Passan: What about the Mariners’ rise is and isn’t sustainable?

Aug 29, 2023, 1:10 PM

Seattle Mariners...

Cal Raleigh of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with Teoscar Hernandez after hitting a solo home run on Aug. 26, 2023. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

To say the Seattle Mariners are on a heater right now would be quite the understatement.

How good is Seattle Mariners’ pitching? It has the Astros worried

After being stuck in neutral for the first three months of the season and entering July four games under .500, the Mariners have caught fire.

Since July 1, the M’s are 37-14. Seattle has been even better in August, posting a 20-5 record. Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Oakland A’s, the Mariners are in first place in the American League West and Fangraphs gives them an 86.1% chance of making it back to the postseason.

So will the Mariners win the AL West? And how sustainable is their play? ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke it all down Tuesday with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

Are Seattle Mariners the AL West favorites?

As the Mariners have caught fire and taken the lead in the AL West, the exact opposite has happened down in Texas with the Rangers.

After leading the AL West for essentially the entire season, the Rangers are ice cold, having lost nine of their last 11 games.

What happened to Texas? How Seattle Mariners surged past Rangers

There’s also the Houston Astros, who won the World Series last year and are tied with Texas in the AL West and wild card standings.

So how does Passan handicap the division?

“I still think the Rangers are the best team in the division. But I have very little confidence in that at this point,” he said. “… I’m gonna go with the team that for the longest time looked like the best contender, or the closest to contending. But again, very, very limited faith in my answer on that one.”

But Passan does feel good about the Mariners going forward.

“They have so much going for them, even when they’re not hitting. That’s the part that we have to remember,” he said. “They stayed afloat because of their pitching staff. They had a top-five pitching staff in the first half of the season and like a bottom-third offense. Since the All-Star break, guys, they have the second-best offense in baseball by OPS … and they have the second-best pitching staff by ERA behind Toronto. So this is as complete of a team as is playing baseball over the last month. And not even the last month. It’s been (over) a month and a half at this point.”

What may ultimately decide the division is the final 10 games of the season for the Mariners, when they play Texas seven times and Houston for three games.

“Those last 10 games against the Texas teams, that’s when I think we’re going to know what the Seattle Mariners are made of,” Passan said. “I’m really looking forward to those last 10 days of the season, just for those games among the AL West teams.”

Is any of this sustainable?

The Mariners have gotten hot because their biggest bats have also gone on big streaks. That’s led Seattle to a ridiculous winning rate since the start of July, and especially in August.

“I think that suggesting that when you have won 20 out of 24 games, that that’s who you are is not realistic,” Passan said. “This is not who they are. They’re playing out of their minds right now. It also wasn’t who they were earlier in the season, right?”

But when looking at individual performances since the start of July, there may actually be some sustainability, Passan said.

“Julio Rodríguez is hitting .360, .413 on-base (percentage) and .597 (slugging percentage). Is that sustainable? Yeah, actually, I think so,” Passan said. “Maybe not the .360 (batting average), but the 1.000 OPS? Yeah, I think Julio can do that.”

Shortstop J.P. Crawford having a .959 OPS since July 1 “probably” isn’t sustainable, but the performance of other big bats may be.

“Geno Suárez, .830 OPS. Sustainable? Yeah,” Passan said. “Cal Raleigh, (.866 OPS). Sustainable? I don’t think the home run rate is sustainable. I think he’s been out of his mind power-wise, and I know that’s a big part of his game. But can Cal Raleigh be an .800 OPS guy? Yeah. Teoscar Hernández? Yeah. I think when he’s on a heater especially, he can look as good as anybody else.”

“I don’t think Josh Rojas is gonna keep hitting the way he has. I don’t think Dylan Moore is gonna keep hitting the way he is. But there are a number of guys in the lineup who when you look at them you say, ‘Can they be the guy that they’ve been over the last two months?’ And the answer is yes, which is why the Mariners should feel as good about themselves as they do right now,” Passan added. “Because that first half, I think, was far less indicative of who they are than who they’ve been lately. But who they’ve been lately is the best version of themselves as opposed to the version who is likeliest to show up over (the rest of the season).”

Listen to the full conversation with Passan at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Mariners

What happened to Texas? How Mariners surged past Rangers
How good is Mariners’ pitching? It has the Astros worried
MLB insider Verducci: Why Seattle Mariners’ dominant pitching is different
Salk: Seattle Mariners in first place? Three things brought them here

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Passan: What about the Mariners’ rise is and isn’t sustainable?