The Mariners at 42: the Core Doesn’t Matter

Healy homer
Ryon Healy homers in Seattle’s 9-8 extra inning victory over the Texas Rangers.

It’s been a crappy week at work.  Got word of a major curricular change for next year without being consulted.  We were a day late meeting our deadline in the yearbook, a major no-no for May.

Not much of a week for Mariners fans either.  Monday was the make-up day in Minneapolis nobody really wanted to make up, including Robinson Cano’s fractured hand.  This was followed the next day with shocking news Cano was suspended 80 games for violating MLB’s drug policy.

Normally this would the my pronouncement at the quarter mark about who this team is and what is likely to happen the rest of the season  If things go well or are interesting there would be lots of chipper observations and some hearty fan-blog cheer-leading.  But finding a smoking hole where there used to be a Robinson Cano, All-Star and Future Hall of Famer does change things.

The M’s have conceded as much as they move Dee Gordon  back to a more familiar 2b this weekend.  Jerry Dipoto acknowledged he”s looking at the best ways to reinvest Cano’s $12 million lost wages in finding a center fielder as well as pitching investments. How the GM is able to parlay this windfall into the Mariners assets could well determine the team’s success moving forward.

As the Mariners head into the 43rd game of the season, they find themselves at 24-18, with the Detroit Tigers in town for a four game series.  They are a half game out of the second wild card spot.

With Cano out, Nelson Cruz hobbled by several injuries to start the season, and Kyle Seager struggling to find the consistency that sometimes allows him to carry the team, I think we can stop talking about the Mariners core going forward.  The offensive leaders are relative new comers to the team.  That doesn’t mean that Cruz, Seager and, when he returns, Cano aren’t important pieces of the team.  But right now, especially with Cano out of the picture, they aren’t the offensive leaders.

Mitch Haniger  .294/.380/.569            159 OPS+  155 wRC+   10 HRs 32 RBIs (most on team)

Jean Segura       .309/.332/.429            110 OPS+  112 wRC+   54 hits  29 runs 11 stolen bases

Dee Gordon       .321/.347/.405            109 OPS+   105 wRC+  54 hits  24 runs  15 stolen bases

Ryon Healy        ..278/.320/..588           145 OPS+  146 wRC+  8 HRs 20 RBIs in 25 games

In adding Gordon and Healy in the offseason, Dipoto has lengthened the lineup and made the core’s production less critical, because others are filling in.  Periodically, such as the series in Cleveland, the whole team catches fire and leaves a conflagration in its wake.  Other nights one or two guys seem to get hot and wreak their own blend of havoc. Whether the team prospers or not, it likely won’t be dependent on Cano, Cruz and Seager, but the others.  We haven’t seen Ben Gamel and Mike Zunino catch fire yet.  When or if they do, it could make an interesting team even more so.

Let’s be clear, there are times when the M’s don’t cash in on opportunities, leaving way too many runners on the bases.  But it also feels like this lineup can score at any time.  I’ve laughed listening to Aaron Goldsmith keep track of the number of innings in a game in which the M’s have scored, rooting for them to be the first to score in in all nine.  With these guys there are nights when it seems possible.

Pitching

The starting rotation has been about what I figured.  Paxton has become mostly good, though his Detroit game is a mystery.  Felix has had good games and bad games, but he’s mostly putting in his six innings and challenging the offense to get some runs.  Mike Leake has been good and bad.  So has Marco Gonzales. It’s just not a strong group.  Wade LeBlanc, on the other hand . . . give me some more Wade Le Blanc.

Unfortunately the bullpen really under-performed and cost the M’s some games.  Edwin Diaz is a standout.  James Pazos looks great.   Nick Vincent found himself after a rough start. But crucial off-season acquisition Juan Nicasio, acquired in lieu of bolstering starting pitching, has been horrendous.  In 19.2 innings Nicasio has allowed 27 hits and 14 earned runs.  His velocity is down.  He’s allowed 4 HRs and 8 2b’s.  He’s far too costly a player to give up on so the M’s need to figure out whether this is a mechanical or physical problem. Nicasio and Mark Rzepczynski are on the naughty list.

Biggest Surprise: Jean Segura

Jean Segura, in his second year as a Mariner, just hits.  He leads the team in doubles, can hit the ball to the left side, can steal a base.  He seems pretty pedestrian in the field most of the time, but occasionally makes a brilliant play.  He’s been amazing, especially in May.

Biggest Disappointment: Juan Nicasio

Nicasio is making $8.5 million to be the Mariner set up guy, pitch multiple innings, close if necessary.  Dipoto signed him because he was so reliable last year, one in which he led the National League in appearances.  Uh-oh.  Could it be that overuse has led to arm weariness and his current ineffectiveness?   I’m sure the M’s are asking the same question  The team would be three games better if Nicasio did his job.

 

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