Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of things, it can feel much worse than reality, and it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that you can look back and laugh at your own foolishness.
The Mariners’ July was not like that. It was, in fact, just as bad as it felt. July was the first month of 2018 when the team played below .500 ball, going 10-12, and it felt as though all the enthusiasm had been siphoned from Seattle.
MVP of the Month (hitter): Denard Span
The bar was, admittedly, overwhelmingly low for July, with all but two of the Mariners hitters unable to push their wRC+ beyond 100, but Denard Span has been crushing it. The 34-year-old has swiftly endeared himself to fans since coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays, and he kept the momentum going in July, with a 132 wRC+ and .313/.360/.493 slash line. His K% dropped below 10%, and he brought his walk-rate up to 8%, and in the midst of all this also raised $10,000 to provide a single parent family with a car.
MVP of the Month (pitcher): Edwin Díaz
Technically this spot should belong to Marco Gonzales, who was overwhelmingly phenomenal and had the best July (by fWAR) of any pitcher in Seattle, but Díaz opens the month of August with 40 saves under his belt and continues to be on track to have one of the best seasons of any closer in recent history. He also struck out more batters than anyone else on the team, save for Paxton, Gonzales, and (because 2018) Wade LeBlanc.
Best surprise: Jean Segura, All-Star
Biggest disappointment: Felix Hernandez
It’s important to clarify that this is not simply a placeholder for “worst player.” If that were the case, Ryon Healy and his -0.4 fWAR for the month would certainly get the nod. But, despite the fact he’s been on a downward trajectory for the better part of two years, this felt a bit like the final straw for Félix. We’ve tried to weave narratives of hope and redemption, and that great piece on his work with Dr. Martin felt promising, but one can only be so forgiving. This month he was worth -0.1 fWAR with a 5.85 FIP, a strikeout rate that continued to sink, and a BB% that ballooned. We all understand ERA to be useless, but that 9.24 for the month just underscores everything else. The front office has made it clear that his next start will have a major impact on his future for the season.
Best game: July 30 vs the Houston Astros, 2-0
Major kudos to the fans that have filled Safeco Field this season, because the crowds there have been phenomenal and there have been many “playoff vibes” descriptors thrown about. But, this recent Monday game featured both a playoff-worthy crowd, and a playoff-worthy game. James Paxton and Gerrit Cole were both on their respective games, with Cole toying with a no-hitter and Paxton at one point retiring 11 in a row. It was quick, it was clean, it was baseball distilled down to the finest of all its best points. And, as John pointed out, it could be a sneak peak of what is to come.
Worst game: July 21 vs the Chicago White Sox
The Mariners were no-hit by Dylan Covey into the sixth, and ultimately recorded two hits in an abysmal shut-out. It was Félix’s best start of the month, and featured seven strikeouts, but also two walks and three earned runs on five hits, in five innings of work.
Best series: Los Angeles Angels 7/3-7/5
They won only two series this month, and the White Sox series also featured that garbage 5-0 shutout by Dylan Covey, so the Angels it is! This series saw them win their eighth straight game, and ultimately win nine of their last ten games. There was nothing particularly groundbreaking, just the continuation of good baseball that certainly did not portend a month of bleh.
Worst series: Colorado Rockies 7/13-7/15
There’s nothing quite like the frustration that builds up after watching your team be swept in person, as the visiting team. It’s like being a guest in someone’s home, but bringing your cat along too, and then your cat gets sick and proceeds to vomit everywhere for the duration of your visit.
Even if I hadn’t been present for this atrocity, it would still be the worst. A late rally teased relevance in the first game, the offense was offensively anemic in the second, and it was all capped off with a walk-off home run in the third (but then again, what else would you expect from Nick Vincent in Coors?). They also failed to hit a single home run, at the most home-run-friendly park in baseball, which was, perhaps, the most offensive thing of all.
Onward to August.