The Houston Astros are tough. They have great pitching and a team full of mostly young, affordable stars. They showed us that by coming into Safeco and kicking the crap out of the Mariners in a four game series, and have now shouldered past the Angels to take first place in the American League West. I don’t expect for them to relinquish that spot for the rest of the season.
It’s hard to see your team get slapped around by another. There’s frustration in Mariner Nation, stoked by 16 years of frustration. The Mariners seem improved, but not as good as the Astros.
How are the Mariners better? Well, let’s start with the rotation. We’ve gone four turns through.
Felix made his fifth start against the Rangers last night. Four outings of decent and one, against the Giants, of utter rubbish. If you take out the Giants game, he’s okay, As much as you could hope for. Is he the new Felix? Still too early to say. He’s not striking out as many and he’s only pitched a full six innings once. But, for April, I’ll take it.
James Paxton pitches today against the ageless Bartolo Colon. Likewise, Paxton has had one terrible outing and three decent ones. His season is evolving into the one we want to see, getting deeper into games and striking out everybody. Still no games deeper than six innings and throwing a lot of pitches, but it feels like he’s close, Paxton won the 2-1 game against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel.
Mike Leake pitched as we’d expect Mike Leake to pitch, with nothing disastrous. Well, maybe his last start, when he was great through six innings and absolutely collapsed in the seventh for the 7-2 loss in the Houston series. He’s been a steady presence in the rotation.
Marco Gonzales has struggled. After a fine first start, he’s just been poop. Gonzales lasted 2.1 innings against the Royals, 3.1 innings against the A’s, and 4.1 against the Astros, and he was simply ineffective. He’ll have to be better or solutions will need to be found.
Overall, the rotation has been better than I thought–the bullpen, not as good, but that’s a subject for a different post. Despite Gonzales’ struggles, the guys seem healthy, and by this time in 2017 there were already warning signs. The fifth starter, likely Erasmo Ramirez, will make his first appearance after an acceptable outing by Ariel Miranda in a losing cause.
The M’s are better than the 2016-17 teams of the Dipoto era. I know they struggled for four games against Sean Manaea and the entire Astros rotation, but they are really good pitchers, better than the Mariners starters. There’s a reason they won the World Series last year. That said, the if the M’s want to compete, they’ll need to play better against the champs.
Though they struggled against the Astros, the Mariners just have a better lineup. It’s deeper and more players contribute to the scoring. This team used to be all about the exploits of Robbie, Boomstick, and Kyle. This year the team leader in home runs and RBI’s is Mitch Haniger. The leaders in hits are Dee Gordon and Jean Segura. Cano has only one homer and 7 RBI’s, but he leads the team in OBP at .440, walks, batting average, and most importantly, runs scored with 13. The M’s welcomed back their walking wounded as Nelson Cruz, Ben Gamel and Mike Zunino have all seen action. The team will only get better as they get their timing back, and Cruz hopefully is repaired.
But this is no longer a team that has only three guys who can hurt you. With Dee Gordon running wild on the bases, the M’s are third in the league in steals. They’re no longer the station to station team. While they lost some of their early season mojo last week, I anticipate they’ll perform better on this road trip against bad Texas and Chicago teams, at least until they get to Cleveland where they’ll take on the currently underwhelming Indians.
This team is better and more fun to watch than any team in recent memory. They won’t win the AL West. They likely won’t make the playoffs. It’s a team very much in transition looking ahead to next year. If winning is your only criteria for liking a team, you’ll be disappointed-though this team will win plenty, just not enough. But jeez, just having Dee Gordon as team cheerleader is enough for this fan.
Former Mariner Shout-Out to Danny Farquhar
For those not in the know, Danny Farquhar was a Mariner from 2013-15. He saved 16 games for Seattle in 2013. He was one of those dealt to the Rays in Jerry Dipotos first great purge for Nate Karns in 2015. Now he’s in the White Sox bullpen. Until yesterday, when he collapsed in the dugout after getting two outs in the game against Houston. Farquhar’s condition is critical. He suffered a brain aneurism that caused his brain to bleed. He was reported still in critical condition by USA Today a few hours ago.
Danny is a fringe big leaguer, just like lots of other guys in the majors. He’s a journeyman right-hander that many teams add to mop up disasters, or fill innings. He’s not blessed with Edwin Diaz’s 99 mile an hour heat or his wipe out slider. In his seven years in major league baseball, he’s appeared in 253 games and 272.1 innings. This is the first year he’s made a million dollars in a season. Nobody is talking about Danny Farquhar as someone likely to clean up in next year’s free agent class. He’s just a guy hanging on to a job in the majors, and now this.
Farquhar is 31 years old, is married to his wife Alexandria. They have a daughter and two sons. His Wikipedia page says he would like to coach and teach high school math.
I’ll be thinking about Danny, and sending him the best thoughts I can. Hope you can do the same.
Once a Mariner, always a Mariner.