When almost everything goes wrong

Wade LeBlanc pitched the Mariners to victory over the Cardinals Friday night.  LeBlanc was acquired from the Blue Jays on June 22nd.

75% of baseball is pitching. Right now the Mariners don’t have much of it. With Felix Hernandez and Wade Miley on the DL, and Tai Walker a big question mark,  and Nate Karns relatively ineffective in seven of his last eight starts, it is not a surprise the M’s have plunged from a season zenith of 28-18 and first place in the AL West to 37-36, in third place in the division and 10 games behind the streaking Rangers.

To give you a quick idea of what has happened pitching-wise, here are some quick stats, easily accessible from Baseball-Reference:

For the 2016 season: BA: 250; OPS .725; Hits: 618; Runs: 304; Home Runs: 90; WHIP: 1.292

If these numbers don’t look great, it’s because they include the numbers for the past month. They’re terrible. For the past 28 day, covering 26 games in which the M’s are 8-18, here are those same numbers:

BA: .284; OPS .823; Hits 264; Runs: 138; Home Runs: 42; WHIP 1.506

As you can, see these numbers are much worse. Consider these 26 games represent slightly more than a third of total Mariners games played, and I can come to only one conclusion: Yikes!

All of the short starts, injuries and fourth inning meltdowns has put additional pressure on the bullpen.  In some cases they’ve pitched well, but it is a relief corps in chaos, throwing in roles that weren’t intended, and overused in a fashion that exposes their weakness. That they have surrendered a lot of late runs should not be a surprise. But there are some commendations to give out as well. Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno have been tossed into to some very difficult situations, and generally handled them well. Joaquin Benoit, not so much.

Also deserving of some praise is Jerry Dipoto.  Faced with this situation, the previous regime would have assumed their Winston Churchill faces, adopted a stiff upper lip and simply stated “this is our team,” and watched the season spin away out of control.  Though that may still happen, Dipoto has acquired as much pitching help as possible on the cheap.

  • Exhibit A: Adrian Sampson was promoted from Tacoma to fill in for Miley.  No, that didn’t turn out well as Sampson could not get out of the 5th inning, giving up four runs in a loss on June 18th in Boston. And he’s now having season ending elbow surgery.
  • Exhibit B: Dipoto traded superfluous shortstop Chris Taylor to the Dodgers for minor league starter Zach Lee. Deemed a trade of surplus commodities, it is unclear whether Lee can help the Mariners with their immediate problems, but it addresses some of the depth problems the M’s are suffering through with their rash of pitching injuries and ineffectiveness.
  • Exhibit C.: Dipoto traded for lefty veteran Wade LeBlanc from the Blue Jays.  LeBlanc pitched in six big league seasons, but hasn’t thrown in MLB since 2014, opting instead for Seibu in the Japan League.  LeBlanc won his first start as a Mariner Friday night, 5-4.
  • Exhibit D: Dipoto picked former Mariner Tom Wilhelmsen out of a very deep hole..  Wilhelmsen was the centerpiece of the deal that brought Leonys Martin to Seattle in the off season. The Bartender was nothing short of horrifying for the Rangers.  Released, Dipoto depended on prior relationships to bring Tommy back to Seattle.  After pitching one game, for the Mariners, Wilhelmsen was sent to Tacoma for further conditioning.

None of these moves represent the second coming of Nolan Ryan, and they are classic “buying on the cheap.” But it is something more than throwing up of hands and stating, “woe is me.”

The M’s bit the bullet on Nori Aoki, and sent him to Tacoma to work on his swing mechanics. Aoki hit a meager ..245/.323/.313.  He was never going to be “the man” offensively, but he was seen as a complimentary piece who could contribute offensively with on base and baserunning skills and average outfield defense. Unfortunately his slash his well below his career numbers of .282/.350/.378.  His below average defense in each outfield position doesn’t contribute to his value either.

The M’s have opted to carry David Rollins as an extra bullpen piece rather than adding to their stable of outfielders, currently consisting of Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin, Seth Smith, and Franklin Gutierrez with Sean O’Malley filling in when needed. Boog Powell, a player the M’s were looking at as a future outfielder was given an 80-game suspension for violation of the league’s PED policy.  This is Powell’s second offense.

The M’s managed to eke out a pair of wins against the Cardinals, as they open their homestand.  They’ve peered into the brink of the abyss of another losing season and stepped back, even if momentarily.  Only 2.5 games out of the second wild card, hopefully the M’s have righted the ship enough to play decent ball while waiting the return of the injured, ineffective, and the trade deadline.






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