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Why be optimistic about Mariners? Because this isn’t their best yet

The Mariners used a four-run fifth inning to beat Houston 7-2 on Sunday. (AP)

The Mariners have made 13 errors, tied for third-most in MLB. Their starting pitchers have a 4.99 ERA, which is third from the bottom in the American League. The bottom two-thirds of their batting order isn’t providing much help to the team’s top three hitters.

And those facts are all good things.

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Confused? Let 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil and Michael Bumpus explain.

Despite clearly not playing perfect baseball through the first 16 games of the season, the Mariners enter the week with a 10-6 record, good enough to lead the American League West. Sure, it’s a very small sample when you put it in context to an entire 162-game MLB season, but when a team can get off to a start like that while playing a brand of baseball that is likely to improve over the year, it’s actually something worth being optimistic about.

“There are reasons to be excited about this Mariners start, and some of them are because they’re not playing all that well,” O’Neil said during Monday’s edition of Danny and Gallant. “This team, which I think is going to be a good defensive team, has not been particularly good defensively so far. … Their starting pitching has not been good. I don’t even think it’s been average so far, yet you’re still continuing to see this team win. Their lineup is hitting at the top right now but not at the bottom.

“I think we’re going to see growth from this team over the course of the year and they’re winning right now despite not playing their best baseball.”

Bumpus, who was guest hosting with O’Neil, sees the same thing.

“They’re winning these ball games and they’re making mistakes out there. They’re going to clean these things up so that’s why we need to be more optimistic,” Bumpus said. “Kyle Seager’s not going to be suspect with his glove, Tom Murphy is going to be fine, José Marmolejos is going to catch that ball in the outfield. … So yes, reason to be optimistic because they’re not playing well but they still put up seven runs and only gave up one hit (to beat Houston 7-2 Sunday).”

Perhaps the biggest thing, though, is that Seattle has several young hitters who should get more comfortable as they get more experience against MLB pitching.

“The Mariners have started hot before, and there are usually sort of metrics that you can look at to say, ‘Is this sustainable?'” said O’Neil. “The one thing about this Mariners team that bodes exceptionally well for it is on almost every spot of their team, there are guys you’re going to expect to get better over the course of the season. … Evan White, Taylor Trammell, Dylan Moore – some of the guys that you’ve seen kind of struggle out of the gate, those are players that you look at and you’re like, ‘That guy’s going to get better over the course of the year because he’s still a young and improving player.'”

The Mariners have a tough test standing in their way this week, however. They begin a two-game series at home Monday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 12-3 and look to be as good or better than last year when they won the World Series, followed by four games against the AL East-leading Red Sox in Boston. You can hear every game live on 710 ESPN Seattle beginning with the pregame show roughly an hour ahead of first pitch.

Listen to the full conversation between O’Neil and Bumpus starting around the 18:30 mark in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Follow Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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