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First month retrospective

How different a year feels

Sliding into Oakland like
Sliding into Oakland like
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

May 2nd of 2015 was a Saturday. The Mariners would fall to the Astros, in the middle of a four-game series sweep, and end the day sitting at 10-14 on the season. The recap from that day bears a title that could have told the story of the entire season. The M's were already 7 games out of first place in the AL West.

Back then, around these parts the first month was a little bit of shell shock. The team was supposed to be absolute fire, yet had found a means of being streaky in a bad way, clumping two wins between three losses like it was their job. Only the baseball part was their job, and sure, you'll say losing is part of baseball but then it's no wonder you didn't make it to the Bigs. You have the wrong mindset. We all could see how the team was going to get better. The bullpen would stop blowing up, the pitching staff would come around, the Astros would come back down to Earth. It's strange looking back at this time.

Now, as you are aware, we sit in an entirely different beach chair. The M's overcame that early losing streak to find themselves at 13-11, and only .5 games behind the division-leading Rangers. On the back of five straight series wins, the Mariners will play a three game series in Oakland followed by four in Houston with a serious chance to bury the early season favorites to win the division and put some distance between themselves and the always pesky Beane Bombers. It's a pretty major week.

According to odds makers at Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus the M's have the best chance of winning the AL West. Both metrics still give the Astros the second-highest chance of taking the division crown, both at a long shot. It's super early, but the Mariners have found themselves in a rare place at the end of April. Their fate is firmly in their own hands. Yet, something feels missing, still.

Call me greedy, but I wonder why we aren't sweeping these teams. Sure, five series wins is great, but where's the big winning streak? By fWAR, the M's have the 19th ranked offense in the MLB and the 7th ranked pitching staff. That pitching staff is second in the AL behind only the Chicago White Sox. Taijuan Walker is the best pitcher in the AL not named Sale or Quintana. The bullpen finds itself 9th in the MLB by fWAR, and not even fully healthy.

You've gotta believe the offense is bound to come around. The .255 team BABIP is still hurting production and it's certain this team is nowhere near bumping into its ceiling. Nelson Cruz is barely missing pitches he crushed last season. Kyle Seager might finally be heating up. The First Base Platoon seems bad early, Aoki is craning a few necks, Leonys Martin looks on the verge of a slump, and Franklin Gutierrez is actually on this roster. Maybe you forgot. I did.

This is not a borderline bottom-ten offense. This pitching staff isn't reaching lofty heights by luck, it's damn fine. It's a new feeling. Usually this team is vastly under-performing while we point out where they could improve. Conceivably, this team is good by result and could be much better. The record is there but also even greater results are out there, waiting.

Here comes a big, big week. Buckle up, Skipperoos.