The Mariners Have One Top Ten Position Player By WAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

You wanna know where everyone else ranks?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Three Worst Mariners Still On The Active Roster Are Under Contract Through 2025

You know why it feels so miserable to be a Mariners fan? Because it’s always one step forward, two steps back.

The Mariners made the playoffs in 2022, got through the wild card round … only to get swept by the Astros in the ALDS (losing a heartbreaking final game in 18 innings 1-0). One step forward, two steps back.

As you do, the Mariners made a number of moves in the offseason to try to better themselves heading into 2023. They brought in Teoscar Hernandez, they gave Jarred Kelenic a significant trial as a platoon outfielder (which eventually turned into a mostly-everyday role), and they worked in Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo into the rotation … but Kolten Wong and AJ Pollock were total busts, and Eugenio Suarez and Ty France took significant steps back, leading to us missing the playoffs. One step forward, two steps back.

Try try again, the Mariners went back to the drawing board heading into 2024. With a significant money crunch tying one hand behind their backs, they managed to shed dead salary (Marco Gonzales, Robbie Ray), while attempting to bring in some under-the-radar guys to help bolster the lineup. Josh Rojas (acquired at the deadline in 2023) has taken a significant step forward, Luke Raley has been a welcome addition and replacement for Kelenic, and Canzone and Bliss have had their moments filling in around the margins, all the while keeping our starting rotation intact … but our three most significant additions have all been fucking terrible.

One step forward, two steps back.

There are 8 Mariners in 2024 with a 0.0 WAR or lower (that is, negative WAR). Wins Above Replacement, that’s the stat. You’re comparing these players against “Replacement Level” players. “Replacement Level” doesn’t mean “average”. It means FUCKING TERRIBLE. If you’re a replacement level player, you’re just a warm body some hapless team is throwing out there because they have no better alternatives.

Of those 8, five are in Tacoma at the moment: Tyler Locklear (0.0), Luis Urias (-0.2), Jonatan Clase (-0.2), Sam Haggerty (-0.3), and Seby Zavala (-0.4). That’s a tough spot for Locklear, because I thought he did some good things while he was up here. But, he only played in 11 games, and as a first baseman, he doesn’t get much of a defensive boost. The rest of those guys are just terrible. Clase might turn it around at some point, but I doubt it’ll be here. Urias would probably do well to play in something more like a bandbox. Zavala and Haggerty should probably never be heard from again.

Anyway, the other three who are still on the active roster are Mitch Garver (0.0), Jorge Polanco (-0.1), and Mitch Haniger (-0.7). They’ve been, pound-for-pound, dollar-for-dollar, the worst Mariners of 2024. And they’re all – at least technically – under contract for 2025.

Jorge Polanco, to be fair, has a club option, with a $750,000 buy-out, which is all but guaranteed to happen. He’s earning $10.5 million this year, and would make $12 million next year. He’s cooked.

Mitch Garver is on the first of a 2-year, $24 million contract. And even though the M’s received $6 million from the Giants while trading for Haniger, we’re apparently on the hook for an extra million he gets as a bonus for being traded, meaning we’re likely on the hook for $12.5 million next year (on top of $16 million this year). That’s a lot of money to be on the hook for, for guys who are actively hurting our team.

These three players are also, not for nothing, in the top 6 of paid players on the roster in 2024. You can’t get much worse than that. The three biggest moves of the offseason: all busts.

And now we’ve gotta try to make chicken salad out of chicken shit at the deadline?

The only guy you could conceivably cut is Polanco. At some point, his will be a sunk cost, and it will be more worth it to the team to have him off the roster than even just benching him. That point won’t come before the trade deadline, and he brings back no value whatsoever as a trade chip. So, you just gotta give him the next month or so, hope he breaks out of this season-long slump, and when he inevitably continues to fail, you quietly release him sometime in August.

Garver potentially has some value in a trade, as he can play catcher, and in the right ballpark he can still hit some dingers. There’s also potential for him to just get better here. His numbers have improved – if ever-so-slightly – every month. In March/April, he had an OPS of .553; in May, that rose to .617; and so far in June, he’s mashing at an .830 clip. He’s not Babe Ruth or anything, but .830 would easily lead this team. If he can just do that the rest of the way, he’ll see his WAR get into the positive in no time!

It’s Hanger that’s the rough one, though. He’s got nothing. He had a VERY good first couple weeks to the season, and then proceeded to fall off a cliff with a boulder tied around his waist. He finished April with an OPS of .677; his OPS fell to .570 in May; and has been .538 in June. He’s also been a complete liability in the outfield, as he might be the worst defender on the team. Which is a shame, because we have very fond memories of Haniger! He’s a very likable guy. He’s hard-working, he’s a leader, he wants to be here. And, quite frankly, as he’s the only Mariner who bridged the gap between the previous generation (who never made the playoffs, looking at Felix and Seager, among many others) and this current one, it would be nice to send him off with some modicum of success in the post-season. As this team does, indeed, seem poised to get back there, what better opportunity?

But, at the same time, it’s Haniger who – more than anyone else – is preventing this team from achieving that goal. He has no value to anyone else, he’s a drain on the 2024 Mariners, and he’s also somehow a drain on the 2025 Mariners, and they haven’t even played a single game!

As we know from this ownership group, they’re not going to tolerate eating all of these salaries. With Polanco, they have no choice. Garver can still be salvaged. But, with Haniger, it feels like we’re stuck. We would have to ship off another prized prospect just to be rid of him, and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting fucking sick and tired of losing out on prospects just to open up cap space (in a sport that, again, doesn’t have an actual salary cap, other than the self-imposed one this team puts on itself for reasons of utter cheapness).

We already need to use these fucking prospects to acquire Major League talent in hopes to win right now! To also have to use them just to get rid of our duds is a fucking slap to the face.

In conclusion: I’m writing off Polanco and Haniger, but not quite Garver. As long as we can hide Garver as this team’s second catcher, he’s a clear step up from what backup catchers we have at the AAA level. It’s a pretty penny to have to pay for someone who might play once every five days, but at least he serves a function. Polanco and Haniger are entirely useless, and the sooner they’re gone, the better.

The Mariners’ Home/Road Splits Are Meaningless

There can be any number of reasons why a team might have contrasting home/road splits. Generally, teams are better at home than they are on the road. That’s just the way it goes. You have a slight advantage being at home, with final at-bats, with the crowd behind you, with being able to sleep in your own beds. Yet, it’s always a boring topic of conversation when a team is halfway through the season and is better on the road than they are at home.

That’s usually where the Mariners find themselves. For whatever reason, the Mariners are usually better on the road than they are at home. Usually, we chalk it up to the Mariners’ hitters struggling in their home ballpark, being unleashed on the road where it’s almost always easier for them to hit. And, when your pitching staff is good (which we usually have here), pitching tends to play anywhere and everywhere; hence the reverse home/road splits.

But, this year’s different. The Mariners are 27-12 at home, and 18-23 on the road (after back-to-back series losses at Cleveland and Miami). All of a sudden, the same kind of Mariners team we usually have (bad hitters, good pitchers) is “built to play at home”. T-Mobile Park has somehow turned into a “house of horrors” for opposing teams. We’ve unlocked the secret sauce to winning at home, and it’s to the detriment to our performance on the road!

Or, it’s all bullshit and means nothing.

If I had to attribute our struggles on the road to any one thing, it’s not our pitchers being mortal outside of the marine air of Seattle; it’s the fact that SO MANY of our road trips have taken us all the way across the country. Milwaukee, Toronto, Baltimore, New York, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Miami, and now Tampa. These trips have been long, they’ve been far, and they’ve often been without any breaks whatsoever. That shit adds up over a while.

What also happens over a while? These things tend to balance themselves out. The Mariners have often struggled with their home record early in seasons, only to finish above .500. I would expect this to be no different. There’s no way the Mariners are going to continue winning at a .692 clip at home the rest of the way. We’re also probably not going to finish below .500 on the road. Not with trips to play the Angels, White Sox, Tigers, Pirates, Angels again, A’s, Rangers, and Astros in the second half.

The Mariners are 45-35; after tonight we’re right at the halfway point in the season. The Mariners are probably, therefore, a 90-win team, when it’s all said and done. Maybe, as more teams fall out of contention, we can bump that up a few wins down the stretch. I would, therefore, expect us to win around 54-56% of our games at home, and 54-56% of our games on the road in total this year.

What we have to hope against is the notion that this team isn’t actually as good as it’s been playing like overall. Should we actually have a worse record, and therefore are in store for some negative regression? If that’s the case, then all bets are off. Because, if this is actually closer to an 85-win team, then we’re in trouble the rest of the way.

Regardless, it makes no difference where they play the games. It’s all going to more or less even out in the end.

In other news, Jorge Polanco is back, and is right back to batting second in the lineup. Meanwhile, Mitch Garver is batting 8th, and Mitch Haniger isn’t even playing tonight. Ty France has 1 hit since returning from the IL. The four most expendable and useless veterans are single-handedly working to tank this season, and I don’t know what this organization can do about it. They certainly won’t eat any of the money, without getting something back in return! Or, rather, I’m sure they’d be happy to get rid of them and pay for the right to do so in prospects, if our trade partner is willing to eat salary for us.

It’s truly a nightmare to be a Mariners fan. Every single day is worse than the last. And if you’re feeling good about things, wait a day or two! It’ll take a turn.

Ty France Landed On The IL, Ty(ler) Locklear Got Called Up

On Friday, Ty France broke the Mariners all-time record for most Hit By Pitches, taking Edgar Martinez’s crown in relatively quick fashion. That’s a neat, albeit random record to own. On the downside, though, he was hit on the heel, which resulted in a hairline fracture, landing him on the IL for an indeterminate amount of time.

That being said, it doesn’t sound incredibly serious, so I wouldn’t expect him to be gone for much longer than a couple weeks.

Enter Tyler Locklear, who is only one of a few players from the 2022 draft to make it to the Major Leagues so far.

This is an interesting move for the Mariners, because they have very little – if any – Major League-ready hitters down in the minors who could potentially help out this season. We’ve tried Ryan Bliss, and through 23 at bats, he looks somewhat promising, but I’m not holding my breath. Jonatan Clase has already had a couple cups of coffee with the M’s through two-plus months, with very little to show for it. A couple other guys had brief call-ups without any sort of legitimate shot to produce. And we even picked up Victor Robles after he was let go by the Nationals; it’s probably pretty safe to say he’s shot.

The point is, I don’t know if there’s any help on the horizon that we can promote internally, or pick up via the MLB scrap heap. Our only real shot in 2024 is Tyler Locklear, and indeed, he’s no guarantee.

What prospect is, though? Even the best of the best have some growing pains. Tyler Locklear has produced every step of the way. Predictably, he raked in college. We took him in the second round in 2022; he proceeded to dominate at the lower A level that very same year. He was promoted to high-A Everett in 2023, crushed it there, and proceeded to get promoted again in 2023 to AA, where he finally met his match, but still showed out well.

That brings us to 2024, where he started at AA and took another step forward, which is impressive given that league isn’t nearly as forgiving to hitters as the PCL. You can argue AA has the best of the best prospects across the Major Leagues, but there’s still something to be said for getting your feet wet in AAA, where pitchers tend to throw more breaking pitches, and are in general a little more savvy on the ways of getting guys out. Tyler had 10 games in Tacoma, where he kept right on rolling.

Given this trajectory, and his massive minor league success, it was only a matter of time before the Mariners gave him a chance. We already moved Mitch Garver to backup catcher (making Seby Zavala’s roster spot as worthless as can be), so unless Garver and France balled out the rest of the way, Locklear was always going to at least get a look.

Which brings us back to France’s IL stint.

There are certainly internal options for the Mariners at the Major League level to fill in at first base. Luke Raley could play first, Dylan Moore can seemingly do it all, one would think Garver could handle it in a pinch. But, the time feels right. It’s early June; we’ve got a month and a half before the trade deadline. Let’s see what Locklear can do, because if he continues tearing the cover off the ball, that makes France or Garver expendable.

Ty France is an interesting case for the Mariners. He’s got one more Arb year in 2025 before he’s an unrestricted free agent. He’s also turning 30 in July. Through last year, he was on a steady decline in his offensive production, which led to him going to Driveline in the offseason and vastly revamping his swing and approach at the plate.

In spite of some peaks and valleys, France has unquestionably been a better hitter in 2024 than he was last year. That being said, his batting average is about the same (.251 compared to .250 in 2023), his OBP is worse (.329 vs. .337), and while his slugging has drastically improved (.403 over .366), it’s still considerably lower than it was in 2022 (.437), 2021 (.445), and 2020 (.468). France is earning just under $7 million this year, with a likely marginal increase for 2025; is that someone we absolutely NEED to hang onto?

That’s a tough question, because we can’t dismiss the fact that France has the third-highest slugging percentage on the team right now (behind Luke Raley and Dylan Moore). He also has the fourth-highest batting average, and the third-highest OPS. He’s second on the team in homers (tied with Garver, oddly enough, at 7), and is tied for the lead in doubles with Dylan Moore at 11. He’s not the best, most-productive hitter on the team, but he’s up there in just about all of the major categories. If you’re going to make France a cap casualty at the trade deadline – to help bring in other hitters – you better be DAMN sure you can replace his production at the lineup.

I would be curious to know what the Mariners’ front office feels about Locklear. Do they see him as The Future? Is this a scenario where maybe we flip France and a prospect for a rental like Pete Alonso? Presumably, there would be other salary offsets besides France, to get that deal done. But, knowing there’s a virtual certainty that we will never re-sign Alonso, could Locklear slot into first base heading into Spring Training 2025?

Or, might this call-up be a showcase of sorts, to see if we can package Locklear with someone else to bring in a hitter at a more-valuable position, like third base or left field?

Either way, Locklear had his first Major League start on Sunday, and went 1 for 4 with a double, RBI, and run scored (all in the 7th inning). He came out swinging from his very first at bat, and he ended up helping out in a big way, as the M’s salvaged one game of the 3-game set (not for nothing, but we should’ve won 2 of 3 in Kansas City, if we didn’t blow Friday’s game 10-9, after scoring 7 runs in the first and holding an 8-0 lead in the top of the 4th).

I’ll be rooting for him like crazy. Am I confident he’ll succeed? Absolutely not. That has nothing to do with Locklear, and everything to do with every other minor league bat I’ve ever seen called up to the bigs. The failure rate is quite high!

But, some dudes just know how to hit. It’s a shame that Locklear will be denigrated for “only” playing first base. I’ll say this: you still need guys to hit there. And I want a guy who not only looks the part – so many players “look the part” – but also has the numbers to back it up. Locklear has the numbers. He looks the part. So, I wouldn’t be too quick to give up on him, or flip him for a rental.

He COULD be the real deal. I hope the Mariners know what they’re doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Have Managed To Hold Onto First Place In Spite Of Their Offensive Incompetence

Is the incompetence offensive? Or is the offense incompetent? Why not both?!

The 10-day/10-game road trip that just concluded wasn’t as mortifying as it could’ve been. There was a nice late-game scramble in Baltimore to take one of those three games; we managed to score 4 runs off the hottest closer in the game to help us split the 4-game series against the Yankees; and, while winning 1 of 3 against the Nationals isn’t ideal, it limited the damage to only a 4-6 road trip, when it very easily could’ve been 2-8 or worse.

Knowing how close it had been atop the A.L. West for most of this season, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Mariners somehow comfortably ahead of the rest. I was even more shocked to see that the Mariners are the only team in the division with a winning record as of this writing. We are 3 games over .500, and 3.5 games ahead of second place Texas (who are 4 games under .500). The Astros (who we’re playing now, back in Seattle) are 6 games under, the A’s are 11 games under, and the Angels are a whopping 13 games under .500.

It’s always something with the Mariners. It seems like every single year, we can say, “If only X, Y, and Z were to happen, this team would contend for a World Series.” A buddy of mine and I were talking about this very subject yesterday. If the Mariners ever figure out how to score more runs, they’re going all the way! He had mentioned previously that the 2018 Mariners – the last decent group, with Cruz, Seager, Cano, etc. – if they had only had more pitching, would’ve been serious contenders.

This MIGHT end up being the most extreme case we’ve ever seen, though. The starting pitching is SO good, and the bullpen has been its usual brand of effective (and occasionally excellent), that it feels like if the Mariners ever score 5 runs, they should be undefeated. That if we can average an extra half-run per game the rest of the year, we WILL go all the way.

Through 55 games, the Mariners are averaging 3.73 runs per game. If you were to bump that up to just 4 and a quarter, that’s an extra 28-29 runs. Are you telling me – with an extra 28-29 runs – we wouldn’t have an extra 6-7 wins? Come on. We’d be one of the best teams in baseball! If you bump us up to 234 runs (as opposed to our actual 205 runs), there would still be 15 teams ahead of us in the MLB. 234 is EXTREMELY middle-of-the-road. 205 is 4th-worst. So, it’s not like I’m asking a lot. I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here. I’m asking for an extra half-run per game, to turn us into one of the best teams in the game.

Now, the question, obviously, is: how do we get there?

It’s a valiant effort by this team to hang around .500 and luck into the division lead as we head into June, but a lot of that has been predicated on the Astros and Rangers either dealing with an inordinate amount of injuries or just playing well below their means. You can argue the Mariners have also had injuries (Brash, Santos, Woo, Crawford, Canzone, now Polanco), and have also played below their means (Julio, Polanco, Garver, Haniger). But, I would argue our ceiling isn’t nearly as high as the two Texas teams, and they’re coming. They’re GOING to get hot and start making a charge; it’s only a matter of when, not if.

So, how do we fend them off? Or, at the very least, put ourselves in a position to steal this division when it’s all said and done?

How do we get to that extra half-run per game?

I really want to say there’s enough on this roster as it’s currently constructed. I want to believe that Julio has started to turn things around as soon as I badmouthed him on the blog (as was my intent, naturally). I want J.P. to rebound, I want Garver to start mashing, I want Ty France to salvage his career, I want Haniger to look a little more like he did 6 years ago, and a lot less like he’s looked the last two seasons. I want the Polanco that was advertised to us when we traded for him, and I want our pleasant surprises (Raley, Moore, Rojas) to continue being productive Major Leaguers.

But, that might be asking too much. Haniger is probably toast. Polanco and Garver clearly haven’t adjusted to life in Seattle. Rojas has already started to come down to Earth after that supernova start to the season, and I don’t think Raley or Moore are far behind. Those guys are fine, but expecting more from them than what they are is a bridge too far. I do see better days for J.P. And, obviously, Julio will have his good times. But, it sure feels like Ty is on borrowed time, and is probably one extended slump away from getting the boot (or, at least, getting benched in favor of Tyler Locklear, who was recently promoted to AAA Tacoma).

That leads me to believe there’s an outside move or two coming. But, will that be enough?

I was going to do a post about how I don’t want the Mariners to go after seasoned veterans anymore. Too many of them get here, get it into their heads that they can’t hit here (if they didn’t already arrive with those preconceived notions), and it becomes one long self-fulfilling prophecy until they get shit-canned or sold for scrap parts. The problem with that concept for a blog post is, there are too many players I’d have to exclude. I mean, obviously, you have to take out Nelson Cruz: Greatest Mariners Free Agent Of All Time. You have to forget about the first Eugenio Suarez season. You at least have to ignore the occasional clutch success of Carlos Santana in big moments, and the semi-competence of Teoscar Hernandez (particularly when he was super hot last August, only to be overshadowed by Julio, who was a man possessed).

But, I would write that post because of guys like Garver and Polanco and Jesse Winker and Kolton Wong and A.J. Pollock and Adam Frazier. What do they have in common? They’re all established, veteran Major Leaguers. They were all very productive immediately before arriving in Seattle. And, they all sucked. They probably shouldn’t have. If they had signed with another team, maybe one that didn’t have as much pressure to win (and win close), or maybe with a team that had a friendlier hitting environment, maybe they would’ve been success stories with those respective teams. Guys like Frazier and Winker HAVE, in fact, gone on to other teams, with moderate success. One would suspect that Garver and/or Polanco – when they move on next year – will have a much easier time turning their fortunes around.

On the flipside, maybe the Mariners are smarter to buy low on younger, hungrier Quad-A type players, like Canzone and Raley and Rojas. Maybe it’s better to continue bringing up guys from within, like Clase and Bliss. Oh sure, a lot of them will fail and move on. But, if you can get one or two to hit, that’s invaluable! Because they’re cheap, and they will have done it here. They won’t be coming from some other organization and have to try to adapt.

Or, we can just admit that every team has moves that flop, involving both young guys and veterans alike, and it’s all one big, shitty crapshoot. That’s kind of where I’m at with all of this, and why I didn’t bother writing that post (you didn’t see nothin’ here; these aren’t the droids you’re looking for).

Some interesting numbers to look at: we’re 10-4 in one-run games, which I heard is best in baseball. That’s going to HAVE to happen if this thing is going to continue. We finished April 15-11 (we were 2-2 in March), which I don’t think anyone saw coming after the way we started. And we’re actually a game under .500 in May (it certainly felt like we were doing better than that, but again, that last road trip was certainly a killer). We’re 7-7 in blowouts, we’re 6 games over .500 at home, and 3 games under .500 on the road. Most importantly, we have a winning record in our division (7-3 against Houston, Texas, and Oakland; we’ve yet to play the Angels).

Keep it up! We eked one out against the Astros last night, gotta find a way to win at least one of the next two.

The Mariners Are About To Have A Terrible Road Trip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Won An Important Series Against The Royals

The Mariners needed to come home and go 4-2 or better. And that’s just what they did, go 4-2, winning both series against the A’s and Royals. Now, they get Thursday off, before a 10-game road trip in 10 days, followed by another 7 games in 7 days at home. 17 in a row. Why Major League Baseball does this is asinine, but nobody put me in charge of scheduling.

George Kirby got us off to a great start on Monday, going 7 shutout innings, giving up only 3 hits, while striking out 6. There was another stutter by Ryne Stanek, which necessitated an Andres Munoz 4-out save, but we got the job done, winning 6-2.

Ty France had 2 hits, including a late homer to give us some insurance runs. Cal Raleigh also had two hits and an RBI. And, don’t look now, but Luke Raley has been fucking RAKING; he went 3 for 4 with 3 RBI, 2 runs, and a homer. At this point, he’s easily the hottest hitter on the team, and you absolutely can’t keep him out of the lineup.

Tuesday’s game was a bitter pill to swallow, in spite of yet another Luke Raley homer staking us to a 1-0 lead. For a while, it looked like that might be good enough, as Logan Gilbert was on one. But, sadly, with two outs in the 7th, he gave up a 3-run home run to earn the loss.

Julio had a couple hits, and Mitch Haniger finally broke out with a 3 for 3 day with a homer, but a 4-2 defeat was all she wrote.

We managed to win 4-2 on Wednesday. Bryan Woo went 5.1 innings, giving up only 1 run (though leaving with a bit of a jam on his hands in the 6th). Gabe Speier got him out of it, though, and the bullpen was pretty great from there. Except for Austin Voth, who could only manage one out in the 8th, necessitating another multi-inning save from Munoz. This time of the 5-out variety. He did it! But, clearly, the loss of Brash and Santos is going to take its toll sooner or later.

We had another two hits from Raley, another homer from France, and we even saw the return of Dominic Canzone (who hit a double and scored a run). Even better, barring a setback tonight in Tacoma, J.P. Crawford should be back in the lineup on Friday.

We’re really separating the men from the boys on this road trip. The Orioles and Yankees are phenomenal, and the Nationals are hovering around .500. If we can get out of this with a 5-5 record or better, I think that’s huge. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see our pitching start to show some cracks in the armor. With the offense still waiting around for summer to get going.

The M’s Bounced Back Against The A’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mariners Finally Did Lose Another Series

We lost 3-1 over in Minnesota. Could be a big one, in the grand scheme of things, if we’re both in contention for the same wild card spot. We’ll see.

This series was really lost in game one, when we couldn’t muster more than a single run in a 3-1 defeat. Our offense had all of 3 hits and 2 walks, with 14 strikeouts; ’nuff said.

The offense only came to play once this series, in game two, in a 10-6 victory. And even that was kickstarted late, with a pinch hit, 7th inning grand slam by Cal Raleigh to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. The Twins managed to tie it up over the subsequent two innings, but we rallied for 4 more in the top of the 9th to shut it down.

That ended up being Emerson Hancock’s last start for the Mariners for a while; he went 4 innings and gave up 4 runs. Here’s the rundown on his initial stint with the team in 2024:

  • 7 games, 3-3 record, 5.24 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 34.1 IP, 23 K, 11 BB

He had 3 Quality Starts in that span, but also 3 starts where he failed to reach 5 innings. There’s a need for him to continue working on his secondary pitches, and also a need for him to be a little sounder with the strike zone. You also can’t help but notice the stark contrast between him and the other four starters, especially when it comes to strikeouts. That’s going to be challenging for him as he’s leading the team in runners on the basepaths.

It’ll be nice to have Bryan Woo back; he’s rocking a 0.00 ERA across three starts with Tacoma; in 11.1 innings he has a whopping 17 strikeouts. Part of me kinda hoped he would have one more start to really ramp up his arm, but with the way Hancock’s been going his last two outings, this might be the perfect time. Add in the fact that he gets a relatively soft landing with Oakland coming to town (certainly a better team than they were last year, but by no means world beaters), I think this will be all right.

Anyway, getting back, the Mariners lost game three 6-3, with George Kirby giving up 4 hits, 3 of them homers. And, of course, the offense couldn’t save him, going 1/7 with RISP.

The Thursday matinee was a nightmare we’d all love to forget, though it WAS nice of them to make the game so non-competitive so early, so we could all get some much-needed work done. 11-1, with Logan Gilbert having one of the worst starts in his career (8 runs in 4 innings).

That’s a 3-4 road trip. Not the end of the world, but obviously not ideal. Texas has reclaimed first place in the A.L. West by 1.5 games; and, yes, I am going to keep track of this all year (unless we fall so far out of it that it stops making sense), so get used to it.

The problem is the offense. It stinks. No one but Cal is hitting for power. People are losing patience in Ty France. Polanco is being dropped in the order. Garver is struggling like we all expected he would. Rojas is still the best player on the team (and that really says it all, doesn’t it?). I will say that Luke Raley appears to be coming around, and we might be entering a phase where he and France enter into a time-share at first base (with France being limited to only facing lefties).

We have an interesting homestand on our hands. Oakland for three, then KC for three. Both teams are doing much better than anyone expected. By the same token, it would be nice to knock them both down a peg, because shit starts getting real on our next road trip: 10 games in 10 days at the Orioles, Yankees, and Nationals. Then, no days off as we fly from D.C. back home to face the Astros and Angels for seven more. Yep, 17 games without an off-day; buckle up!