Seattle Mariners At Baltimore Orioles Series Preview


The Seattle Mariners were a good team last year, but so far this season they’ve been way below the mark they set a season ago. It’s not a bad season to be in exactly that position, seeing as the same can also currently be said about the Anaheim Angels, Oakland A’s, Cleveland Indians, and Baltimore Orioles. It’s the last of those teams, the Orioles, we’re going to talk about, since they’re the M’s opponents today and the next couple days.

Baltimore is a team fueled by Bill Bavasi, who’s infamous Erik Bedard bumble seven (!!!) years ago is still helping the Orioles at the expense of a long-lost Mariners team. Adam Jones, if you haven’t noticed, is flashing MVP form again this year with a .336/.381/.545 line. Chris Tillman is… doing bad! Take solace in this, because you know he’s bound to turn it around just because I noticed his 6.34 ERA.

That ERA is, unfortunately, an outlier in a rotation that is, as usual, doing way better than one would reason. Wei-Yin Chen, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Miguel Gonzalez all have ERAs under three because of course they do. Chen and Gonzalez have their typical four-something FIPs, but Jimenez has been legitimately excellent this year. Stupid Orioles, always finding a way to win, right?

Not this year! The Birds are 16-19, fourth in the crowded-and-mediocre AL East. They’ve gotten good results from their top three, but Tillman’s struggles and Bud Norris‘s nine-plus ERA have held them back a bit. Zach Britton‘s been lights out at the back of the bullpen, but Kevin Gausman is struggling in a relief role and Brian Matusz has more walks than strikeouts. The pitching has just about been enough, as it always is, but they’re dealing with a little more underperformance than usual.

Offensively the team boasts seven above-average hitters, with Jones being joined at the top by out-of-nowhere sensation Jimmy Paredes and his .343/.375/.606 line. Manny Machado is showing up at the plate, and Caleb Joseph‘s been a valuable contributor, too. Chris Davis is hitting the ball much better than he did a year ago. The offense isn’t a total disaster.

But Everth Cabrera has been a nothing. Same with Delmon Young and Alejandro De Aza, guys who probably shouldn’t have been counted on for anything before the year. The biggest disappointment by far has been Steve Pearce, last year’s big breakout star who’s currently hitting .188/.267/.313. Good defensive marks have him all the way up there at 0.0 WAR, which is nothing short of a huge letdown in the wake of his 4.9 WAR 2014.

Of course, Nelson Cruz was a big part of this team’s success last year, and just look what he’s been up to for the Mariners so far. The biggest criticism of the O’s this offseason is that they didn’t do enough to keep their heads above water. The team expected to contend with the same group they had a year earlier, minus a few departing free agents. But regression has hit in all the worst places, and Paredes can’t make up for both Cruz and Pearce’s missing production.

The O’s are juggling their rotation right now, and so all we know for sure is that the Mariners get to send Taijuan Walker up against Miguel Gonzalez tonight. The big hope for this series is that Robinson Cano‘s bat wakes the hell up in a big way. Or at all, really. Kyle Seager could still use a big series, and it’d be nice to get something out of Chris Taylor. But we’re most concerned about Cano, who’s been below replacement and is making $24 million this year (and each of the next eight).

After Walker the M’s will use Roenis Elias and J.A. Happ. We’re all intimately aware of Walker’s struggles, but this seems like a good time to point out that four of the M’s five starting pitchers have ERAs under four. Two of them have ERAs under three, and with a strong start from Elias that could easily be three guys in the twos. The rotation is turning it around.

Welington Castillo is here now, too, as the M’s shipped out Yoervis Medina in order to upgrade their depth behind the plate. This means no more Jesus Sucre, major league hitter. It also means the team isn’t forced to play Mike Zunino at Salvador Perez-like levels, which is good news for everyone involved. Maybe Castillo will start hitting! Maybe he’ll start hitting, like, right now! We can only hope.

A sweep gets the M’s to .500. You know the drill here. It’s been this way for a while. The M’s are stuck a few games under, but if they can turn it on they’ll be right back where they started. Or they can flounder where they’re at all year, or they can crater and ruin all of our summers. The choice is yours, Mariners. Please choose the route that involves winning lots of baseball games.

Next: Seattle Mariners Swap Yoervis Medina For Welington Castillo