Can the Mariners keep rolling despite so many rotation issues?
Normally when a team wins nine out of 10 games, it’s easy to understand why. With the Mariners, not so much. It’s why I wrote a column in Monday’s Kitsap Sun suggesting that they might be a Team of Destiny.
Teams of Destiny win in surprising fashion. They have too many flaws to be in playoff contention, but not only are they in contention, Teams of Destiny win the Super Bowl and World Series. No team has ever been called a Team of Destiny if it doesn’t win it all.
On the surface, the Mariners don’t look like they’re good enough to make the playoffs. The realist in me thinks they’re going to fade in September when the subpar fourth and fifth pitchers in their rotation catch up to them, putting an increased load on the bullpen and reducing its effectiveness.
But every Team of Destiny in the history of Teams of Destiny have had all kinds of reasons why they shouldn’t have been tearing it up the way they did.
The Mariners have a handful of either great or good players with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Edwin Diaz.
But that core is offset by a host of players who are either OK, a little better than OK or a little worse than OK. The rest of the team qualifies in this category, including James Paxton and Mike Zunino, who still could be great but aren’t right now; and Leonys Martin, who is great as a center fielder but so-so as a hitter.
There are problems at shortstop, where I’m fine with Ketel Marte defensively, but he’s 1 for 19 since returning from mono. Left field is another weak spot with Nori Aoki, but he made a nice game-saving catch of a Mike Trout drive Monday night and is hitting better since returning from his demotion to Tacoma.
As long as a right-hander is starting against the Mariners, I actually think first base has become a strength of the team with Adam Lind hitting the way he has of late. But when a left-hander starts, uh-oh. For all the excitement that Dae-Ho Lee brought earlier this year, he’s been terrible in the last month, going 4 for his last 48. I’d rather see Cruz in the lineup as the designated hitter every day, but it’s not as if Seth Smith and Franklin Gutierrez – at this stage in his career – are big defensive upgrades.
Those issues can be – and have been – overcome. But even with a soft schedule in the next week and a half, it’s hard to see the Mariners sustaining their success with a patchwork rotation.
On Tuesday they’ll go with Ariel Miranda, acquired from Baltimore in the Wade Miley deal. I go back to one overwhelmingly negative thought with Miranda. If the Orioles thought he could help them win the American League East, they would have promoted him from their Triple-A team. Instead, they mistakenly thought Miley was the better option, and after getting knocked around by the Giants over the weekend, his ERA is over 7.
As much as I want to think otherwise, it’s crazy to believe that the Mariners will make the playoffs with Miranda and Wade LeBlanc as their fourth and fifth starters – though you could rightly point out that Seattle has won in six of LeBlanc’s seven starts.
Then on Wednesday they have to go with yet another spot starter to replace the banged-up Paxton – Joe Wieland or Cody Martin, neither of which is a solid choice, but it’s all they have.
Paxton is another potential problem. Will he come back from his bruised forearm and pitch like he did in his last few starts, finally showing his huge potential? Or will the line drive that nailed him bother him the rest of the year?
Again, Teams of Destiny laugh at this stuff and keep rolling. But it’s more likely that the starting pitching won’t hold up, causing an ultimately disappointing end to the season.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for SeattlePI.com and KitsapSun.com. You can reach Jim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.