The Northwest Green Machine has completed sixteen games, and thus is ten percent done with their personal 2021 marathon. (If you’re pushing your glasses up the bridge of your nose and mentioning that “actually ten percent of 162 is 16.2,” then me and the boys are on our way to stuff you in a locker.) The Mariners have spat in the face of reality and marched to a 10-6 record in those first sixteen games. When it comes to the Seattle Mariners, Sailor, if you spend too much time wondering “how” then you will miss out on the “wow.” Hey that’s pretty good, I’d better slap that on a piece of old drift wood and sell it to the Facebook wine moms.
The starting rotation going into the season looked competitive, perhaps even formidable. Not an elite sports car, but perhaps a 4-door Dodge Charger. In the early going here in April, it’s looked a bit like someone put oblong wheels on the Charger. Yusei Kikuchi is melting faces and hearts, but the demons of his past have managed to peer out from the abyss more than once. Chris Flexen, who is perhaps the greatest pitcher earth has ever known, has certainly been a nice surprise in the early going. Marco Gonzales has taken a couple trips to clunk town. James Paxton did what James Paxton does. No, not no-hitters or lots of strikeouts. The other thing 😦 As frustrating as that can be for Mariners fans, it’s extremely hard for me to call that deal a failure. Of course we’d rather have James on the mound, handing out golden sombreros. But at the end of the day a one year deal at $8M is not something I can get too worked up about. Would have loved to see what this rotation looks like with him in it, but alas. These are the Mariners.
The offense has been….well, I’ll use the analytical term for it: stinky butt. They have three (3) hitters who you could even refer to as hitters at this point. The Law Firm of Haniger, France, and Seager are doing more good than we frankly deserve and we are blessed to watch them. The other two thirds of the lineup, while not without sass, spunk, OR grit, does tend to lack in the “good at hitting baseballs” department. Now as you’re reading this I’m sure Jose Marmolejos will send another ball on a one-way trip to Mars or whatever. But one ding dong no matter how long does not a hitter make. The Mariners current offensive identity is “if it’s good enough for the Rockies, it’s good enough for me!” But here is the thing: It is not good for the Rockies, either. It is just not good.
Saving the…best? For last? It’s the…bullpen? Can you tell I am confused? Ever a fickle beast, the one part of this M’s roster we all thought we could count on to be the *most* dumpster fiery has, to this short point, been competent. Which is a lot more than many of us thought we could say, especially after Dipoto & Co. spent an entire offseason doing just about literally nothing to address this weakness. Now, with 146 games to go, no one would be surprised to see the mask ripped off of this Scooby-Doo villain and have them revealed for who they really are. But, maybe not. Maybe they are very good. Maybe Middleton is just a name, and not a pitching philosophy. We can only hope.
So why is it working? Can it continue to work? Why can’t anyone else choose good walk-up songs besides Tom Murphy?
Whatever lens you choose to view baseball through, there’s a term that at least partially explains the high-wire act we’ve seen thus far. For some, it’s Clutch. For others, Sequencing. It’s why the Mariners are 10-6, and why SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) is such an awful film. While the Mariners cannot hit hardly at all through the early going, despite what manager Scott Servais tells you, that bottom part of the order has had a knack for landing the hits it *does* get at opportune times. Evan White, God bless him, continues to work his magic at The Other Hot Corner and also continues to slog through a tar pit when the bat is in his hands. But every now and again, he wriggles those hands free, gets the bat around and bonks a baseball with an impressive degree of violence. (That’s called exit velocity, for you casual fans.) Taylor Trammell is good and cool and also probably needs to not face Major League pitching every day quite yet. But he, too, can administer a good thwocking and has been known to do so when the moment requires. The bullpen as well has managed to keep things under control once the team gains a lead, and the rotation has flashed brilliance at times. Over the course of an entire season all of these things matter much less of course, and the Mariners will need to find a way to appear much more talented in order to please Lord Stanton and trick him into spending a few of his hard earned monies.
Here’s the good news: Kyle Lewis is going to be in the lineup soon, and while the book is certainly not written on him yet, we know he is absolutely capable of elevating and/or carrying this lineup. Additionally, one Jarred Kelenic figures to be on the rise very soon as well. Marco will steady the ship. Flexen will probably never lose to another non-Greinke opponent. Kikuchi is nasty.
Here’s the not so good news: The bullpen may melt into a radioactive puddle. Evan White may never manage a wRC+ above 85. JP Crawford may have a hit streak, but we’re gonna need to see some hit strength in order for that to be a viable Major League bat. Dylan Moore may no longer be A Dude. The team is relying on a lot of guys to just kind of keep figuring this thing out. Which to be fair, was more or less the plan for this season, it appears.
Where will the Mariners be sixteen games from now? Probably 26-6 and atop the American League, because that would be very funny. But also, probably not. Just keep banking those wins, kiddos — who knows where the dream can take you.