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

April 11, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Tough to gauge these Mariners so far

Though it seems as if the season has been going on for two weeks — which it has — the reality is the Mariners have only played fewer than a week’s worth of games so far. And they’ve played them against two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum.
The Oakland Athletics are a very, very bad team. And the Texas Rangers are a very, very good team.
So, it’s hardly a surprise to see the Mariners have split their six games so far. What we don’t really know is where the M’s will fall-in against those in-between squads. Those are the games that will largely determine what type of season this is going to be. Are the M’s going to have a shot at being a .500 squad? Or, will they once again lose 90 or more?
We just can’t tell. Not yet.
We talked, during and after the Oakland series in Japan and back in the U.S., about the margin for error the A’s give a team. There were two additional games I saw versus the A’s in which the Mariners could have easily lost and gone 1-3 in that series as opposed to 3-1.
In the season opener, the Mariners probably lose the game in extras if Miguel Olivo doesn’t throw out pinch-runner Collin Cowgill trying to steal second base with none out. And had the A’s been able to hit like most teams, they would not have squandered so many early chances and likely would have beaten Felix Hernandez on Saturday night.
But the A’s give you a margin for error. Multiple errors, actually. The M’s were hardly perfect in all four games, but the A’s gave them just enough lattitude to get away with stuff. The same stuff that the Texas Rangers will not let you get away with.
Seattle could easily be 2-0 here in Texas as opposed to 0-2 if the Rangers gave teams the same margin for error the A’s do. But the Rangers give you just about zero margin for error. The M’s found that out in the series opener when they failed to put away Yu Darvish when given the opportunity. And they discovered it again last night when they failed to execute a rundown play in the required amount of time, then saw Olivo unable to copletely block a Blake Beavan pitch — allowing the runner to move up to third base, where he’d score the game’s only run.
Once again, if the Mariners are playing the Indians, or the Blue Jays, or any number of the midway, not-quite-contender teams in the game, things might have gone differently. Those are teams that aren’t at the bottom like the A’s. And they aren’t at the top like the Rangers. So, until the M’s face some of those, we really can’t tell how good or bad this Seattle team is.
In other words, give it some time. Probably best not to hang on every game, every single night, this early on.

That goes for individual players as well. Based off what we’ve seen the first six games, Kyle Seager might be a batting champion, Chone Figgins has turned the clock back three years, Jesus Montero is a bust and Justin Smoak can barely hit his weight.
Nonsense, all of it.
Sure, some of those things may indeed happen, but we just don’t know yet based off of this limited sample and against teams that vary as widely as the Rangers and A’s do.
Sure, we’ve seen some familiar patterns developing. But we’ve also seen the unexpected.
Let’s try not to read into every early season slump as if we know exactly how it plays into the future.
We no more know whether Brendan Ryan will scuffle all year than we do that Dustin Ackley really is a .222 hitter.
Those writing in to say that Seager-Mike Carp make a better 2B/1B combo than Ackley and Smoak, hey, you may be right. But you have absolutely nothing to base that opinion on just yet.
Montero had barely made square contact with a ball this year before a couple of singles last night lifted his average up to a respectable .278. So, give it time. At least, let the Mariners face a third team — which they will when the Indians visit Safeco Field starting next Tuesday — before you start to make any serious assumptions about players.
One thing few fans even realize, I’m sure, is that the Mariners have yet to play more than two consecutive days in a row. Think about that. The season is two weeks old and the M’s have yet to play three games in three days.
That’s why some players have been used often while others ride the bench. There hasn’t been much in the way of continuity and the team is going to allow the regulars to get first crack at consistent playing time.
That said, we will see some changes the next 24 hours as the M’s play a day game tomorrow after a night game tonight. Mariners manager Eric Wedge has said he’d play Jesus Montero behind the plate and it will probably be in one of these next two games. Wedge has to get John Jaso in there at some point as well and cannot afford to play Olivo as often as he did last year.
Olivo is scuffling at the plate these intitial few games and did not do a great job of blocking Beavan’s wild pitch last night. That said, as mentioned, he did save that season opener against the A’s only five games earlier with his arm and you can believe that plays into any decision by Wedge to keep him out there.
But yeah, this will be the time where we start seeing some mixing and matching and insertion of backups into games. Olivo will sit out one of these next two contests and it will have nothing to do with last night. It will have to do with this being the first good time to get your regular catcher a sitdown. Should the Mariners be going more with Jaso, or even Montero, as the season progresses? That will be up to Olivo. And to those other two catchers in the limited opportunities they get to start off with. But again, there hasn’t been enough consistency in the schedule to really get a feel for who is where. There hasn’t really been an opportunity up to now to get another catcher in there, with the team’s six-game schedule split into three 2-2-2 segments with days off between each.
So, be patient. We know absolutely nothing about these Mariners yet and won’t for a bit longer just because of the strange way this early season has been scheduled and the extreme variance in the quality of their only two opponents so far.
Keep that in mind when attempting any serious analysis of what we’ve seen. We all have our opinions or ideas about where this will all lead. But nothing we’ve seen the first six games gives us any type of real clue. Frustrating as that may be.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero


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