There’s a myth that the MLB season is halfway through when play stops for the All-Star Game. The season was actually halfway done on June 28th, at least as far as the Seattle Mariners are concerned. That was the day they were shredded by Josh Tomlin, dropping their record to 43-38. They’re now sitting at 51-44, having moved to seven games above .500. And hey, that’s amazing.
There have been lots of Seattle Mariners seasons, most of which were bad. It follows as such that most Seattle Mariners first halves are bad, and sure enough, that much is true. The M’s current record is their best at the break since 2003, which was the last year of the team’s golden age. Even in their surprising 2007 and 2009 campaigns, the Mariners couldn’t sniff what they’re doing now.
Pitching, of course, is the backbone to this team’s successes. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma remain an elite one-two, and the back end has been filled in nicely by out-of-nowhere surprises Chris Young and Roenis Elias. Taijuan Walker is still figuring things out, but that’s less a concern and more just what prospects do. There was once chatter of adding a veteran arm, but now with James Paxton nearing a return, that’s probably not necessary. And Paxton, of course, is nothing but upside.
All-Star closer Fernando Rodney leads a hard-throwing bullpen that’s finally come into it’s own after a couple years of underperformance. Danny Farquhar‘s still amazing, if not as otherworldly as he was a year ago. Charlie Furbush has rebounded nicely from his ERA-ruining early season struggles, and Tom Wilhelmsen seems *almost* fixed. Dominic Leone and Joe Beimel have been ridiculously dominant, just as nobody predicted. Brandon Maurer has been nothing short of excellent since being moved to a relief role. The ‘pen has no holes.
You’d think the accolades would end there, given the long history of offensively futile Mariners teams. But despite only ranking seventeenth in MLB in runs scored, there have been multiple valuable position players. Robinson Cano has been the star he was expected to be, but Kyle Seager has been just as good (if not a little better). The M’s may have dished out $240 million for their second baseman, but they surely weren’t counting on getting the same production out of their cost-controlled third baseman. Michael Saunders has been good with the stick, and Mike Zunino leads all AL catchers in home runs. That’s not a lot of positive, but this is the Mariners we’re talking about. You expect the Mariners to have a strong offense when your time machine drops you off in the nineties.
And then there’s the defense. Zunino, for all his dingers, has actually been a below-average offensive player due to his tremendous struggles to simply get on base. But his defense has been otherworldly, guiding the M’s pitchers and plugging what was for so long a huge hole behind the plate. Brad Miller‘s shortstop defense has been similarly fantastic, and James Jones has done great work in center field. Dustin Ackley‘s been adequate in left, Michael Saunders has been above average in right, and Cano and Seager have provided value in the infield. When your only below-average defensive position is first base, you’re in great shape.
The Mariners are not only seven games above .500 going into the All-Star break, but they look every bit their record. The offensive shortcomings have been masked by good defense, just like they’re supposed to be. The pitching has been fantastic, and aside from the perpetually terrifying Young there aren’t really any candidates for devastating regression. We don’t expect Leone and Beimel to continue doing what they’re doing, but they don’t need to keep being this good in order to be excellent pieces of a good ‘pen. Maybe you expect nothing from Elias, Walker, Paxton, and the rest of the kids. That’s fine, the Mariners have two aces. Everyone survives rookie struggles.
Oakland and Los Angeles have the two best records in baseball, but all that means is that the Mariners will likely have to play a division rival in the playoffs. The amazing thing is, it’s July, and the Mariners are likely to be playing a playoff game in a few months. Forget the A’s. Forget the Angels. We’re talking about the Mariners in the playoffs, and it only seems more and more likely with each passing day. This team is in great shape.