Going into the Memorial Day weekend, the Seattle Mariners will continue to pursue a month-long goal – To Win TWO Consecutive Games. The Mariners last won back-to-back games on Tuesday, April 26th. After sweeping the Kansas City Royals the third weekend in April, the Mariners defeated the Tampa Rays 8-4 in the following series opener to improve to 11-6. The team would not look back, losing 10 of its next 11 games. Since the four-game win streak against the Royals and then in the opener against the Rays, the Mariners have produced a 7-21 record and have tumbled into last place in the AL West.
After coming off a particularly brutal road trip, the Mariners looked to bounce back with a three-game series versus the Oakland Athletics, a team that sold off most of their major league talent in the off-season in their never-ending cycle of developing young talent and then refusing to pay them, all the while blaming the good people of California and the city of Oakland in particular for not buying them an upgrade on the cesspool that is the Oakland-Alameda Colosseum (who knows who the corporate sponsor is these days). Instead, the Mariners won the opener and proceeded to drop the next two games in the series.
To date, the Mariners are 10-9 at home with a +5-run differential and 8-18 on the road with a -34-run differential. They managed an 11-10 record for the month of April on the basis of a +16-run differential, but May has been cruel, as the Mariners have lost 17 of their 24 contests by a -39-run differential to post a .292 winning percentage.
During the off-season, the fanbase lamented not signing one of the big bat free agents, like Trevor Story, who destroyed the Mariners in Boston last weekend, or Carlos Correa, or Kyle Seager’s little brother – oops. But ironically, hitting hasn’t really been the problem, despite casual perception. The Mariners are currently fifth in the AL in offensive fWar and sixth in wRC+. As a team, the Ms are batting .234/.315/.377. Sounds bad by historical standards, but that slash line ranks 8 out of 15 in BA, 4 out of 15 in OBP, and 9 out of 15 in slugging. Maybe the power is lacking, but the Mariners are putting runners on base near the top of the league.
But pitching where the Mariners actually spent some money in the offseason is another matter altogether. Seattle ranks just above dead last in the AL in pitching fWAR. Thank god for those Kansas City Royals. The entire staff beats out those Royals and just those Royals in ERA and FIP but ranks 10th in xFIP ahead of four other teams with losing records.
The bullpen has been slightly better than the starting rotation as the relief arms rank 12th in the AL in fWAR while the starters are dead last. Only three teams have worse starting ERA, and again if not for the Royals, the Mariners would have the worst FIP in the AL. Ironically, one of the more visible culprits to take the bump as a starter this season is off-season acquisition Robbie Ray with his 4-5 record and 4.75 ERA, Luckily the reigning CY Young Award winner, only two months into his $115M contract, has encouraging peripherals with a 3.37 FIP and 3.10 xFIP.
With the horrendous first quarter of the season, the Mariners projected win total at FanGraphs has fallen three games from 79 to 76. It’s worth noting that FanGraphs was the most bullish on the Mariners coming into the season. Some projection models had the Mariners winning as many as 86 games. It was clear to all but the most delusional that last season’s 90-72 record was a bit fluky given the wild luck with one-run games and walk-offs despite scoring 50 or so fewer runs than they allowed. But only the most pessimistic could have foreseen this season’s start.