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What the Mariners can and cannot do going forward

There's been bad luck, but also bad process. One cannot be helped, the other needs to be.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

We've all watched enough baseball to know when the game is being fair and unfair. The Mariners have lost five straight games, and largely that has been because they have played poor baseball. Over the past five game they have been outscored 26-7. They are 3-27 with runners in scoring over that stretch. They are batting .160 on this homsestand.

These are simple facts, but they are facts, and they largely account for why the Mariners are holding players only meetings after seven games. The Mariners have played poorly, that is not in question. What we want is for them to play better, and by and large they will. I am confident the Mariners are not the worst team in baseball history, or at least this Mariner team isn't. Please don't ask me that about the franchise as a whole it's very early and I have work to do.

The Mariners will need to play better in order to salvage the opening month, and hold off completely losing a fanbase that was out of patience ten years ago, and is now just manically sawing at its own arm with a plastic spoon, desperate for the sweet nectar of the marrow within. In order to improve things will have to happen that are both within, and without the Mariners control.

What the Mariners cannot control
  • The Mariners will need BABIP to regress. There, I said it. It's almost the baseball equivalent of blaming the refs, but through seven games the Mariners BABIP of .224 is the worst in baseball, with the Mets the nearest team at .250. BABIP says little about the quality of offense. For example the 2010 Mariners, an unholy blight upon the history of baseball, the northwest, my life, and arguably the worst offensive team of the modern era had a BABIP of .282.

    In case you think their offensive struggles are merely a small sample size of poor hitting I would point out the Mariners' K% is the 10th lowest in baseball, their BB% is the 14th highest. Even their Hard Hit %, at 20th in the game, is well above the results currently being seen. This, with so much of this stuff, is part player skill, and part luck. While we have a hard time untangling the two in a tangible, authoritative way, from a team-wide perspective we know this will improve.

    Balls like this, this and this will start to find grass. Balls like this and this will find gloves. We have all watched enough baseball to know this is true. Wade Miley will not end the season with an ERA/FIP/xFIP anything like this current 8.25/3.10/2.63.
  • The Mariners cannot control Adrian Beltre being one of the finer bad ball hitters of his era. Last night in the 3rd with two runners on, and a 2-2 count Miley threw a breaking pitch, down and in to Beltre, hoping to get him to chase. That is exactly what he did:

    Miley Beltre

    Beltre Zone

    It's a fine pitch idea, and I'd give the execution a B/B+. You'd like the ball a hair more inside, but it's far from a mistake. But:

    Adrian Beltre is a god. The Mariners cannot control that.
  • The Mariners cannot control the zone. Ok that's not true, it's just an easy joke harf harf. You're fine. Laugh a little, it is Wednesday.
What the Mariners can control

  • Scott Servais made the right decision last night to sit Ketel Marte. As I noted on Monday his at-bats were growing increasingly worrisome. This is why you have a slick fielding utility infielder like Luis Sardinas: To come in in the late innings and provide better defense, and to give infielders a day off while maintaining defensive integrity around the infield.

    What you do NOT do, is bat Luis Sardinas second in the lineup. Luis Sardinas has a career wRC+ of 48. His minor league OPS is .688. There is nothing that Luis Sardinas has shown that merits him being put in a position to receive more at bats than Franklin Gutierrez, who was batting seventh last night. Everything about the decision smacks of overvaluing Sardinas' hot Spring, and archetyping (and mistakenly archetyping) what a 2nd hitter must do. The Mariners can and absolutely should recognize the value of having their best hitters at the top of the lineup, in order to maximize opportunity.
  • The Mariners can communicate, and correctly field a bunt. Last night's disaster was almost much, much worse. After Delino DeShields Jr. bunted with two runners on in the third Chris Iannetta clearly called off Wade Miley. Miley still tried to make a play, and the ensuing collision almost resulted in a leg injury to the Mariner left-hander that would have boned the season far worse than last night's 8-0 loss.

    The team is pressing, which is understandable. Instances like this one not only make the day's game harder to win, they put health unduly at risk. Calm down you guys!
  • The Mariners can correctly identify and utilize their bullpen. Monday night's 7-3 loss got out of hand when Mike Montgomery was left in to throw 42 pitches in two innings of relief, essentially needlessly burning him for last night's game. 

    In addition Tony Zych, arguable the team's most impressive reliever in the early going, has thrown 45 pitches on back to back days in mop up duty. I know that the team had visions in Spring of a Benoit/Cishek setup/closer tandem. But Benoit is already nursing old man injuries, and Cishek is giving up a home run an appearance, and looks every bit the faded version of himself he did last year.

    Scott Servais is a new manager, and he is going to learn on the job. His utilization of his bullpen, and his grasping of the various skillsets within it, has left a lot to be desired. It's something that the Mariners can fix. I expect them to, and they better hope they do.
These little things are not sufficient to avoid the past five days. In many ways I'm not sure what would have, that is how helpless they have felt. But baseball is a game where process plays an enormous role. The Mariners have suffered bad fortune the past five days, but they have compounded it with poor play, and sub-optimal process. Fix the latter, trust in the regression of the former.