BROCK AND SALK

Could Mariners win World Series with current roster?

Jun 19, 2024, 8:02 AM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rojas 2024 White Sox...

Josh Rojas and Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrate during a game against the White Sox on June 11. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are the hottest team in baseball.

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Coming off a massive sweep of the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers and a series-opening win against the American League Central-leading Cleveland Guardians, the first-place Mariners have won eight of their past nine games and are an MLB-best 17-5 since May 26. They are a season-best 13 games over .500 at 44-31 and they hold a commanding 10-game lead atop the AL West over the Rangers and Houston Astros. It’s the largest division lead in the majors and Seattle’s largest AL West lead since its record-setting 116-win season in 2001, which was the last time the franchise won a division crown.

The Mariners have built that lead on the back of their talented pitching staff, including an elite starting rotation that’s racked up an MLB-best 46 quality starts. That pitching has helped offset the struggles of lineup that’s averaged just 3.95 runs per game, which ranks 24th in the majors.

The Mariners are widely expected to bolster their lineup before the July 30 trade deadline, but during his weekly appearance Tuesday on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan was asked a hypothetical question: Could the Mariners win the World Series with their current 40-man roster?

“Yes,” Passan said. “That’s how good their pitching is. I believe in the pitching. And I believe in October, even though you’re facing the teams that have the best lineups in the world, that the Mariners pitching can neutralize that. But just because they can doesn’t mean that they should go with this 40-man roster. It is a flawed group and there are issues.”

With regard to those flaws, Passan specifically pointed to the Mariners’ strikeout woes. Seattle hitters have a 27.5% strikeout rate, which is the worst in the majors by more than a full percentage point, according to FanGraphs.

“I really worry about the strikeouts in October,” Passan said. “I really worry about that hindering their offense and putting just immense amounts of pressure on their pitchers to throw zeroes up. Because as it stands, as it’s currently constituted, I don’t think this is going to be a high-scoring offense, even though they’ve put up some runs in recent weeks.”

‘You don’t sit around when you’ve gotten off to a start like this’

Passan said the Mariners’ big division lead at this point of the season certainly isn’t invincible, particularly when it’s the past two World Series champions who are sitting behind Seattle in the AL West. Texas and Houston both have the potential to go on runs, especially as some of their injured players return to the lineup. That’s why it’s imperative the Mariners don’t rest on their laurels.

“The longer they maintain this lead, the more cushion they’re building themselves for injuries and for teams within their division being aggressive at the trade deadline,” Passan said. “But the reality is, I think the Mariners understand organizationally the position that they’re in right now. It’s a very strong one, and it’s one that they want to add to. And if they don’t add in a substantive way, it’s gonna be understandably disappointing.”

In addition to the Mariners’ dominant pitching, Passan mentioned the home-field advantage they have at T-Mobile Park. Seattle is a dazzling 27-12 at home this season, which is the fourth-best home record in the majors. The Mariners have taken full advantage of T-Mobile Park’s pitcher-friendly confines, grinding out a slew of low-scoring victories while logging an MLB-best 2.54 ERA at home and limiting visiting teams to a .195 batting average.

“You don’t sit around when you’ve gotten off to a start like this, (especially) when you are so good at home,” Passan said. “They are so good in that ballpark. It is a horror show if you’re coming into T-Mobile and you’re another team right now, because the energy there and the way the Mariners play at home, you’ve gotta take advantage of that and build on that. And I think that’s exactly what they’re intending to do.”

Listen to the full conversation with Jeff Passan on Brock and Salk at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Passan: Why Mariners’ nine-game lead is ‘kind of wild’
• Mariners DFA catcher Zavala in move that has interesting ramifications
• What’s behind Mariners’ drastic home success and road struggles?
• What stat says the most about Mariners’ incredible starting rotation?
• ESPN’s Schoenfield on where Seattle Mariners sit: ‘The momentum is there’

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Could Mariners win World Series with current roster?