The Mariners are in contention. I can’t place exactly what I felt the odds of that statement being written on this website some three months ago were, but I felt they were remote.
To a degree perhaps, the Mariners have over-achieved. Roenis Elias has been worth more than a full fWAR, and Fernando Rodney, no matter how you feel about how much the Mariners spent on him, has been incredible. The rest of the bullpen has been solid as a rock, and they aren’t just walking a tight rope, they’ve got the third best xFIP of any bullpen in baseball.
Kyle Seager, after a relatively slow start, has regressed and even surpassed his past pace, and is in the midst of a season that would deserve MVP consideration were he to keep it up. Mike Zunino has been better than expected. And since the disappointing acquisitions of Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, and Dustin Ackley, Robinson Cano seemed nearly destined to fail, but he’s been very good in his own right.
The Mariners are playing well, and even at their lowest point this year – when we wrote that they’d end up regressing in a positive direction – it would have been hard to imagine a scenario where the Mariners went 18-10 in June.
And they’ve arguably got room to continue to regress positively in some regards.
The following list is the ranked ZiPs projections for the Mariners:
The first part of this is that ZiPs projects the Mariners’ pitching staff to regress considerably toward the negative. This shouldn’t be surprising. They’ve pitched out of their minds, and Chris Young has spent an entire year riding a wave of statistical luck and awful peripherals.
The Mariners have four starting pitchers who are projected to provide a positive contribution to their playoff chances, and two of those are Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, each of which has a substantial injury concern.
So while I could wax dramatically about the impending doom waiting in the future of Chris Young’s right arm, even if he continues to defy odds and prevent runs, the Mariners aren’t out of the woods so far as starting pitching is concerned. For more on this, check out this post from NASORB friend Alex Akita on Seattle Sportsnet.
The Mariners also have a lot of room to grow on offense. They’ve received very little from the DH position, which we may consider the curse of Jose Vidro, or something. Corey Hart has shown the power that made him a coveted DH candidate, but also the rust that made him easily obtainable. Logan Morrison has been very good lately, but is likely to regress back to an average hitter, and could be sharing time with the similarly replacement-level Justin Smoak.
Finding a guy that can hit and for whom the Mariners carry no worry of his fielding ability is kind of their specialty.
Guys like Carlos Quentin, who is a right-handed outfield with questionable defense and a lot of power, or Scott Van Slyke, who is eventually going to be like the fifteenth outfield on the Dodgers roster may make some sense. There are assuredly other guys that make some sense, and maybe that’s worth diving into headfirst on another post.
Trading for Jeff Samardzija could make some sense at the right price, and if the Mariners remain competitive, even David Price could make some sense, though he’d likely require Taijuan Walker head to Tampa Bay, which would marginalize some of his immediate value. Jason Hammel is cheaper than both probably, and is amid perhaps the best season of his career.
The Mariners can make improvements at a bunch of positions. While they’ve over-achieved to a degree, the wins they’ve notched can’t be taken away. Even if the Mariners don’t make a huge splash, they’ve got the opportunity – that through their own suspect roster construction – to make marginal gains without selling the farm.