Where the Seattle Mariners' starting rotation ranks in the American League in a few different categories:
xFIP: tied for 3rd
1st pitch strike%: 1st
The rapid emergence of Michael Pineda helps give this group a stable, solid feel. Instead of having a mish-mash of guys behind Felix Hernandez, there's Pineda as the clear #2, and then an assortment of arms with various strengths and weaknesses to round it out. Jason Vargas is reliable. Doug Fister is showing himself to be reliable. The biggest unknown of the five is Erik Bedard, and that's a fine position for this team to be in, because where the possibility once existed that the M's would need Bedard to pitch well in order to field a decent rotation, now an acceptable Bedard is arguably the weakest link, and all that's keeping this group from being phenomenal.
We know that the Mariners haven't hit. We know that their bullpen has question marks, and that the defense has been spotty. But the hitting's getting better, there's relief help on the way, and the defense probably won't maintain the AL's lowest UZR. If the M's can get just passable contributions from those aspects the rest of the way around a strong rotation, they should at the very least be able to avoid collapsing out of the race. And they could do much more.