Not much to cheer in Sea-Town

We’re 19 games into the season, and the Mariners are 8-11.  It could be worse.  The Nationals, pre-season favorite to win the whole damn thing, are 7-13.  The Indians, picked to beat the M’s in the ALCS, are a miserable 6-12 and 7 games behind the division leading Tigers.

Do I think it will finish this way, with M’s winning something like 70 games and the Astro’s winning the division?  Probably not.  But the Mariners are off to a disconcerting start, given the high expectations held for them.

The Good

Nelson Cruz-Reams were written about this guy, how he couldn’t hit at Safeco, how his home run numbers were inflated in Baltimore, and his terrible defense.  Yet his .308/.358/.693 slash line clearly leads the team.  His 6 walks is tied for the team lead, as are his 16 strikeouts. He leads the league in home runs and rbi’s which may not be a surprise, but what’s impressed me most has been his hustle and his effort on defense. I like him better as a DH, just for injury prevention, but he’s earned a shot in the outfield. Without Cruz, the Mariners record might be unspeakable.

Felix Hernandez-To be expected I suppose. Except for his injury-shortened April 12th start against Oakland, Felix has been very Felix-like.  Quality starts, a strike throwing machine, Felix has give up five runs in four starts, including three in his five inning Oakland game.  He’s been the rock we always imagine him to be. With a 10.9 K/9, 1.61 ERA, .79 WHIP, and a 238 ERA+, Felix is off to another superb start

J.A. Happ-I was critical of the trade for Happ.  Yet, he’s done nothing but impress in his three starts. He’s thrown three quality games, and with a little consistent run support could be 3-0.  He’s allowed two runs in each of his starts.  Though his numbers aren’t as gaudy as the King’s. Happ is dependable when 3/5’s of Mariners starts are a crap shoot leading off with snake-eyes. If Happ continues to pitch as he has while the rest of the starters try to find themselves.

The Bad

James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma-When three-fifths of your starting staff can’t consistently go five quality innings your team is in trouble.  This is the  ERA/FIP/WHIP/ERA+ for the Three Amigos:

James Paxton  6.86/4.71/1.576/56

Taijuan Walker 6.86/3.79/1.831/56

Hisashi Iwakuma  6.61/6.26/1.408/56

These are all terrible.  With Iwakuma on the DL and his replacement by Roenis Elias, and Walker’s encouraging start last night, perhaps there are signs of encouragement. Clearly things cannot continue if the Mariners hope to contend.

Mike Zunino-Zunino, picking up from last year, continues to be great on defense and bad at the plate. Despite the success of his Spring Training approach of spreading out at the plate to provide additional coverage, Zunino is striking out at a prodigious rate without offensive success.  With a .132/.203/.264 slash line, Mike needs to start coming around.

Dustin Ackley-Hi, my name is Dustin Ackley and I’ve got a great beard.  But that’s about all.  After three home runs in his first handful of games, he’s become Mr. Lost at the plate. With a .200/.245/.400 slash line, it’s clear that Lloyd McClendon is beginning to tire of his inconsistency and others are starting to get his at bats. With Patrick Kivlehan and Franklin Gutierrez putting up some numbers in Tacoma, it’s uncertain how long his leash will be, given his history of inconsistency.

The Bullpen-It’s hard to tell if the relief staff’s stumbling start is the result of bad pitching, or is simply following the opening implosion of the starting staff.  Whichever, it’s hard to imagine these seven guys are same ones who pitched so well last year and not creatures crawling out last year’s Houston Astros bullpen. Of the seven, only Carson Smith has performed, consistently.  Fernando Rodney’s Traveling Circus continues its road (and home) show, and features Danny Farquhar as an opening act.  If the starting pitching improves and fewer demands are made on the bullpen, perhaps things will turn around.  But of all the problems, the bullpen issue may be of most concern.

Scoring-Despite Nelson’s Cruz’s heroics, the Mariners rank 13th in the American League in scoring.  Yes, I buy all the arguments about slow starts and giving things time, but combined with the pitching woes, an inability to score runs means a challenge in winning games. In their 19 games they’ve scored three runs or less 11 times.

Yes, I do believe it’s too early to begin searching the sea for life rafts.  But it is just as clear that the Mariners aren’t scoring enough runs.  it’s seemed that no lead is safe and the M’s have become adept at letting games slip away late.  We see fan awareness as attendance slips with every home loss. The M’s need to begin turning things around now if they want to keep fan interest after the NFL draft.


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