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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

May 29, 2009 at 10:02 AM

Are Mariners reverting to true form?

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Geoff Baker Live! coming up at 11:30 a.m.
Never rains in California, huh? Well, it was raining a few minutes ago here in Anaheim, seen from a shot off my hotel balcony. Clouds will probably will burn off well before gametime. But will the Mariners burn off for good this weekend, as they close out a horrible month of May?
Up to them. And this weekend could be an important one. Sweep or even win this series here and the Mariners could gain ground on both the Rangers and Angels. Fall further out than the six games they already are and, well, no one would blame GM Jack Zduriencik if he starts to take calls from teams like the Philadelphia Phillies. Brett Myers needs season-ending hip surgery and Erik Bedard is a possible trade acquisition for that team. The Phils would probably need to step up with some big-time prospects for Bedard. The mid-summer market for Bedard probably won’t be as grand as many Mariners fans envision, but the Phils are in first place and the desperation of losing one of their top starters could cause them to offer up more than the market currently dictates. But if the Mariners move to only a few games out of first place, instead of, say, six or seven, it would be tough for the front office to justify pulling the trigger. They still could, but it would be a tough sell. Trade Bedard and you essentially write off 2009.
Last month, we brought you a post asking which of the surprise first-place teams was for real. I tackled three of them: Toronto, Florida and our very own Mariners. Let’s see what’s happened since.
The Blue Jays, as expected, found out that offense can indeed be a streaky thing. They’ve lost nine in a row, fallen from first to third, and have the Rays and Orioles charging up on them. Over the past week, they’ve been the league’s second-worst offensive team, scoring an average of three runs per contest with a .644 OPS. They are no longer lighting up the leaderboards as they did the first six weeks of the season. That’s what happens when offense is carrying you. Eventually, it dries up and your other shortcomings are exposed.
Speaking of flaws being exposed, those stunning Marlins very quickly reverted to form once they stopped playing the Washington Nationals. Florida played Washington in six of the first 12 games, winning all of them. Since then, the Fish have been a sub-.500 team and now sit fourth in the NL East at 22-26. This one doesn’t require much heavy-duty analysis. Yeah, they have the capability of being a .500 team — especially with a 13-12 road mark that is offset by a dreadful 9-14 start at home, which, you’d think, will eventually improve. But good pitching or not, this team wasn’t a playoff club. It simply capitalized on a terrible opponent.
The Royals were also briefly in first place earlier this month after some comeback thrillers and a two-game sweep of the Mariners. We didn’t mention the Royals in the blog last month, namely because they were not in first place. Nor are they now, having drifted back to third at 23-24. They play in a weak division and have an 8-12 away mark, which isn’t really the sign of a true contender. They will be a better team than in previous seasons, but probably aren’t ready to take a shot this year. The one positive sign is that their pitching remains strong, even though the offense continues to drift towards the bottom of the pack. Like the Mariners.
Speaking of which, we have Seattle. The Mariners’ 3.47 ERA in April worsened by a full run in May. Some of that can be attributed to bullpen torch jobs, which drive up ERA in a hurry. Not to mention injuries in the starting rotation. But the Mariners are still an above-average pitching club. Where they remain rooted in failure is on offense, carrying some poor trends in run scoring and OPS over from April to May. No team in the AL had worse trouble scoring runs in May.
Will this continue?
As we mentioned, offense is a streaky thing. And the M’s need the streak to go in the other direction soon. They’ve started to put more runners on base the last couple of games, but are still at an AL 12th best .316 for the past week. We keep saying the M’s are not this bad and should turn around soon. They will never be an offensive juggernaut, but unless you accept that Adrian Beltre and Jose Lopez are really this bad, common sense dictates the offense should improve.
And nobody has run away with this division yet.
But common sense also says we are almost two months into the season and talk is cheap. If the M’s want this season to last beyond June or July, in a realistic sense, and avoid a trading season sell-off, they have to prove they are better at hitting than this. The show-me time in this show-and-tell season has arrived.
Their fate is in their hands starting this weekend. Get swept here, or even lose this series, and all bets are off.

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