Can The Mariners Win Over 24.5 Games?

I saw a tweet yesterday that shows the Mariners are projected – by at least one Vegas-adjacent betting-type establishment – to win the (tied for) third fewest games in the Major Leagues this year. Only the Tigers and Orioles are projected to win less often (pretty bold prediction, since both of those teams also won the fewest games last year).

Couple points to note: as this guy tweeted out, the Mariners haven’t won fewer than 25 of their first 60 games since 2010 (the last time the M’s lost over 100 games in a season). And, as Divish would go on to respond, the Mariners from a season ago – who started out with a ridiculous 13-2 record – ended up 25-35 after 60 games.

So, let’s use that as a jumping-off point. I’ll be honest, my initial gut reaction was to say, “Of course the Mariners are going to win fewer than 24 games this year!” The above tweets gave me pause a little bit, until I remembered that while the M’s have been mediocre almost my whole life over the last decade, they really haven’t been horrendously BAD since 2010, so yeah, that checks out.

The 2019 Mariners – who finished 68-94 – were much closer to the horrendously bad end of the spectrum than they were mediocre. And, since then, they’ve lost two of their more productive full-time hitters (Omar Narvaez and Domingo Santana) and two of their better part-time hitters (Edwin Encarnacion – who was traded away halfway through last year – and Mitch Haniger – who is still dealing with his injured whathaveyous).

On the pitching side of things – which was easily our biggest weakness in 2019 – we’re down many of our most productive veterans. Mike Leake was traded away last year, Tommy Milone (uhh, YEAH, look it up, he had the third-highest WAR among Mariners pitchers last year!) signed as a free agent with the Orioles, and Anthony Bass (fourth-highest WAR) was claimed by Toronto. With Wade LeBlanc also joining the Orioles, you could argue letting Felix move on to another organization was the best Addition By Subtraction move this team made (though you won’t hear that from me!).

What did we do to replace these veterans? Well, obviously, we’re stacking the roster with younger players! It’s what the Mariners – as a rebuilding team – are SUPPOSED to do! So, please, GET OFF MY ASS; I’m not complaining about any of this! I’m just writing words. And, in the context of this premise – Can the Mariners win over 24.5 games? – I’m going to contend that everything they’ve done to date points to the fact that no, they cannot.

Younger players are unpredictable … but you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen anyway. Look at me, I’m doing it right now! They’re going to struggle, because that’s what they do. They’re going to look great for a while, then they’re going to slump for a while; some might rebound and parlay that into success in 2021 and beyond, others will flame out and never make any positive impact for this organization.

As excited as I am for Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Austin Nola, and maybe J.P. Crawford (wait, I’m maybe excited about J.P. Crawford? What does that even mean?), I don’t think we can count on them to be anything close to consistent (except for “consistently bad” which is always on the table when you’re talking about the Mariners). And those guys (along with Kyle Seager, who showed he still has something left in the tank last year) are probably going to be the BEST guys on this team! Everyone else, I expect to be pretty mediocre at best, with a decent number of total flameouts headed our way.

I still expect the bullpen to be a disaster, with a good chance that it will be significantly worse than it was in 2019. The rotation could be interesting, though. Marco Gonzales should still be the best pitcher on this team (I would hope this is the last year we’re able to say that). Kendall Graveman – who is slotting to be the #4 starter as we head into the regular season this weekend – might be a legitimate stud if he can stay healthy! Taijuan Walker – our #2 guy at the moment – I’m less jazzed about, but his bulldog mentality should keep this team in plenty of games. I’m also starting to be really worried about Yusei Kikuchi, as I don’t believe he’s fully accepted his re-worked mechanics, and will start tinkering again at the first sign of trouble. Then, there’s Sheffield and Dunn, the young upstarts who will be getting their first legitimate shots at big league action. Like the younger hitting prospects, they too will struggle at times (and when they struggle, BOY will they struggle!).

All of that points to the smartest money being bet on the Mariners winning UNDER 24.5 games in 2020. And, that doesn’t even factor in the very real possibility that COVID-19 takes a significant turn for the worse and the league is forced to shut down. I don’t know what that does for betting purposes, but I think all of us nonbelievers would have a great claim to our winnings in that scenario. I mean, if the season were to be canceled prematurely … did they or did they not win fewer than the listed number of games that I shorted?

The 2020 Taylor Family Farm has never been in more secure hands! I’m betting the whole thing on the Mariners being the losers I know they can be! Don’t let me down, fellas!

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

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

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

Section 332 …

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

Welp!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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