MLB Power Rankings – Week Two – Where Do The Seattle Mariners Rank?

Major League Baseball is back. And back now, not so much in spades – but rather, twins, doubles, symmetries, pairs, and very odd anomalous mirroring combinations galore. So far, the brisk first dozen games of the season feels, well – fun, perfect, wonderful, excellent; precisely because with some fans in attendance at every ballpark, the television broadcasts and highlights now much more resemble a near-normal regular season – way more than all last year when cardboard cutouts populated games – that I can almost come close to forgetting the entire ongoing pandemic. Some wise men argue that’s just it, that’s the point of watching baseball: to forget the breakneck stress, pressure, and unrelenting velocity of our first faster world away from the emerald fields and perfect dirt diamonds. 

Alright, onward – I mentioned doubles. Here are two big ones that come to mind. Twice this week, a bearded starting pitcher has thrown his first-ever, spectacular no-hitter. Joe Musgrove threw the very first no-no in the 52 years of the San Diego Padres franchise history. Then Carlos Rodon nearly achieved perfection – the most recent Perfect Game still belongs to the King, Félix Hernández – before drilling his second to last batter faced during his no-hit bid with a literal back-foot slider. And that’s fitting, truly part of the larger pattern, trend, as we cruise through the second full week of the Major League Baseball regular season, the first full 162 game season since the abbreviated regular season last year. 

Additional recent doubles include the Seattle Mariners suffering twice this week a pregame rainout cancellation before making up the contest by playing a double-header against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. And it was the first time the M’s played two doubled headers in the same series (Seattle has now done this twice in franchise history) since August 12 and 14, 1985, against the old California Angels. 

Now with all of these doubles documented, let’s move onto the second part of this week’s action with some fresh hot takes and Power Rankings!

TOP TIER – Teams we’ll see playing in late October, and my early favorites for the American and National League Championship Series.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: Is anyone surprised? I’m not. The Dodgers spend more money on payroll, $247,545,254, than any other team. And that super sum is just a touch, well, $47,000,000 more than the next most heavily invested team, New York Yankees. But it’s a winning formula, right? During the recent offseason, the defending World Series Champions, Los Angeles Dodgers, scooped up the reigning National League Cy Young award winner, Trevor Bauer. Good move despite all the haters is what any true baseball fan would say in theory. And yes, Bauer is mercurial, polarizing, and an excellent horse to have on any big league pitching staff. He’s got a cannon, great stuff, lots of late-life on his off-speed pitches, pinpoint accuracy most games, and then some might go so far as to say he is the smartest strategic mind on the field every time he takes the mound. But with Bauer, there’s a catch. (Isn’t there always when we’re discussing, criticizing, evaluating a genius?) And lately, too, Baseball Twitter has speculated that maybe Bauer’s infuriating antics are primarily two big things. One, Bauer is doing what amounts to little more than a modern take on the old John Rocker/Roger Clemens amplified jackass machismo style bad boy bully type of vibe that may or may not actually psych out opposing hitters and help him win games. Then, two, all of this (what we’ll dig into next) is the type of stuff that would, and has now, eventually come back to haunt him. Bauer has largely seemed absolutely untouchable on the mound. His stuff? Maybe even better than last year. Yet Bauer cannot relinquish his favorite off-field bluster, nearly jabberwocky type of hobby, where he’s now for years been a part-time digital vaudeville trolling highlight producing provocateur (see: closing one eye while throwing pitches for strikes and still getting outs in both spring training and regular-season games). And yet Bauer seems more emboldened back on the field when he’s fresh off of another round of waging constant, sarcasm inflected, taunt-dense, and boast-heavy squabbles with every real or imagined – yet no less pestilent to him – source he can suss out on social media. Alright, now here is where it gets sticky! Bauer’s favorite rant-worthy theme, and once he’s harped on for years, is a sort of dramatic bemoaning of the obvious and constant doctoring of baseballs in games where a pitcher increases his grip or spin rate on a baseball by adding some sticky substance to the ball’s surface. And these are foreign, illegal substances that are sometimes visibly shimmering on a pitcher’s exposed forearm. The viscous, slick, greasy, and or some pine tar or something complected stuff is widely believed to be a true boost for near every single major league bullpen pitcher; so Bauer, claiming to be a purist, has brought this up often. He says he wants the cheating to stop. (Do what I say, not what I do, anyone.) And although Bauer has never gone so far as to explicitly tell the Baseball Twitter or the social media world when exactly he’s going to prove his working, slippery, cheating theory. (Although he did say, twice before, what amounts to braggadocio, Watch What I Get Away With Today! before pitching and throwing pitches with significant documented, measured extremely high, and rather abnormal spin rate boosts.) All of this and more, and still the Bauer vs. his social media follower debate, had long continued without much interfering action from MLB officials. Until now, in a supremely and – he should have seen this coming – an ironic twist, Major League Baseball requested about a dozen game-used balls from one of Bauer’s more recent starts. The baseballs were sent off to an undisclosed laboratory setting, so some baseball rendition of a pseudo-CSI caliber chemical analysis may occur. (Anyone wanna guess why?!) All of this drama and the Dodgers still have the best record in baseball, 10-2. LA’s won 5 in a row and 9 of their last 10. They are undefeated at home. Love ‘em, hate ‘em – Trevor Bauer is baseball’s bonafide, Kanye West. 

2. Boston Red Sox: Had we discussed Boston last week, I’d ranked Bean Town in the bottom third. To begin their regular season, Boston dropped three straight to Baltimore at Fenway Park for the first time in franchise history. Dreadful. And since then? They won 9 straight games before dropping one Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis. They have the second-best record in baseball, right behind the Dodgers. Through Boston’s first 12 games, LF, J.D. Martinez is hitting a team-best .378, with 5 HRs and 16 RBIs. The rest of the bats are nearly lightning rods as well. Boston second in baseball in both Runs, 72, and batting average, .283, and third in Slugging Percentage .474 and fourth in OBP .343. Their pitching is not better than mediocre on the other side of the ball. But none of that matters much if you can outscore your opponents by a combined, second-best in baseball, 24, runs so far. 

3. San Diego Padres: It seems like the Friars are due for a very, very deep late October run this season. A red hot start, their Achilles heel last year, this season their supercharged pitching staff has anchored what amounts to statistical excellence. So far, SD leads all of baseball in ERA with a bulletproof 2.48 mark through 13 games. Their pitching staff also ranks second in baseball in WHIP, 1.03, and fourth in Batting Average Against at .202. Last year, the Padres had far and away from the most blunder-prone bullpen in NL West. So their front office staff, well, sold the farm league and went big and tried hard to bootstrap a starting rotation, match it with a bullpen and make the run that San Diego fans have craved for half a century. But almost instantaneous injury woes beset the Padres newly acquired starting pitchers. All the arms on the roster seem healthy so far. Joe Musgrove threw a no-hitter. And the Padres starting pitching staff also includes studs Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Chris Paddack. Someone here will be in the running for a Cy Young award. And so these cannons, when healthy, and when combined with the big bats of Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, Will Myers, Jurikson Profar, Tommy Pham, Jake Cronenworth, and a man who, once he’s finally healthy, may wind up having one of the best power-hitting shortstop campaigns since the very young Alex Rodriguez slugged pearls over the walls in the King Dome, altogether, absolutely have the look of a team that could win 4 of 7 against the Dodgers in late October.  

4. Los Angeles Angels: SportsCenter revealed two nights ago a wild baseball highlight segment teaser graphic that showed how there has never once been a regular season where the three southern California big-league teams had a better-combined record through 12 games than they do right now.  The Dodgers, Padres, and recently cooling – only slightly – Angels are all excellent baseball teams. We may wind up with an all California World Series, and it’s largely because for the last half-decade, all three teams had dumped copious cash into the pockets of top-tier free agents when the time was right. But a win is a win is a win. A playoff win would mean even more. And Angels CF Mike Trout has never won a playoff baseball series despite being hailed as the last decade’s unmans greatest player. Sounds absurd, right? Some years, the Angels have not even been close to the postseason. It’s oddly reminiscent of the uphill battle Félix Hernández suffered while playing Cy Young Award-winning ball up north. Trout is a man with a chance to become the greatest baseball player of all time has never once led his team through the dog days of summer because, for whatever reason, the Angels’ front office could never quite figure out how to surround their star player with enough support. That is, until now. According to ESPN, in his pitching debut this year, Shohei Ohtani had both the fastest-thrown pitch (100.6 mph) of any starting pitcher and the hardest-hit home run (115.2 mph) this season. The missile traveled 451 feet before clobbering the right-center stands. The comparisons to Babe Ruth may never end. Now that the Angels wield a wildly talented double-headed anomaly and have plenty of depth in the field and on their bench, it seems like it’s finally enough to go as deep as another Ohtani moonshot.

SECOND TIER – Teams we’ll see make the playoffs with ease

5. San Francisco Giants: Through two weeks of the regular season, the red hot California franchise trend seems like it’s expanded everywhere professional baseball is played in the Golden State – except for Oakland. However, on the opposite side of the bay, the Giants, aside from losing an early three-game series to the Seattle Mariners, has been superb. SS Donovan Solano is hitting .353 with a .395 OBP to go with .412 Slugging. Old man Evan Longoria enjoys a Carmelo Anthony-esque late-career scoring resurgence and now leads his team with 4 HRs and 8 RBIs. But the Giants pitching staff is where true excellence has emerged. All combined, SF is second in baseball in ERA, 2.78 and sixth in WHIP, 1.07, and fifth in BAA, .203. Ace, Johnny Cueto, has won 2 decisions and posted 18 K’s already to go with his crisp 1.80 ERA.

6. Cincinnati Reds: As of Thursday, the Reds lead all of baseball in runs, with 75, and are now second both in Slugging Percentage with a colossal .479 mark and RBIs with 71, and they sit fifth in batting average. 264. But their best, most powerful statistic? Home runs. They lead all of baseball with 20. So last year’s popular, start of the season, dark horse World Series contender, the Reds, seem to have finally, finally, finally polished the rough edges off a roster that is loaded with talent that seemed utterly lost for twenty game stretches last season when every game counted for three times the normal amount. Sure they lost two in a row to San Francisco – a good team – but they still sit atop the NL Central. 3B, Jonathan India is hitting .333 with a .395 OBP. RF, Tyler Naquin has 5 HRs and 14 RBIs. Within this division, usually the most completive in the NL, the Cubs seem like they’re bound for a rebuild within the next 2-3 years. And the Pirates remain abysmal. Therefore if the Reds can split the season series with the superstar-loaded Cardinals roster, take two out of every three against the Brew Crew. We might expect the Big Red Machine to start pumping in earnest, as this Reds team comes close to winning 100 games before the playoffs. Tragic, though, the biggest Cincinnati Reds storyline this week is a Pete Rose development. He’s recently announced he will sell packages of his sports betting picks, baseball included. I am, right now, of the opinion that Rose deserves a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame – but man, Rose has no shame, and maybe it’s because he’s no true hope of receiving some long-overdue forgiveness. He’s at least a better baseball television analyst than A-rod.

7. Seattle Mariners: Well, here we go. The M’s are 4-1 in one-run games, undefeated in extra innings, and surprise, surprise, the bullpen – Seattle’s alleged Achilles Heel – is rocking an excellent 1.15 ERA over the last 5 games. Many of us who call ourselves “True to the Blue” believed the starting pitching would look like the best position group on this year’s team. And most games, it’s been decent. But right now, we’re elated to be very wrong because of the most impressive unit on this team? All of the pop and thunder on offense. And as of Thursday evening, the all-new Blue Big Stick Mariners have won three of the four series they’ve played. The M’s took two of three against the Giants Twins, then three against the Orioles. In the latter, the M’s had 6 different batters clobber 7 HRs against Baltimore in Camden Yards. Mitch Haniger has reached base in every single game this season. And Haniger became the seventh Seattle Mariner all-time to homer in both the first and second game of a doubleheader. Haniger, Kyle Seager, Ty France, Taylor Trammell, Jose Marmolejos all have multiple home runs. Kyle Seager has been career best clutch in late-inning situations, which offsets some of the Seattle setbacks, like the recent loss of former ace “Big Maple” James Paxton to Tommy John surgery. And yet, it hasn’t mattered all that much because the rest of the starting staff has been – well, solid, knowing the bullpen is lights out. What’s more, two of the Mariners’ best players this season, Jared Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez, remain at the AAA and A level. And both will stay off the big league roster until June, at the earliest, because the Mariners organization (just like the rest of baseball) is still taking advantage of what future contract cost reduction comes from their top prospects’ big-league service-time manipulation. Last year’s American League Rookie of the Year, CF, Kyle Lewis, is still not yet on the field full time. Manager Scott Servais told Root Sports recently that Lewis is not rushing anything, as he’s just now starting to make his way back to full speed and strength after suffering bone bruises following a nasty collision into the center-field wall during a game near the end of spring training. Here’s my point: Kevin Mather was one of the big reasons this team lacked juice, life, enthusiasm, success. Now that Mather is gone, the Seattle Mariners lead the American League West with an 8-5 record, and they are not even close to playing their best ball with the best version of their roster. The M’s face their first test against an elite squad when the Dodgers visit Seattle Monday and Tuesday. If they can take at least one of the two, we can begin talking about how this team might revive the legendary SODO Mojo. And if things for this team trend similarly, and we please the gracious Baseball Gods, then from way, way out of the upper, upper left, the M’s become the American League’s World Series dark horse. 

Lightning Round Style & single factotums for THIRD TIER teams that are very flawed – but we should expect to see make a run for the playoffs.

8. New York Yankees: The Yankees lead baseball in K’s with 136.

9. Atlanta Braves: Through 13 games, Ronald Acuna Jr. is hitting an unbelievable .442, with 7 HRs, .492 OBP, 1.000 SLG, and 14 RBIs.

10. Philadelphia Phillies: As of Thursday evening, they’re 5-1 at home and 1-5 on the road.

11. Minnesota Twins: They snapped Boston’s 9 game win streak this Thursday.

12. Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr is currently hitting .390 with a .519 OBP and a .585 SLG.

13. St. Louis Cardinals: Earlier this week, after receiving a single pitch, Cardinals Catcher, Yadier Molina, became the first-ever catcher to play 2000 games with one team, St. Louis. 

14. New York Mets: The Mets have baseball’s 3rd best ERA, 2.81.

15. Houston Astros: This week, Houston placed Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia on their injured list (code for a positive Covid19 test result and or contact tracing precautions).

Ranking the rest of baseball and all the fourth, BOTTOM TIER teams.

16. Chicago White Sox
17. Kansas City Royals
18. Oakland Athletics
19. Texas Rangers 
20. Milwaukee Brewers
21. Tampa Bay Rays
22. Chicago Cubs
23. Miami Marlins 
24. Cleveland Indians
25. Detroit Tigers
26. Baltimore Orioles 
27. Washington Nationals 
28. Pittsburgh Pirates
29. Arizona Diamondbacks
30. Colorado Rockies

About Jackson Pappin 39 Articles
Jackson Pappin is a freelance writer. A 2018 WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alumni, he writes fiction, journalism, columns, essays and poetry. His work has been published in Anastamos, The Oregonian, The Spokesman Review, The Seattle P.I. Reader Blogs, The Daily Evergreen, The Central Circuit, LandEscapes and at the Spectra Art Gallery. His writing is available at https://jacksonpappin.blogspot.com

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