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Can the Mariner’s sustain their early success?

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The 2019 season has been good to the Mariners so far as they have started the season with a 5-1 record. They started their season in Japan and swept the Athletics in a two-game series. Out of the two games, they won the first game rather handily and followed it up as they escaped with a win the very next day in an extra-innings battle. The Mariner’s offensive was the biggest factor to their success as they scored nine runs the first game and five runs in the second. In this Japan series, both ball clubs provided the fans with thrilling match ups. Each game contained a lot of offense and let’s not forget to mention the final game of Ichiro Suzuki’s legendary career. His retirement overshadowed the second game but it was well worth it. The game provided the fans in Japan with the opportunity to say goodbye to one of their country’s greatest and the face of Japanese baseball. Never the less, the Mariners played well in Japan and started their season off on the right foot.

With a 2-0 record and the opportunity to start the season at home, things were looking good for the Mariners when opening day rolled around. However, the task ahead did seem rather daunting as the defending champions rolled into town. The Boston Red Sox didn’t have a significant amount of turnover in the offseason either proving that they were ready to contend for a championship yet again. As opening day arrived the Red Sox handed the ball to their ace, Chris Sale, who had a more than impressive season in 2018. Injuries limited his ability to record a lot of innings last year, which may have cost him the Cy Young Award. His season was more than dominant as he recorded a 2.11 ERA and 13.5 K/9. Had he just recorded four more innings, he would have qualified to set the single-season record for the highest K/9. With all of this information, you would expect nothing less than a solid opening day start from Sale, especially against a team that didn’t present a high-level offense.

Sale’s opening day performance was abysmal. The first innings looked like a typical performance from Sale as he struck out the side. However, it didn’t last long as he was removed from the game in the fourth inning and his final line score included six hits, two walks, and seven earned runs. Let’s not forget that through the three complete innings that he did record, he also surrendered three home runs. Two of those home runs were hit by Tim Beckham who is off to a scorching start at the plate. The game ended as a blow out with the Mariners winning by a score of nine to seven.

Image via ESPN

Following opening day, the Mariners lost their only game up to this point but the offense still performed by racking up six runs. As the team rolled into the weekend, the season was off to a good start and the team had played well so far. That high level of competition continued throughout the weekend and now they are sitting pretty with a 5-1 record. In each game, the offense had looked like one of the best as they scored five or more runs every game. They even managed to rack up double-digit runs twice through the six-game span.

Despite this hot start from the Mariners organization, I find it hard to believe that their success is going to continue. Obviously their not going to keep mashing the ball like they’ve done so far and based on where it seems the organization is at, their success is going to be short-lived. The organization spent the offseason in a selling mindset as they shopped Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, and Jean Segura. The Mariners also didn’t resign Nelson Cruz who was a big part of the club in the 2018 season. They did acquire Carlos Santana via trade only to turn around and quickly trade him away. The Mariners did make a few acquisitions to booster their ball club including Domingo Santana and Edwin Encarnacion. I wouldn’t argue that these transactions weren’t in the best interest of the team but they are definitely not the moves of a contending team.

This seems to be a continuous trend in baseball as teams are quicker to enter the rebuilding process. The Mariner’s missed the playoffs last season but still managed to rack up 89 wins. Despite their success, the organization must have come to the conclusion that they weren’t close to competing for a title. The numbers do back up this decision since the Mariners finished the season with a -34 run differential. This measurement is an indication that the team was not necessarily “lucky” but that they won a lot of close games. In other words, winning that many close games in something that’s very difficult to repeat and not an indication that they are a team that’s contending for a championship.

In addition to last years run differential, many other statistics will draw you to the conclusion that the Mariner’s are not a team that’s going to compete this season. If you take a look at the last published article on predicting each team’s rotation for the 2019 season, you can see how the Mariners stack up. The team comes in at the 25th spot obviously indicating they don’t have much to offer when it comes to their pitching staff. The rankings are completely analytically based so there are no opinions impacting the ranking that they received.

In addition to their pitching, the offense didn’t prove to be too impactful either in 2018. Last season the Mariners ranked 22nd in the league in runs per game at 4.18 runs per game. And since the Mariners did not make any additions to their offensive, well ones that balanced out all of their subtractions, I wouldn’t expect any sort of increase in performance.

I don’t expect the Mariners to continue their hot start for much longer as they appear to be a team that won’t be in contention for the playoffs this year. None the less, the Mariners will still be an exciting team to watch this year and I look forward to watching Yusei Kikuchi pitch. Their short reign as first in the American League West will soon be over and they will be out of the playoff picture.

Sources include FanGraphs, MLB.com, and Baseball Reference

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