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Punches In The Face

Ichiro
After a pretty ugly sweep at the hands of the Indians, it seemed appropriate to reference one of the best quotes Ichiro has graced us with.

It was a rough weekend, no doubt about it. The series was great until the first pitch was thrown, very literally. The pre-game festivities for the home opener were fantastic. I was lucky enough to be there, and the Niehaus memorial/celebration met the high standards that the Mariners have set for themselves. Marilyn Niehaus was the perfect choice to throw the first pitch, and it was an excellent touch to bring the whole family on the field. Renaming a block on first avenue "Dave Niehaus Way" is amazing, and I try not to use that word lightly. Safeco Field's home plate entrance now sits at the intersection of Edgar Martinez Drive and Dave Niehaus Way. That is so unbelievably cool.

The short awards ceremony to hand out the hardware from last year was sensational too. The team deftly kept Ichiro out on the field after he got his Gold Glove to recognize him with something for becoming the franchise's all-time hits leader. The organization got him a nicely framed photo, but it was all about who delivered it - Edgar Martinez, the man he passed. Edgar is my favorite Mariner of all time, so of course I was excited to see him unexpectedly come out of the dugout. However, the best part was seeing Ichiro and 'Gar shake hands, pose for some pictures, and in general symbolize the best the M's have had to offer for the past 20 seasons. That alone was worth the price of admission...

...which is good, because the Mariners didn't do much after the games started to warrant a portion of a paycheck. Here are some fun numbers from the series:

  • The Mariners were outscored in the series 20-8. In fairness to them, most of that tally came in the opening 12-3 rout. Still, that means the Indians scored more runs in the 4th inning on Friday night than the M's got the entire weekend.
  • M's hitters went 2 for 20 (.100 batting average) with runners in scoring position for the series.
  • The combined line for Mariners starting pitchers this weekend: 13.1 IP, 25 hits, 15 runs (14 earned), 3 BBs, 10 Ks, 3 home runs allowed. That's a 10.31 ERA, despite a quality start mixed in from Doug Fister. It didn't matter though, because he took a loss, just like his less effective starting counterparts this weekend.
  • The Indians only hit two more home runs than the M's in the series, but that was enough to double the M's total.
  • Interestingly enough, the Indians only committed one fewer error, but it felt like the Mariners made a ton more mistakes. Perhaps an example of the power wins and losses have on my memory?
Cleveland took one punch in the face though:
  • After Tom Wilhelmsen's meltdown on Friday, the Mariners bullpen didn't allow another run the whole series. Their scoreless streak as a unit is 12.1 innings, and counting.
Hopefully, we just saw one of the ugliest series the Mariners will have all season. The good news is that there is tons of baseball left in the season. After the series we just saw, it also feels like the bad news too. It could prove to be that as well.

I expect people will conclude from this series that the Mariners are really bad. I also expect some analysis that shows the Mariners will regress to the mean. Already, the popular number flying around is that the Mariners are hitting .197 with runners in scoring position for the season so far. On one hand that's bad. On the other hand, it's unsustainably low.

One observation that has not got much traction yet is how good the teams that the M's have faced are. Cleveland is now riding a seven-game winning streak. That means they had won four in a row before coming to Seattle. The Rangers are 8-1 on the season, meaning they are 4-1 against teams not named the Mariners. It's too early to say how good either of these teams are for sure, but we can say that both teams are hot right now. It probably helped that they faced the Mariners, but it's unfair to say that's the only thing going on when they go out and crush other teams too.

The reality is that the Mariners are better than the 7-game losing streak they are in. They will win another game this season, perhaps even 2, 3, or 60-80 more. That's baseball, as the old adage goes.

The reality is that the Mariners are bad. How many teams will bat 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position for a series? How many more will bat .197 in the same situation for any nine-game stretch? There is a ton of variation in baseball, but it's worth keeping in mind that every team's ups and downs will ebb and flow around whatever their mean is.

The past week has been awfully bad, particularly for the offense. It will get better, but the weekend still says something about the true talent level of this team. I can't go back and find many places where I would say the Mariners caught some bad breaks. A few, but not enough to the point that I felt a win turned into a loss.

The good news is that Michael Saunders made a diving catch, and hit a home run, even though they both came in a losing effort on Sunday. The Mariners probably are a 100-loss team right now, but they will get better the more the young guys turn potential into production.