Around the Horn

M's continue to fail in all kinds of ways

Note: I'm still out of action on the bereavement list as well as the dental IL, but so much has happened this week a few brief remarks are in order.

The Mariners have not had a good week. Frankly, neither have I, for reasons that reach well beyond the world of baseball, but let's just look at the M's for now. Here are just the lowlights:

  • They were no-hit again. Again. And not by a John Means, by a guy with a career-4.33 ERA that led the American League in losses the last time we had a full season.
  • They were swept by the Detroit Tigers, a team that came into the series eight games under .500 and would be among the worst-hitting teams in the bigs if not for the stark contrast with Your Seattle Mariners, who...
  • ...Dropped below .200 as a team. The Mariners' current aggregate batting average is .198.
  • They lost yet another player to the injured list as Dylan Moore deals with a calf strain.
  • And they suffered a COVID outbreak, with four relievers testing positive and removed from the active roster for a quarantine period.

The Mariners are reported to be among the worst, if not the worst, team in baseball when it comes to vaccinating their players. Manager Scott Servais has said that getting vaccinated is a "personal decision" and that the club has no particular rule or even encouragement prompting players to get their shots. So the fact that their overpopulated bullpen is spreading the virus around really isn't a surprise. It's just stupid.

Which is very much on brand for the M's of late. The list of stupid things is, of course, topped by their collective choice to ignore COVID, but here are some other selections from said list:

  • Continuing to have scheduled "bullpen games" which deplete the entire staff for days at a time
  • Not availing themselves of a number of starting pitchers on the free-agent or waiver markets and letting said pitchers get snatched up by other teams
  • Prematurely promoting prospects to see them fail badly when there were better options, e.g. Logan Gilbert instead of veteran option Hector Santiago
  • Carrying the thinnest of thin benches—two players—for several games at a time, a byproduct of exhausting the bullpen on purpose on a regular basis

Yesterday the club did take some action to try and change things, but it was minor action. Catcher Luis Torrens, who had never before seen a pitch at the Triple-A level and was batting .178/.219/.300 in the Majors, was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. José Marmolejos, a decent enough first baseman and subpar outfielder batting .139/.266/.278, was designated for assignment. Replacing those two are veteran minor-leaguers, catcher José Godoy and corner infielder Eric Campbell; both have been doing well for Tacoma in the two-week old Triple-A season. Additionally, the M's re-claimed catcher Jacob Nottingham on waivers from Milwaukee—Nottingham had been a Mariner for a day a short while back, claimed and then traded back to the Brewers, but as Milwaukee DFA'd him again, Seattle grabbed him again.

With these moves as well as replacing the COVID-infected relievers with callups and the reinstatement of injured Keynan Middleton, the M's are back to a barely-adequate three-player bench complement, though two of them are now catchers.

The move they have not made, the move that we have long advocated and that fans on social media are belatedly demanding, involves hitting coach Tim Laker. He's still there. Not only has Laker not been shown the door, but the club has not made any noise at all about changing their basic hitting philosophy, which is a power-first approach that makes almost every at-bat look like it's one from 1970s and ’80s pitcher Joaquin Andujar, who famously said his approach at the plate was to "swing hard in case you hit it."

Surprisingly, at an average 9.9 strikeouts per game, Seattle does not lead the league in that category. That dubious honor belongs to the Tampa Bay Rays, who've racked up 10.49 Ks per game. But it's still way, way too many, and just because the rest of the league loves launch angles and swinging for homers doesn't mean you have to follow suit.

There are plenty of theories as to why offense is in the toilet all across the Majors, including a possible epidemic of pitchers cheating with illegal substances. But the Andujar approach is a factor that can be addressed immediately. If only the Mariners had a manager and a coaching staff that saw it as a problem.


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