4.06.2007

So far, so good in this make-or-break season for M's

Before I get on with my thoughts on the Mariners opening series with the A's -- which, thanks to snow in Cleveland, looks like it's going to be all there is on the M's until at least Saturday -- I've added a series of new links down the right-hand side of the blog: Mariners Blogosphere.

I can vouch for a pair of them as being especially excellent: The Seattle Times Mariners Blog, and Lookout Landing. While I tend to take big-picture looks at trends in my analysis, both of these sites are great daily looks at the team.

Lookout Landing especially is a must-read if you've read Moneyball and tend to subscribe to sabermetrics as an excellent way of looking at baseball. It's got great analysis from the perspecitve of a fan (if you can put up with the occasional four-letter word). The Times blog, meanwhile, is an excellent blend of news and analysis from the perspective of a beat writer. I read them both daily.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled analysis.

Throwing away Wednesday's 9-0 stinker, I came away very encouraged by the Mariners' series win against Oakland to open the season. They showed a number of thigs in that series that I rarely saw last year, namely tough pitching and timely hitting.

Superlatives don't begin to describe what Felix Hernandez did on opening night, and I'd be redundant to try and rehash what he did to the A's on opening day. But suffice it to say that if Felix can do something close to that, say, three out of every four starts ... well, it would go a long way toward the Mariners continuing their climb out of mediocrity.

But with King Felix, this is what we all expect, right? Ever since that first home start against Minnesota two summers ago, we knew he had this in him. It was just a matter of time until he put it all together, and we might be witnessing that now.

I was more encouraged by what I saw from Jarrod Washburn. No, he wasn't even remotely spectacular, and, yes, he threw a ton of pitches (he can thank a nine-pitch, 1-2-3 inning for getting him to the sixth). But he also battled to a bottom-line result of two runs in those six innings. Let's not forget: The A's are especially adept at working counts and taking pitches, not exactly the best matchup for Washburn, who was lit up by Oakland to the tune of a 6.88 ERA and 0-2 record in three starts last year. It's only one start ... but not half bad.

Additionally, the offense showed an ability to pick up timely hits. The Mariners took advantage of an error to pick up the win in the season opener; they busted out for a four-run inning in the second game after the Julio Mateo puked up the two-run lead Washburn gave him. (By the way, how many cheeseburgers did Mateo eat in the offseason? Holy crap. I know pitchers aren't always in the best shape, but still ...)

I'm encouraged because the Mariners I knew from the past couple of years would have rolled over and died in those first two games. They would have left the bases loaded even after receiving a gift from the opponent, or they would have let the A's steamroll past them and their bullpen when momentum was seized. Instead, they got killer home runs from Richie Sexson and Yuni Betancourt.

Yes, there still are concerns. Is Miguel Batista really that bad? Can Jose Vidro be successful in that No. 3 spot? Will Ichiro's impending free agency become an ever increasing distraction as the year continues? What will Horacio Ramirez and Jeff Weaver really be able to give this team?

But the early returns are good.

2 comments:

DrPezz said...

Are you alarmed yet that the Mariners are hitting under .200 as a team and only have 2-3 hitters with averages over .200? Granted, it's early, but they've been greatly outscored and appear to be staffed with an inordinate number of B level talents earning the 6th highest salary total in baseball.

Who is (should be) on the hot seat?

DrPezz said...

By the way, my buddy gave us an over/under of 77 victories. I felt optimistic and chose over (thinking 80 victories would be about right), but I'm wondering if I was too friendly towards the team now that I've really looked at the line-up and the pitching staff.