Humor me for a minute, and let’s try a bit of an exercise together: close your eyes (or retreat to that blank space in your mind typically only visited when meetings run 15+ minutes past their scheduled time) and think back to March. What did you expect from this season? What were your pie-in-the-sky hopes? What were your cake-in-the-lake fears?
It’s July, and the Mariners are 54-31, 23 games above .500, with the second-best win/loss percentage in franchise history, behind the 2001 squad. They closed out the month with duel sweeps of the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals and, as of yesterday, were half a game back of the division and up on WC2 by eight games.
I’m about as much of an optimist as there is, and even I wouldn’t have guessed this team would be so assuredly powering their way through the season with such authority. June was supposed to be the month of fire and brimstone, the “true test” for a team that many were reluctant to trust. So how did they respond?
The best way to encapsulate the Mariners’ month of June is to note that they experienced their longest losing streak of the season (five games), and still managed to come away with their best month thus far.
MVP of the month (hitter): Nelson Cruz
The man ran a 210 wRC+ the month of his 38th birthday, along with a 1.144 OPS, and he’s currently running a career-low 18% strikeout rate. He is an absolute treasure.
MVP of the month (pitcher): Edwin Díaz
It was Edwin in the April review, it would have been Edwin in the May review had I remembered, and it’s still Edwin in June. For a team that has lived or died by close games, Díaz has been absolutely essential to the Mariners’ success this season, as evidenced by his MLB-leading 32 saves. In the month of June no pitcher (minimum 10 innings pitched) allowed less hard contact and, much like hitters swinging at his slider, it wasn’t all that close.
Best surprise: Jean Segura
It’s sort of unfair to consider Segura a “surprise,” but how else would you describe him being worth three times as much fWAR as the projections anticipated. He’s been one of the best hitters in baseball, and absolutely the Mariners’ best player thus far. March, April, June? No matter, Jean’s going to be there, crushing hits on all pitches, good or bad.
Biggest disappointment: Dee Gordon
This spot was all set to be Kyle Seager’s, until I looked at the team’s splits for the months and realized that sneaky bugger somehow pulled it all together towards the end, to finish June with a 102 wRC+. Dee, on the other hand, has struggled mightily, with a 49 wRC+ and an uncharacteristically low .294 BABIP (for context, his career number is .343). He carries immense value on the base paths, but it’s hard to demonstrate that value when you can’t get on base.
Best game: June 13th vs the Los Angeles Angels, 8-6
In my memory this is the cried-on-the-bus-about-sports game, but most will recall it as the game where Mitch Haniger blasted a two run, walk-off home run in the rain to sweep the Angels. It was magnificent.
Worst game: June 22nd vs the Red Sox, 14-10
The Mariners were leading 10-9 going into the seventh, with Nelson Cruz mashing two three-run homers and driving in seven runs, but in a frustrating series of singles Juan Nicasio and Nick Rumbelow allowed five runs to score.
Best series: Boston Red Sox 6/14-6/17
Rather than choose from one of the team’s four sweeps of the month, this recognition goes to the four-game home series against Boston. They split the series, which doesn’t sound all that impressive until you consider that this was likely a preview of a potential Wild Card game, and that the Mariners held their own against one of the best teams in baseball. It also included the Wade LeBlanc 1-0 victory game, which was a runner-up for Best Game this month.
Worst series: New York Yankees 6/19-6/21
The only time they’ve been swept this season, made more irritating by Giancarlo Stanton’s walk-off home run on the 20th, and a one-run loss on a Paxton start on the 21st.
Other notes: We’ve also just passed the halfway point, and are nearing the All-Star break, so this feels like a good moment for some housekeeping:
If you’re new to the site and/or a new Mariners fan, welcome! Fandom doesn’t come with any guidelines, but LL does - please take a moment to read them.They’re straightforward, simple, and are easily applicable to familial holiday gatherings, too!
If you’re a LLurker (hello, my people!), feel free to keep doing your thing, but let this be a rare moment to push you to engage. Our community can be intimidating - even I sometimes still feel intimidated to wade in - but your voice has value. This team is so much fun, and there are few simple pleasures quite like celebrating sports success with like-minded folks.
To the community as a whole, now is your opportunity to weigh in on the current state of the site. What have you liked from the content this season? What would you like to see more of? As this team begins to play increasingly “important” games, would you like to see any changes to our coverage? The more specific you are, the better we can execute, and please refrain from dredging up prior arguments from old posts that have since been resolved.