Hello there, and welcome to another Dome and Bedlam post. I’ll try to make this one brief. I know you all hate this thing I do where I tweet about the Mariners having issues, making sub-optimal choices, and generally being a bit of an Eeyore, and you are well within your rights to do so. I don’t have anything resembling expertise, and it would be dishonest to pretend I do. The vast majority of whatever knowledge I have about the game comes from trying to filter three plus decades of playing and observing baseball through however many beers I’ve had on a particular night. That’s admittedly a hit or miss proposition. That said here’s what I’m thinking about tonight, and you can absolutely take it in any way you want:
As I write this the Mariners are tied 2-2 with the Angels in the 5th, with James Paxton on the hill. He’s at 92 pitches. It’s a tense, stressful, not particularly fun game, primarily because it’s hard to not feel as though the Mariners have to win this game. At 11-15, against a divisional rival, with their ace on the hill, and a rotation otherwise in shambles, the Mariners have to be all but perfect in the few games they do have a pitching advantage to have any chance of survival while Felix Hernandez and Drew Smyly are out, or the trading season begins to open up to allow for outside help to be acquired.
Losing two starting pitchers in April is near worst case scenario for this team, which is still suffering from the varying levels of incompetence and neglect that a decade of Bavasi and Zduriencik left behind. (Regardless of what you think of Jerry Dipoto’s acumen, this was an incredibly difficult situation he took over in 2015. Remember that Theo Epstein, in the discussion for greatest executive in the history of the game, averaged 95 losses his first three years in Chicago. Some of the Mariners’ issues today are Dipoto-inflicted, yes, but the man inherited a win now roster with a barren farm system, and the win now roster wasn’t built to win more than 84 games or so.)
So, the Mariners are 11-15. Their BPro and Fangraphs playoff odds are 28.7% and 18.6%, respectively. Through most if not all of May the team will be without Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly, and Mitch Haniger, with little way to acquire anything resembling an upgrade over in-house depth. The simple fact of the matter is loosely 60-70% of games in May the Mariners look to have the disadvantage in starting pitching. Depending on how you feel about Yovani Gallardo’s ability to sustain his FIP even that may be generous.
The Rainiers are a fun group almost utterly devoid of anything able to provide help in 2017, if ever. This team will sink or swim in May largely on what it already has, and that is Hisashi Iwakuma, Yovani Gallardo, Ariel Miranda, and some combination of Chase De Jong, Dillon Overton, and Chris Heston. None of those latter three are major league starters, let alone for a team with playoff aspirations.
Consider the following: Let us be friendly to the poor Mariners, and say that they finish May at .500, despite their 1998 throwback pitching staff. At 14-14 in May the Mariners finish the first two months with a 25-29 record. At that point, there’s a good chance the Astros have run completely away with the division, and put it to sleep. If we factor the 2nd Wild Card to be ~85 wins the Mariners would have to play June-September at 60-48 to push for the playoffs. This, of course assumes that Felix returns to health and can be an above average starter, that Drew Smyly recovers, that no other starting pitcher gets hurt ALL YEAR, and/or that Dipoto is able to conjure a MLB pitcher out of the trade market.
At this point, hopefully, I’ve done a decent job laying out my concerns. I haven’t even touched on the bullpen, which is replete with names you either never knew or know for all the wrong reasons. The 2017 Mariners are probably, on May 3rd, a lost cause. The words “pessimism” or “hater” tends to get thrown around when statements like that get made, and I want to quickly address them, before freeing you to do something undoubtedly more worthy of your time.
I typed 696 words before this paragraph, and not one of them does anything to my hope that the Mariners will buck what are, objectively, very long odds to make the playoffs. I hope they are good. I want them to be a miracle team. I’m rooting for their success. The team certainly doesn’t think they’re out of it. They cannot and should not. After all, they’re the ones who have to play games, manage rosters, and show up every day to make it happen.
Hoping, wanting, rooting, these are different things than being. Saying this team is almost certain to miss the playoffs is not the same as wishing it. There was a time where I took the stance that Mariner fans collectively allowed for too much pessimism, drug too much past baggage into the present day. At present we seem in danger of arriving at a new state of being, one where we respond to difficult math and projections with eyes shut, fingers in our ears, and prayers sent to the fates. My belief is there is nothing to fear from acknowledging the reality of a situation, particularly in something as trivial as sports. To root for a team to overcome long odds can be one of the most rewarding experiences we as fans can ever have. We know this, we’ve seen it before.
To beating miserable odds, perhaps the finest toast I can give from one Mariners fan to another. Cheers.
(UPDATE: The Mariners lost 6-4. They are 11-16. The odds are longer. /clink)