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And we're 21 games below .500 for the first time all season, worse than everyone but the Royals, D'Rays, Rockies, and Pirates. Our team payroll is more than twice as high as each of theirs. So, yeah, I think it's safe to say that the Mariners are the biggest disappointment in baseball this year. And I'm supposed to spend a few hours every day writing about these clowns? Give me a break.

Biggest Contribution: Jose Lopez, +29.4%
Biggest Suckfest: Ryan Franklin, -57.7%
Most Important Hit: Lopez double #2, +17.6%
Most Important Pitch: Teixeira homer, -30.1%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): -59.2%
Total Contribution by Hitters: +9.5%

(What is this?)

Ryan Franklin was bad against the Rangers on the road - again. He's now allowed 53 runs and 12 homers in 47 innings in Texas, considerably worse than his pitching record anywhere else. He's got a career ERA of 4.37, but if you take Ameriquest out of the equation, it drops to 4.04. So on the one hand, hey, useful pitcher, but on the other, you're in the AL West, and you're going to be throwing a lot of innings against division rivals. Routinely blowing up against one of them isn't going to earn you any favor with the guys in the charge.

Now then, there's nothing I want to say about today's game (except that pinch-hitting Rene Rivera for Choo is crazyweird at the best of times), so let's go with a little optimism. The Mariners, as a team, are batting .257/.318/.396, and have a 4.44 ERA (5.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9). What happens if you remove the contributions from players who will almost certainly not return next season?

The batting numbers (subtracting Winn, Spiezio, Boone, Olivo, Valdez, Borders, Hansen, Gonzalez, Wilson):

.264/.323/.412

The pitching numbers (subtracting Villone, Hasegawa, Kida, Sele, Thornton, Harris, Nelson):

4.42 ERA, 5.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9

...wait, that doesn't make me feel better at all. In fact, it's a little depressing to know that we're totally boned if we try to go into 2006 with the current crop of players. Sure, a resurgence to 2004 levels for Adrian Beltre would go a long way towards fixing what's wrong with the offense, but that's looking less and less likely with each passing day. Guys like Reed, Lopez, and Betancourt will need to step it up, and I'm just not convinced that they'll be ready to do that next year. Yeah, the Mariners will hit better as a team in 2006, but hitting .270/.330/.420 won't get you very far when there's only one dependable starter in the rotation.

If there's good news, it's that the M's are currently playing seven games below their Pythagorean expected record, and even though we saw this in 2004, that kind of bad luck is unlikely to continue for another year. Take out some of the guys who'll be gone from the equation and project that over a full season, and you've got a respectable 80-win team. The problem is that it'll come in a division with three other teams who could easily win 85+ apiece next season. The offensive depth chart is essentially set for 2006 - all the Mariners can really do in that department is hope for improvement from a few disappointments - so if they have their collective heart set on competing, they're going to need to get creative over the winter, because this is a problem rotation, and the potential free agent solutions are likely to get overpaid in a thin market.

How can I bring all this back around to today? Simple. In my mind, the Mariners will not make another playoff run as long as Ryan Franklin is starting ballgames. Fixing that trouble spot will go a long way towards convincing me that the front office has learned a little bit about how to build a pitching staff. He seems like a blind spot right now, and that's symptomatic of a bigger issue that's hurting the team.

If none of this made sense, blame it on my being sick (and for you skeptics, I wasn't feeling well before Franklin's start, although watching the game certainly didn't make things any better). To Canada tomorrow, as Jamie Moyer takes on Scott Downs, a pitcher best known for being one of several dozen players traded for Rondell White at some point over the past five years.