 7.5 games up on the Guardians).

This is very stressful! I sure hope the Mariners do well!

I should point out – since it’s been a while where this has been a topic of conversation – that the Mariners have improved their record in 1-run games to 23-25. That is a mighty jump from where it was pre-August! We are, however, 6-13 in extra innings games, which has been an absurd drain on our emotions. Wouldn’t mind seeing that go in the positive direction asap.

Also, Paul Sewald Update: after a bad blown save early, he’s been pretty great. He had 8 consecutive scoreless appearances before his next blown save. He’s since gone 5 for 5 in save appearances in September. Right now, the Diamondbacks are tied for the third wild card spot (with two more teams right on their heels).

What’s Up With Ty France?

I don’t want to nitpick too much, since the Mariners have been playing so well over the last couple months, but I have real concerns about Ty France that just aren’t going away.

We traded for France at the 2020 deadline in the infamous COVID-shortened season. He was a part of that blockbuster Austin Nola deal that also brought back Andres Munoz, Luis Torrens (back with the M’s this week as some insurance, reporting to Tacoma), and Quad-A outfielder Taylor Trammell. He got regular playing time with us in 2020 and showed a high-average, high-OBP toolset with a little bit of pop and versatility. Really, my favorite kind of player.

He assumed our starting first baseman job in 2021 thanks to injury and ineffectiveness from Evan White, and he’s run with it. In 2021 and 2022, his power numbers surged: 32 doubles & 18 homers in 2021, 27 doubles & 20 homers in 2022. With that, though, the average has gone down each year. .291 in 2021, .276 in 2022, and .254 this year. His OBP has gone down too, ever-so-slightly, in the .370’s in 2020, to .368 in 2021, to .340 the last two years. It should also be pointed out that he’s either at or near the top of the league in getting hit by pitches. And, due to that and some other flukey circumstances, he’s had his share of time on the IL, which has also worsened as time has gone on (152 games played in 2021, 140 in 2022, and so far 130 this year; here’s hoping he doesn’t get hit with too many more errant baseballs and can move the needle in the right direction in this final month).

What has me concerned is the power outage from his bat. With one month left in the season, he has 30 doubles, but only 10 homers. His career slugging percentage through 2022 was .438; this year it’s .379. And I don’t know how to explain it! His BABIP is down compared to career averages, but slightly up from last year. His strikeout rate is at his career norm. His hard hit rate is also at his career norm. He’s hitting fewer ground balls than normal, and therefore his fly balls are up a tick. He’s up in pull and center percentages, hitting fewer balls the other way (which, again, would indicate he should have more homers, not drastically less).

Where France is extremely down compared to career norms is in his Win Probability numbers. He’s very much in the negative, when he was firmly a net-add the last two years. That goes to explain his reduction in WAR (4.2 in 2021, 3.0 in 2022, 0.8 so far this year), and a mediocre RBI line (73 in 2021, 84 in 2022, only 51 so far this year), but Win Probability numbers also have a clutch feel to them, and France has been decidedly NOT-clutch in 2023. I mean, look no further than the fact that his ground ball percentage is drastically down (46.7% in 2021, 47.8% in 2022, only 42.5% this year), but he’s somehow grounded into MORE double plays (13 in 2021, 18 in 2022, a whopping 24 this year with a month to go).

I mean, I don’t have the specifics on all MLB first basemen, but I have to think France ranks among the worst. He has a defensive WAR of -1.0 for crying out loud! Between that and his dwindling performance at the plate – on top of his reputation as a player frequently playing in pain, with suffering results – I don’t think it’s any surprise that he’s seen his spot in the lineup fall in recent weeks. You can’t just lock him into the three- or four-hole anymore. And, with two years of arbitration left, you have to wonder how much longer he’s destined to be in this organization.

There was cause for optimism back in July when it was reported he had some chiropractic work done that supposedly fixed his neck, allowing him to see the ball more easily, fixing some funky mechanics that had crept into his at-bats. But, in the second half (starting July 14th), I don’t know if we’ve seen a ton of improvement:

  • First Half: 86 games, .261/.332/.389, 22 doubles, 7 homers, 19 walks, 66 strikeouts
  • Second Half: 44 games, .238/.358/.351, 8 doubles, 3 homers, 17 walks, 30 strikeouts

I mean, it looks like the chiro did improve his vision at the plate; he’s not flailing quite as often at those pitches out of the zone. But, his power and batting average are still slipping.

I don’t know what to tell you. How do you explain it? Is it just baseball? Is he breaking down with age and a skyrocketing HBP count? Is his bat speed dwindling? Probably the bat speed thing, right?

Regardless, it sucks. Ty France is so much fun to root for. And when he’s on a heater, there isn’t a tougher out, or someone I’d rather see at the plate in an important situation. The problem is: he hasn’t been that guy very often this year. And he REALLY wasn’t that guy late last year when we were in our playoff run.

Julio isn’t going to continue being a supernova forever. Teoscar’s hot streak is bound to cool off at some point. The more Cal Raleigh is forced to play – in the absence of a competent backup, until Tom Murphy returns – the less effective he’s bound to be at the plate. With Suarez kind of an enigma this season, we could REALLY use a scorching month of September out of France if we want to achieve our goal of winning the West and securing a wild card bye.

I fear, if he continues on this disappointing trend, we’ll be in for a similarly disappointing exit from this season.

The Mariners Completed An Exhausting Series Victory Over The Royals

Is anybody else wiped out by this 4-game series? I mean yeah, the Mariners had to fly from Seattle to Kansas City without an off-day and play in four hard-fought back-and-forth games, down to the bitter end each and every day, in sweltering heat, minus their short stop and regular backup catcher (Murphy, who landed on the IL this week), with just a pesky, free-swinging opponent that didn’t play for one minute like the bottom-feeders they are. But, as fans, I would argue it was even MORE exhausting! Yeah, I said it! I need a cigarette and a nap!

On the one hand, you hate to lose even one of those games against a team like the Royals, who are pretty clearly the second-worst team in the entire MLB, in a tier with only the A’s as the absolute beans of baseball. But, on the other hand, I think I’m just relieved we won the three we did, and didn’t endure an insufferable split. Following our recent scorching hot stretch by blowing two games against the Orioles, and then treading water against KC would’ve been a nightmare, if not totally on brand for the Mariners.

Still … could’ve had the sweep. The M’s were three outs away from one of the most impressive potential comeback victories of the year, with ostensibly their best reliever on the mound starting a clean 9th inning with a 1-run lead. That’s the table that was set on Monday, after an absolutely abysmal first 7 innings of that game, where we were no-hit through most of them. We headed into the top of the eighth nursing our wounds down 5-0, when finally the offense got things going.

With one out, Mike Ford doubled to right and Dylan Moore reached on a HBP. Josh Rojas singled sharply to load the bases for Julio Rodriguez, who mashed a double to left to clear them. After a J-Rod steal of third, Suarez singled him home to make it 5-4, before Raleigh and Canzone struck out to end it.

No matter, with two on and two out in the top of the ninth, Rojas singled to tie the game, and Julio singled to take the lead. What a reckoning! If only …

All you can say is that Brash didn’t have it. He gave up three hits, managed only one out, and even that was a sac fly to tie the game. I’m hard-pressed to say he was even overworked in that one; sure, he pitched the night before against the Orioles, but that was coming off of three days off.

As for Tuesday’s 10-8 victory in ten innings, I don’t even know what to tell you. I missed the whole thing, as full disclosure, I was out in the sweltering heat sweating my way through engagement photos; I hope our photographer can photoshop out my perspiration. I’m kinda glad I didn’t have to sit through the nonsense of this game though.

Not to be out-done by the Royals gagging away a 5-run lead the previous day, the M’s decided it would be fun to somehow send a game that was once 7-0 into extra innings. We scored those 7 runs in the fourth, with a massive deluge of hitting prowess. Suarez homered, France homered, Cal walked and Teoscar homered. Caballero doubled in a run, then Rojas homered him in. I don’t know if there are many things I love more in baseball than when my team fully bats around; it’s always a tremendous amount of fun!

Unfortunately, Emerson Hancock had a bit of a crushing rookie moment. He was more or less cruising through two outs in the fifth inning, but then gave them 5 runs back, including a grand slam that I don’t know how didn’t end his day right then and there. 5 of his 9 hits given up were in that inning; I don’t know if he got tired, or if the Royals just figured him out in their second and third time through the order. I’m not inclined to freak out about the results (again, I wasn’t able to witness the actual stuff), because the Royals kind of did that to all of our starters in this series. Maybe not in such a massive clump like that, but no one was safe.

Certainly not our bullpen! We even went so far as to add on an insurance run in the seventh with another Teoscar RBI (he was 5 for 5 on the day with a homer, a double, and 3 RBI) to make it 8-5, but Andres Munoz – on the heels of back-to-back late-game suck-jobs against the Orioles – gave up a whopping 3 unearned runs in the bottom of the ninth to send this to extras. Luckily, he was bailed out by Ty France with his 2-RBI single, and we won 10-8.

Wednesday’s victory I want to say was less frustrating, but how can I? The Royals went with a de facto bullpen day, gave us 4 runs in the first two innings, with Luis Castillo on the mound; how WASN’T that a cake walk?! Well, with the bullpen so taxed over the last few days, Castillo was forced to get us 7 innings if we wanted to survive this series. That meant pitching more to contact – with less focus on strikeouts – to keep his pitch count down. Quite frankly, he didn’t have his best stuff, and for whatever reason, when he managed to throw a good pitch out of the zone, they were hitting them fair.

Anyway, the offense went into hibernation from the third through the seventh innings. Well, I can’t say that’s totally accurate; we were getting guys on base, but not hitting them in (finishing a disrespectful 4/15 with RISP, with 13 LOB). That gave the Royals enough time to tie the game 4-4 heading into the eighth, when we finally woke up. We didn’t quite get the big hit we needed, but Teoscar hit a medium foul ball to right field and the resultant throw just BARELY missed the sliding Dylan Moore. For good measure, Julio knocked in another run in the ninth to give us some extra cushion (his 4th hit and 2nd RBI of the day), which was absolutely necessary since Brash gave up a solo homer before recording just his third save of the season.

To wrap it all up, we had Kirby going yesterday morning, coming off of his 9 innings of shutout ball. Even HE had trouble with this lineup, ultimately giving them 4 runs in 6 innings of work. Three of those runs came in the sixth inning, taking a 2-1 lead and turning it into a 4-2 deficit. It all started to feel a little hopeless until the eighth, when Julio mashed a 3-run bomb to give us the lead. Cal hit a pinch hit bomb in the top of the ninth, and this time Brash worked a clean bottom half to get his fourth save.

What does this all mean? Well, for starters, I can’t envision a scenario where Brash pitches tonight, since he’s gone 4 games in 5 days, all of them extremely high-leverage. Campbell and Thornton helped mop up Thursday’s in-between later innings, so that should free up the rest of our (better) bullpen members to take the reins.

But, I dunno. That series looked like we played 8 games in 4 days. No rest, no easy ones, constantly battling for nine and sometimes nine-plus innings. Now, we gotta go to Houston to play a team that’s gone 20-11 since the All Star Break? A team that’s still 3.5 games up on us, that’s had our number (especially in their home ball park) for ages now, without our top two starters (Castillo and Kirby). I just can’t envision a scenario where we win this series. We likely won’t even win a game! J.P. France dominated us earlier this year, and Framber Valdez has been a force against us (and everyone in baseball). The only guy we’ve had success against – Hunter Brown – goes up against Emerson Hancock, who I have to imagine is going to struggle mightily in this ballpark, against that offense.

Don’t forget, the Astros have four guys who are slugging well over .500, with Alex Bregman to boot, who always gives us fits.

This is NOT the time you want to play the Astros. That doesn’t even mention how we’re riding a 3-game winning streak; you want to know the best cure for that? The best cure for Mariners fan excitement? Play a series down in Houston and rant and rave while getting swept and it’s not even particularly close. And oh by the way, it’s not even a given that we’ll have J.P. Crawford back yet, as he still needs to play at least one rehab game in Everett.

Weather’s still nice, folks. I’d recommend making other weekend plans. I’ve got a Paul Reiser stand up comedy show in Tacoma on Saturday night, and a trip to Wild Waves on the agenda for Sunday morning. I’ll see y’all there!

The Mariners Won Their Sixth Straight Series With A Sweep Of The Padres

In case you weren’t counting along at home, that’s 7 consecutive victories, 12 of 14, and 24 of 34 dating back to the season’s nadir: when we were 4 games under .500 after a 15-4 loss where we were booed off the field at home against the Rays back on June 30th.

The funny thing is, this is exactly the kind of winning I said we can’t depend on. There’s no way the Mariners can keep doing this year after year! At some point, we need a little more everyday consistency! Yet, here we are, with the same exact record – 62-52 – that we had last year. The standings around us are different, but otherwise we’re right there in the thick of it thanks to this stretch. Baseball is fucking weird.

This was just a 2-game series against the Padres, with off-days on either side. So, otherwise a restful week, all things considered.

On Tuesday, we saw perhaps Logan Gilbert’s best-ever performance. He went 7 innings, gave up 1 questionable hit (that very well could’ve been an error), and struck out 12 en route to a 2-0 victory. That was the nastiest, filthiest stuff I’ve ever seen from him; he was in complete command from the jump. Sure, he had some help – a few nifty catches by Julio in the outfield, including a home run robbery – but this was Logan at his finest. He’s put up great box scores before; a lot of zeroes in his relatively short history with the M’s. But, I’ve never quite seen the type of movement and mix of off-speed he was able to throw at them. It’s cool to see Logan blossom, from a long-armed fireballer with lots of run on his fastball, to a crafty pitcher who can keep other teams off-balance and guessing throughout.

The offense consisted of a bases-loaded walk by Cal on a pitch clock violation in the fifth, and a Moore triple in the sixth that scored Tom Murphy. I had kind of hoped for more when it came to the Padres going with a Bullpen Day thanks to injuries. But, it turns out, that’s all we needed, as Brash and Munoz nailed down the final two innings no problem.

I had cause for concern yesterday, as Yu Darvish was on the mound. I don’t know if this is actually true, but it feels like Darvish always dominates us, getting tons of flailing swings and misses. But, this is an older Darvish. Even though he spun some nice gold – 6 innings, 1 run, 0 earned runs – we managed to keep the pressure up, putting a man on almost every inning he was out there. In the end, though, it was 1-1 going to the bottom of the eighth, before we finally busted this one wide open.

We don’t often get to talk about the Mariners batting around, but we saw it last night. Julio led off the eighth with a walk and after a Suarez strikeout, Cal hit a massive 2-run bomb to make it 3-1. That felt like it was going to be it for us, and it also felt like all we needed. But, after Teo was hit by a pitch (on the bill of his helmet, definitely not intentional, based on the pitcher’s immediate reaction, and he fact that he had two strikes on Teo), and the next batter grounded out, the bats really came to life. Ty France doubled in Teo, Marlowe singled in Ty, Rojas reached on an error (originally ruled as his first hit in a Mariners uniform), and Moore singled in Marlowe, to give the game its final score, 6-1.

This game was notable for being Emerson Hancock’s first Major League start. I guess he most certainly IS ready for this promotion!

It started off a little rocky in the first. He walked the leadoff hitter, then pretty much ignored the guy as he stole second and third base. Hancock even ignored him as he was scoring on a fielder’s choice right back to the pitcher; granted, the likelihood of gunning down the runner at home was slim, but it was weird to see a pitcher so casual about his base runner. I’m wondering if he was told by the team to not worry about the men on base, just focus on the hitter at the plate.

In spite of that run coming around to score in the first, Hancock never looked overwhelmed. He had lots of good movement on his pitches, and was pretty willing to mix it up and not just stick to fastballs. In total, he went five innings (throwing 87 pitches), limiting the Padres to just that one run, on 2 hits and 3 walks, with 3 strikeouts. The biggest concern in that whole line is the three walks, but we can chalk that up to first-start nerves. Otherwise, I was very impressed, as that Padres lineup has the potential to be quite potent and damaging.

We brought out all the stops with the bullpen, considering we had two off-days to count on this week. We used five different guys to get through the last four innings, and as the game remained tied later and later, it felt like this one was going to go extras. We even used Brash on back-to-back days in the eighth. The only thing saving us from using Munoz again – he was warming up to come in – was the fact that we put up a 5-spot in the bottom of the eighth. That’s the second time recently that Isaiah Campbell took Munoz’s spot thanks to a late Mariners scoring spree.

You know, I hate to be this guy, but I’ve found myself to be very much more engaged with the Mariners of late, now that they’ve been winning. Oh sure, it’s bandwagony as hell, but this team was legitimately hard to watch in the first half of the season.

With everyone starting to come together and get hot at the same time, it really feels like the Mariners can do anything. That they’re capable of playing with anyone and taking this thing all the way to the World Series. I know that’s just the hot streak talking. We’ll come back to Earth and play some .500 ball again for a while. But, I’m inclined to ride this wave as long as it’ll take me. It’s fun winning so often!

One cause for concern: Suarez and Crawford collided in the field yesterday, both trying to make a play on the same ball. This resulted in J.P. getting hit in the head and later being taken out of the game. He’s being tested for a concussion right now; I hope to Christ it isn’t serious. He’s the last guy I want to lose, after all he’s done to keep this team together.

Also, quick sidebar: Paul Sewald has only appeared in two games so far with the Diamondbacks. They’ve been on a massive losing streak (0 for the month of August) and so he hasn’t had many opportunities to save games. Finally, they threw him into a 12-1 blowout just to get him some work, and he pitched a clean inning. But then, the very next day, with a 3-2 lead in the ninth, Sewald gave up two homers to lose it 5-3 in walk-off fashion. Yikes!