GM says Mariners will have to overcome injuries and prove they can be as good as they were in the first few months of the season, not the team that struggled to a 17-26 record the last 43 games.
For the first 46 games of the season, the Seattle Mariners posted a 28-18 record — fourth-best in baseball — putting them atop the American League West standings. In their final 43 games before the All-Star break, the Mariners went 17-26 — the fourth-worst record in baseball over that span — to fall to third in the AL West and 8½ games behind the Rangers and three games behind the Astros.
So are the Mariners (45-44) more like the team from April and May that had fans excited for the postseason, or the injury-plagued, June-swoon team that seemed to waste all the good of the first two months?
“Like the answer always is, it’s probably somewhere in between,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “I do believe when fully healthy we are much closer to (our early record) than what we’ve been over the last four or five weeks. That being said, we are not fully healthy. We’ll have to deal with that. We’ll just have to overcome.”
Still, being one game over .500 going into the All-Star break is something the Mariners would have gladly taken coming out of spring training. But the early hot start made much more seem possible. Dipoto won’t label it as bittersweet.
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“Not at all,” he said. “We’d like to have been in a better position, but through adverse times, you find out what you are about. It took five weeks of a rough schedule, tough health breaks, some really wonky play and we still kept our heads above water.”
Considering that Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker are on the disabled list, Wade Miley had a DL stint and missed two starts, call-up Adrian Sampson was lost for the season after one start and Nathan Karns pitched his way into the bullpen, things could have been much worse. Seattle had 10 different pitchers make starts, second in the American League.
“Good teams find a way in struggles to persevere, to get through,” Dipoto said. “You are going to go into streaks and starts and stops and slumps, but you can’t turn it into a death spiral.”
The real problems started when Hernandez went on the disabled list with a strained calf on June 1. It was the start of a run of pitching injuries. Foot issues plagued Walker, while an injured Miley tried to pitch his way through shoulder problems. Key reliever Nick Vincent strained his upper back from overuse. Also during that time, shortstop Ketel Marte and center fielder Leonys Martin spent time on the disabled list.
“When we were fully healthy and we used five starting pitchers and our bullpen was deployed when we wanted them to be deployed instead of when we needed them to be and our offense worked extremely well the first half … we were a really good team,” Dipoto said.
From May 27 to the All-Star break, starting pitchers posted 22 starts of five innings or less in 43 games.
“I think the All-Star break was going to be as important for us as any team in the league, allowing us to get a rest and get a little healthy,” Dipoto said. “We played two or three weeks with 12 position players because our pitching was so banged up.”
The offense has carried the Mariners through much of the injury struggles, averaging 4.89 runs, which is sixth in the American League.
The Mariners rank seventh in the AL in batting average (.263), tied for seventh in on-base percentage (.328), third in slugging (.444) and second in home runs (132). They’ve had some struggles with situational hitting and Norichika Aoki was a massive disappointment, leaving a hole at the leadoff spot.
“When Nori had that three- or four-week stretch where he was hot, mostly in the month of May, I think it’s the best team we’ve been,” Dipoto said.
The middle-of-the-order trio of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager has been outstanding. All three have on-base plus slugging percentages over .900 and have combined for 66 doubles, 62 homers and 177 RBI. The first base tandem of Dae-Ho Lee and Adam Lind has been solid, producing 25 homers and 86 RBI, with Lee providing unexpected power production, while Leonys Martin and Seth Smith are contributing more than expected.
“The offense bailed us out in a number of games,” Dipoto said.
How would Dipoto rate the performance of first-year manager Scott Servais through the good and bad?
“He did as well as he could,” Dipoto said. “I think Scott has done a great job since spring training on. His personality suits the club. He’s intense when it’s time to be intense. He’s loose and relaxed when it’s time to be. Most importantly with players in that room, I don’t think he’s changed since day one.
“ It’s a hard thing he’s doing, learning how to be major-league manager on the job. I think he’s done a remarkably good job. We can always play backseat manager. We were as players. We are as front-office executives, and we are as fans. When you’re in the fire and making decisions in real time, it’s not as easy as it looks.”