The Mariners won Sunday, lifting their overall record to 18-20, and placing the team just a half game behind Oakland for second in the division. With another off day coming up tomorrow*, it's worth briefly reflecting on where the Mariners are in the season relative to two and a half weeks ago.
*High school teams play more often than the M's have over the last ten days.
Lets face it, emotions and expectations were not high for this team after they dropped two out of three to Houston -- for the second time. The roster was broken, key players were struggling, and there wasn't an imminent fix on the horizon. The season looked more or less doomed.
The funny thing is, personnel wise, not a whole lot has changed since the team left the state of Texas. Other than the return of Michael Saunders -- which I'll grant was a significant boost -- and possibly better health for Michael Morse, this is the same team that left Houston with an 8-15 record. Super performances from Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have made up for slow starts from other rotation members, and the offense has feasted off of a poor batch of pitchers, but it's strange that all of this winning has come from the same team that incited so much anger just a few weeks ago.
Unlike the early slate of games front-loaded with prospective playoff teams, the Seattle's more recent opponents -- particularly their pitching staff-- haven't been particularly strong. It's been documented elsewhere, but just as the M's probably weren't as bad as their record suggested on April 24th, their recent 10-5 run isn't what we should expect going forward, either. We thought, coming into the season, that this could be a 75-80 win team. That still doesn't look unrealistic.
A quick Happy Mothers Day set of bullets:
- Eric Wedge shook up the lineup today, dropping Kyle Seager, Kendrys Morales, and Michael Morse one slot each in the batting order.
- Much has been made about how badly Brendan Ryan has performed at the plate. There's no sugar coating it. As much as I've advocated playing the 31-year-old, it must be acknowledged that no amount of defense can make up for a wRC+ that dropped to negative five today.
For those that don't remember though, his performance at this point isn't significantly worse than where he was a year ago. Take a look:
May 16, 2012:116 PA's, .137/.261/.211, 27 SO, 16 BB
May 12, 2013: 89 PA's, .128/.207/.128, 18 SO, 8 BB
Yes, 2013's numbers are a bit worse, but once you factor in that run scoring is a little down this year, that's a pretty similar looking batting line. My point isn't that he's about to go on a .242/.313/.349 "tear" over the next two and a half months (though he did do just that last season). It's that for as bad as Ryan has been at the plate thus far, recent precedent suggests he can look totally helpless for a long stretch of time and then quickly turn his performance around. The M's have rode with him this long; I don't think it's time to cut bait.
- Though Tommy Milone struggled against a righty heavy lineup today, his reverse platoon splits suggest that the Mariners were a fairly ideal matchup for him. The lineup -- and particularly Kendrys Morales -- also made me wonder: would it be worthwhile for a switch-hitter, when facing a pitcher with splits like Milone, to forfeit the platoon advantage? My guess is no, just because the batter would have literally zero recent experience hitting in that manner, and that could disrupt his entire at-bat. Interesting thing to think about though.
- Even after striking out six this afternoon, Joe Saunders -- Safeco Joe -- has just a 15/8 SO/BB ratio in 29 innings at home this year.