The 2014 Seattle Mariners Experience: Weeks 5-7 – Goodbye, Ineptitude

201405181540564464123For the Week 4 recap, click here.

Week 5

Week’s Win-Loss Record: 4-1

Overall Win-Loss Record: 14-15

Winning Percentage: .483

Division Standing: Fourth place

Week’s Opponents: New York Yankees (2 games) – Road; Houston Astros (3 games) – Road

Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated

Team Morale: Buoyant

***

Week 6

Week’s Win-Loss Record: 5-3

Overall Win-Loss Record: 19-18

Winning Percentage: .514

Division Standing: Third place

Week’s Opponents: Oakland Athletics (4 games) – Road; Kansas City Royals (4 games) – Home

Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated

Team Morale: Fabulous

***

Week 7

Week’s Win-Loss Record: 2-4

Overall Win-Loss Record: 21-22

Winning Percentage: .488

Division Standing: Third place, 6.5 games back

Week’s Opponents: Tampa Bay Rays (3 games) – Home; Minnesota Twins (3 games) – Road

Playoff Status: Not mathematically eliminated

Team Morale: Bipolar

Since the last time I penned a recap column, the Mariners have somehow cobbled together a record of 11-8, meaning they don’t suck nearly as much as they did before. At a single game under .500, the ballclub has been very nearly the definition of average despite serious mood swings in achieving their current level of mediocrity.

On a week-to-week basis, the M’s have gone from looking like Tom Cruise in Rain Man to Tom Cruise in Top Gun to something resembling Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky and back again. The team’s performance, on the surface at least, has seemed somewhat erratic.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find there are some positive trends that indicate the Mariners might be better (and in turn more stable) than their record would indicate.

For starters, of the team’s 22 losses this season, all but five have come by three runs or fewer — so basically, 17 of 22 defeats have been save situations at game’s end. Seven of those losses, in fact, were decided by a lone run, meaning the team is right on the cusp of winning more than they lose if they can break through that one-run barrier.

Second, in reading this piece by ESPN’s Mark Simon, you’ll find that the M’s are hitting the ball harder than most offenses, but are simply running into bad luck by driving the ball towards the waiting mitts of opposing defenses. Over time, this streak of misfortune should even out, allowing the Mariners more opportunities to score runs.

Third, the individual hitting performances of some of the key cogs in the lineup have presented room for improvement, such as in the cases of Brad Miller, Corey Hart, and even Robinson Cano.

Miller’s struggles have been well-documented and should either result in a new face manning the shortstop position (Nick Franklin, or perhaps in the more distant future, Chris Taylor), or an improved Brad Miller in the batting order. The continued failures of this iteration of Miller won’t be tolerated for much longer, hence immediate upgrades are likely on the horizon.

Hart appears to be on the verge of a DL stint after straining a hamstring in Sunday’s contest against the Twins, but prior to his injury, the team’s cleanup hitter had amassed a paltry .209/.353/.647 slash line, leaving more than a little to be desired from one of the more heralded offseason acquisitions. Playing at below replacement level, sound logic indicates that just about anyone this side of Willie Bloomquist could replace the 32-year-old’s production (or lack thereof) in the lineup. With a 15-day vacation seeming imminent, the M’s will get the chance to see what someone else can provide batting behind the ballclub’s best hitter.

Speaking of that best hitter, Cano has been brilliant in hitting for average and getting on base. Where he’s struggled, though, is in driving the ball for power. With just one home run to his credit, the second baseman is due for a string of longballs sooner rather than later. Add to that the fact that May has historically been Cano’s worst offensive month and one could reasonably expect the pop to arrive within the next couple weeks.

Beyond the offense, the bullpen has at times been wildly inconsistent — most notoriously personified in the form of the Fernando Rodney Experience, but certainly not limited to just Rodney — and the anticipated starting rotation has yet to fully evolve off the disabled list. As the M’s await the return of James Paxton and the 2014 arrival of Taijuan Walker, they continue to stay afloat by handing starts to an underwhelming Brandon Maurer and an overperforming Chris Young. Should either or both of Paxton and Walker return to action in the short-term, the team can expect greater success as the weather heats up.

Amazingly, we’re still talking about a Mariners ballclub that has playoff aspirations in mind, even as June looms mere days away. Seattle is just 1.5 games out in the current Wildcard standings and embarks upon an 11-game homestand kicking off on Thursday.

Whether or not the team can carry us to football season, let alone make the playoffs, remains to be seen. But the vital factors that would point towards sustained competency — or success, if you’re a super optimist — are positive.

Goodbye, ineptitude.

 

One thought on “The 2014 Seattle Mariners Experience: Weeks 5-7 – Goodbye, Ineptitude”

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