Break Time — Seattle Mariners First Half Report Card

M’s Not What Most Expected

41-48.  That’s what the 2015 Seattle Mariners see when they look up their record for the first half of the season.  7.5 games back in their division is not exactly where they expected to see themselves.  They are not alone either.

The M’s have been every part of the word disappointing in 2015.  Some struggles have been terribly bad and continue.  Some show signs of improving and some have turned completely around.  Here’s a look at the grades I’ll give the M’s on their first half for all of it– the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Starting Rotation–  B

The M’s starting rotation is probably the most consistent of any portion of this team.  Unfortunately, that’s not saying much but they have been pretty darn good the past several weeks.  The brightest stat has to be Felix Hernandez with an 11 showing in the win column.

Despite the M's struggles Felix has a shot at a 20 win season.

Despite the M’s struggles Felix has a shot at a 20 win season.

Despite the reasonably good grade the Mariners have had their struggles with their rotation.  Felix threw the worst game of his career during the first half.  Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton have both missed considerably time with injuries and while I’d say both Roenis Elias and Taijuan Walker have been better than they were last year, they have been shaky at times.

The biggest surprise has to be Mike Montgomery.  The rookie has never gone less than five innings in all his starts this season an sports an ERA of 2.29.

Montgomery also became just the fourth pitcher in M’s history to throw back to back complete game shutouts along with Freddy Garcia, Mark Langston and Randy Johnson.

Other good news includes the return of Iwakuma from the DL.  His first start was very shaky but then bounced back with eight shutout innings against a very formidable Angels lineup.  The M’s could definitely use more of that from him in the 2nd half.

Also noteworthy is that J.A. Happ has had a solid first half and nothing should be read from the move that sent him to the minors just before the break.  It was simply a matter of him not being scheduled to pitch again until well after the break.

The bad news has to be that Paxton is likely out until at least August now.  His sore finger is improving but very, very slowly.  He’s still yet to throw a rehab game since going on the DL way back on May 29th.

The Bullpen–  D-

While the starters get the bulk of the good news when it comes to Mariners pitching it’s the bullpen that has been extremely unnerving in 2015.  The strange thing about giving such a low grade to the bullpen is that the pen was the best in baseball during 2014.  With the entire cast returning in 2015 everyone expected the M’s bullpen to be the area that didn’t need to be worried about–  Think again!

Charlie Furbush has been great but is now on the DL

Charlie Furbush has been great but is now on the DL

There are a few bright spots in the pen.  Charlie Furbush is having the best season of his career.  The lefty has logged 21.2 innings and has put up an ERA of 2.08 during the first half.  Furbush also has an astounding WHIP of 0.62.

Think about that stat for a minute.  Furbush is only allowing one base runner for about every two innings he pitches. 

The unfortunate part of Furbush’s very remarkable performance is that he had to go on the DL just before the break with a sore bicep.  The injury does not appear too serious as of yet but anytime you have arm issues with a pitcher, it’s never a good thing.

The emergence of Carson Smith has also been nice to see.  Smith has not yet been anointed as the M’s full time, regular closer but he has seen closing duties while the M’s try to solve Fernando Rodney‘s issues.  One would hope he’d get the closer’s job officially in the 2nd half.

Unfortunately, that is where the good news stops for the Mariners bullpen.  Rodney has been awful with an ERA over 6.00.  The M’s traded away Yoervis Medina.  They sent down Dominic Leone, Tom Whilhelmsen, and Mayckol Guaipe recently due to their struggles.  The problem is they brought up Danny Farquhar and Vidal Nuno and both of them continue to struggle.

The M’s do have Mark Lowe and Joe Beimel down in the pen too who have done fairly well but it’s hard to see the M’s making a run at the post season with just three relievers who can get the job done consistently.

The Offense–  C-

I really debated giving the M’s a grade as high as C- here.  The M’s offense has been anemic in 2015 despite the additions that GM Jack Zduriencik made to help the Mariners score more runs.  The only reason they are getting a grade this high is because in the past couple of weeks since hiring Edgar Martinez as their hitting coach, they have been better at the plate.

Cruz has been better than expected for the M's in 2015.

Cruz has been better than expected for the M’s in 2015.

Still, the struggles are bad and obvious.  Robinson Cano looks as if he aged 10 years between last year and this one.  Cano’s slash line is a pedestrian .251/.290/.371.  He’s hit just six homers and driven in only 30 runs.  None of those numbers are what you expect from a #3 hitter or a guy with a $240 million contract.

Austin Jackson, Mark Trumbo, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley, Chris Taylor and Mike Zunino have all disappointed at the plate as all of them are batting less than .250 at the break.  That’s just too many guys with a significant number of AB’s not performing well enough offensively.

There is a bit of good news for the M’s offensively.  Kyle Seager has been as consistent as he always has been.  He’s batted .263 with 12 homers in the first half which puts him right on pace to be where he’s been every year he’s played in the bigs.

The big signing of Nelson Cruz also seems to be working out in the M’s favor.  Cruz has been the M’s offense for large stretches of the first half.  He’s hitting an impressive .311 with 21 homers and 53 RBIs at the break.

The other move the M’s made to bolster the offense this past off season was the acquisition of Seth Smith.  Originally slated to be in more of a platoon role, Smith has been solid hitting .265 with seven homers and 23 RBIs.  Unlike most guys who bat left handed Smith has been murder on left handed pitching as well.  Against lefties Smith is batting an impressive .353 on the season.

The Defense–  C+

We’ve seen countless errors from the Mariners defensively in 2015.  We’ve seen guys forget how many outs they had in inning, throw the ball to the wrong base, and miss the cutoff man.  None of these things ever show up as an official error in the stat books either.

The M's will need Seager to pick it up defensively in the second half.

The M’s will need Seager to pick it up defensively in the second half.

Brad Miller is leading the way in the official errors category with nine boots already on the season.  The guy who’s right behind him is a name I did not expect to find here–  Kyle Seager has eight errors in the first half of 2015.

Kyle had eight errors on the season in 2014 and his stellar defense was a large reason why he wound up being named to the All-Star team that year as well.  With his dWAR number dropping from 1.7 to 0.8 in 2015 it’s no wonder we didn’t hear a lot of talk about putting the guy at the “Hawt Corner” on the All-Star team this year.  Instead, Seager has been the defensive ace who’s thrown it all over the place.

Four more M’s players have three errors on the season.  They include Mike Zunino, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Chris Taylor.  In Taylor’s case it is especially disturbing to see three errors when he’s only played in 25 games.  He’s was brought up to play short because Miller had similar struggles offensively and defensively.

There is good news defensively as well.  Jackson, when he’s not hurt, continues to be a great defensive outfielder.  Morrison has been very solid at first base and despite the three errors from Zunino he continues to be one of the top defensive catchers in baseball.

The Second Half

The Mariners are going to need a phenomenal run in the second half of this season if they are going to do what most people expect them to do– go to the playoffs.  It’s the kind of run the M’s have not made since 1995.

The M’s would likely have to make a couple more moves for some bullpen help if they are serious about continuing to go for it in 2015.  The problem might be that they are running out of trade pieces to deal with.  You also might not want to give up anything more than you already have for a long shot playoff run if you are the Mariners.

Will they go all in?  We’ll know in about two weeks.  The trade season is set to begin.

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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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