At the time of this writing, the Seattle Mariners are 31-40, 4th place in the American League West, 10.5 games out of 1st place and 8.5 games out of a wild card slot (tied with the Chicago White Sox).
They just lost to the Los Angeles Angels last night 11-3, a day after losing to the Oakland Athletics 10-2.
With results like that, many figure the Mariners season is over. However, it is far too early to give up hope.
There are some distinct problems, such as the back end of the rotation and questions at closer. Still, a closer look offers hope, and the Mariners are poised to make a run this season.
So let’s take that closer look
So far, the Mariners team ERA is a respectable 4.12, behind the AL top-ranked Kansas City Royals that sit at 3.35.
They are tied for the most shut outs in the AL (9) and tied for the most complete games (3). In fact, their WHIP (walks + hits / inning pitched) is fourth in the AL at 1.26, behind the top-ranked Detroit Tigers at 1.17.
As mentioned before, the back end of the rotation has definitely had its issues, but both Joe Saunders and Aaron Harang should be given credit for their good outings as much as they receive hate for their bad outings.
After starting out strong, Closer Tom Wilhelmsen has had control issues, causing him to blow four saves in his last nine outings (his only blown saves over 20 opportunities).
To add, young pitchers Brandon Maurer and Blake Beavan gave up their fair share of runs early in the season, forcing them to be demoted to AAA Tacoma earlier this year (though Beavan has since been brought back up).
Despite these issues, as a whole, the team’s pitching puts them in a position to compete. As long as the top two starters stay relatively healthy and Wilhelmsen returns to form, the pitching will sort itself out.
But what about the offense?
The big issue so far this season has been in generating runs. The Mariners are second to last in the AL with 249, which is 114 runs behind the top-ranked Boston Red Sox.
The problem, however, is not in their power. They have hit a respectable 76 HR this season so far, tied with the powerhouse Angels, and are only 17 HR behind the AL leading Baltimore Orioles.
As I said, it’s generating runs that is the problem. The Mariners are last in the AL in team batting average (.237), third to last in OBP (.301), are second to last in SB (22) and have hit into the second most double plays (62).
So while they have little problem hitting the long ball, they never get on base, work the base paths, or have any semblance of small ball ability that leads to generating more runs.
With that being said, not all is lost
Not only did their schedule see the Mariners playing 30 games in 31 days to start the season and then 14 of 17 games on the road, they were only 1 game under .500 (20-21) until they dropped their last 6 of those 17 road games (more on their opening schedule can be found HERE).
They did all that with Maurer (see HERE) and Beavan on the roster and a starting lineup of Dustin Ackley (since sent down to AAA), Jesus Montero (also sent down), and Justin Smoak (set to come off the disabled list today).
Since then, the Mariners have had their ups and downs, but have only lost two more games in the standings.
So, where is the hope?
The offense is set to get better. Nick Franklin has come up to replace Ackley and is hitting right around .300.
Mike Zunino has replaced Montero, will offer better defense and is likely to offer more at the plate.
We will see a different Smoak than we did before his trip to the disabled list (see HERE to find out why).
Ackley is set to return soon after finding his bat in AAA and will add versatility and options to the outfield by being able to replace Michael Saunders if his poor performance continues.
Plus, Kendrys Morales’ June slump of a .211 average with zero HR is unlikely to continue much longer.
Combined, that is improved performance from 4/9 slots in the batting order and a return to form for a fifth slot.
Over the next few weeks, expect a slow climb for the Mariners.
If they are within 5 games of contention by the trade deadline at the end of July, look for the team to be in the buyer’s market.
From there, anything can happen.