Believe it or not, some Major League Baseball teams have reached the half-way mark of this abbreviated, bizarre, COVID season. Among them are the Seattle Mariners. On Sunday, the Mariners completed their 30th game with a win at home against the Texas Rangers. Attendance was announced as roughly 13,000 cutout fans. Maybe play on the field hasn’t been stellar, but the Mariners and the folks at T-Mobile Park have done one of the better jobs in the majors of populating seats with images of the fanbase.
After Sunday’s victory, the Mariners’ record stands at 11-19 for a .367 winning percentage. To put that in perspective, over the course of a normal season, a .367 winning percentage would produce a 59-103 record. Granted, full seasons are dotted with clusters of playing below true talent, playing above true talent, and playing to true talent. So, this year’s Mariners are probably just about what preseason projections forecasted before the world fell apart, a 70-to-72-win team.
As with any baseball season, the Mariners have had bright spots and disappointments. The most notable bright spot has been rookie center fielder Kyle Lewis. Several years removed from his highest ranking on baseball prospect lists, Lewis has stayed healthy for two seasons now, last season at AA Arkansas and this season in the majors. Through 106 AB this year, Lewis is hitting .368/.456/.585 with 7 HR, 19 RBI, 2 SB, and an OPS+ of 192 to account for 1.7 bWAR. Yes, it’s a small sample size and the slash line is certainly inflated, but the game power seems legit. In a normal season with 500 or so AB, 30+ HR seems perfectly reasonable.
Fellow rookie Justus Sheffield has been as much a bright spot on the mound as Lewis has been at the plate. Through five starts, the lefty acquired from the New York Yankees in the James Paxton deal has a 2-2 record with a 3.51 ERA, a 1.247 WHIP, and 23 K in 25.2 innings. In his last three starts, Sheffield has gone 6 innings an outing, given up only 2 earned runs, and has demonstrated improved command. While he doesn’t project to be an ace, he has solid number three potential, with number two upside.
Among the more glaring disappointments this season has been fan-favorite from last season, Daniel Vogelbach, who was optioned to the second site in Tacoma and then traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday for cash considerations. In 53 AB, Vogey as GM Jerry Dipoto likes to refer to him, contributed negative 0.6 bWAR by hitting .094/.250/.226 with 2 HR and a 37 OPS. As a DH only type, Vogelbach never figured to be part of the Mariners longer term goals and now he’s in Buffalo.
While there was some hope that the wacky playoff format of pandemic baseball, which is almost certain to add a handful of sub-.500 teams to the mix, Mariners fans could possibly see an end to the twenty-year postseason drought. And, who knows, a hot streak could get the Mariners back in playoff contention. But, mostly 2020 has been the transition to being competitive around 2022 that most had expected. Some bright spots. Some disappointments. But a future that includes Jared Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez joining Kyle Lewis in a winning outfield and more electric arms on the way to team up with Justus Sheffield on the mound, hopefully in front of fans, not cutouts.