Passan: Why success of Mariners, ‘best team’ in AL West, is sustainable

Apr 27, 2022, 11:58 AM
J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his two run home run with Ty France against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at T-Mobile Park. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

After an 8-4 win Tuesday over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Mariners enter Wednesday not only looking to secure their fourth series win in a row but sitting in first place in the American League West and tied for second in the AL overall.

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Not only that, but the Mariners boast a plus-22 run differential, tops in the AL, after ending the 2021 season at minus-51 despite winning 90 games.

So things are looking up in Seattle, but how sustainable is the Mariners’ success?

ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan, who last week declared he is “bullish” on the Mariners going forward, shared his thoughts Wednesday morning with The Mike Salk Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM. What stands out to Passan isn’t just how good the Mariners have been to start 2022 but that they’ve had such a high level of success while some important pieces have gotten off to slow starts.

“The crazy part to me is that Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodríguez and Jesse Winker haven’t even gotten going yet, right?” he told Salk. “They’re doing this with three of the guys they were really relying on getting off to bad starts, so it seems like there’s more where this is coming from.”

Passan noted that first baseman Ty France, who was named Co-American League Player of the Week on Monday, and starting pitcher Logan Gilbert, who has a miniscule 0.40 ERA that leads MLB among qualified starters, won’t stay on that kind of run for an entire season.

That being said…

“But yeah, I think the sustainability is there. I think this is real,” Passan said. “And I shared this with (ESPN MLB insider) Buster Olney … I think the Mariners are the best team in the American League West.”

France, who enters Wednesday slashing an absurd .368/.443/.632 with five home runs and 21 RBIs, is sure looking like an All-Star to start the season, according to Passan, and has a very interesting story regarding his professional career.

“Ty France has never done anything but hit,” Passan said. “He’s one of those guys who fell through the cracks because he was sort of position-less, you know?”

The 5-foot-11 France initially came up playing third base and second base, and Passan said there were some reservations about him playing first base, which is where he’s settled with the Mariners.

“He’s a short (player who throws and hits right-handed, and those guys) don’t play first base so there’s a hesitancy to put him there,” Passan said. “But some organizations more than others are are willing to look past these restrictions that the baseball universe has essentially put in place on these guys and say, ‘Hey, Ty France, sure, he may be a right-handed hitter and a right-handed thrower, but I really don’t care because he rakes and that’s all he has ever done. He has only hit.’ Like going back to high school, he was just a really good hitter then. And you know what? You find room for dudes who rake.”

The youth of the Mariners’ pitching staff

With Gilbert, Passan sees a young pitcher with “all the goods to be a top-of-the-rotation guy.” But is that the case for Seattle’s other young starter, rookie Matt Brash?

Brash has made three MLB starts since earning the Mariners’ fifth and final rotation spot, but the results have been mixed. He showcased dynamic stuff in his debut against the Chicago White Sox when he struck out seven and walked one in 5 1/3 innings, but he allowed 10 hard-hit balls. He allowed just two hits, two runs and three hard-hit balls in his next start against the Houston Astros, but he walked six and hit another batter in 5 1/3 innings. And in his most recent start, Brash’s command was again an issue as the rookie walked four and struck out two while allowing three runs against the Kansas City Royals. He lasted just 4 1/3 innings in that start last Saturday.

Passan isn’t so sure Brash can be a top-line starter like Gilbert.

“Brash has this stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation guy. I’m not sure if he’s going to throw enough strikes and I’m not sure if he is pegged for the rotation long-term,” Passan said. “There have been plenty of guys in the past where that guy’s not gonna stick as a starter and he has started and (stuck), but there are also many, many high-leverage relievers along the way who once upon a time are starters.”

Passan brought up one of MLB’s top relievers when discussing Brash as a late-inning guy.

“The notion of Matt Brash potentially being in like a Josh Hader-type role? It’s pretty good,” Passan said, referencing the Milwaukee Brewers’ star closer. “I’m not taking (Brash) out of the rotation. Instead, he (would have to) pitch his way out of the rotation.”

Listen to the full conversation with Passan at this link or in the player below.

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Passan: Why success of Mariners, ‘best team’ in AL West, is sustainable