2020 MLB Preview: Seattle Mariners

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and remove your caps as you welcome your world-record-holding Seeeeee-at-uhlllllllllllll MARiners.

Not world champion. World-record holders. Betcha never thought you’d see Guinness Book and The Spitter in the same sentence, did ya?

But it’s true. The Mariners were so woefully inadequate, and so eager to throw anything that could throw anything out on the mound that the team from Seattle set a mark of 42 pitchers used in one season. Another 25 players played the other eight positions all told, also a record.

Offensively, they had Edwin Encarnacion long enough to hit 20 homers and leave town. Dee Gordon hit .275 and stole 20 bases. Mallex Smith stole 46, but struck out 149 times.

Half of the halfway decent players are gone. Catcher Omar Narvaez led the team in average and is now in Milwaukee. Leftfielder Domingo Santana took his 21 home runs and went to Cleveland. Gordon remains (he once walked only nine times for an entire year). So does Smith. Tom Murphy replaces Narvaez. Murphy had 18 homers in only 260 at-bats.

It’s cute that Daniel Vogelbach has “Babe” for a nickname, but the original “Babe” could actually hit the ball in the cleanup spot. Vogelbach couldn’t hit his weight (270) in a host of offensive scenarios (.208 average overall). To be fair, it looks like he swings for Tarzana with every pitch when no one’s on. When there are runners, he does well –.294 average when they’re at first and third, .286 when they’re at third. There has to be some middle ground there. He can’t keep hitting .208, regardless of the 30 home runs. He had comparatively great success in the five hole (.279, 18 strikeouts, 14 walks).

Dylan Moore gives them flexibility at the infield positions. Time will tell if he rebounds from his rookie campaign (.206 average, 28 RBI in 113 games) as he has in previous minor league seasons when he responded after an awful year with an all-star-caliber performance the next.

The team is beyond young. They’re basically infants, but several of them had promising cups of coffee in 2019. Tim Lopes Austin Nola, Shed Long Jr. and Kyle Lewis all hit better than .260 in their rookie campaigns.

Mercifully, the Felix Hernandez era is over. But there’s not much there to replace it. Yusei Kikuchi didn’t fool anyone (5.46 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) in his first year in the states after a career in Japan. Marco Gonzalez had a good year (16-13 3.99 ERA) but he’s nobody’s ace. After that? Kendall Graveman? Justus Sheffield? Great name, but struggled in Triple A (6.87 ERA, 48 strikeouts, 41 walks) last year. Justin Dunn could be a fourth starter some day. Nick Margevicius averaged better than a strikeout per inning at Double A but when he gets hit, he gets hit hard.

Big picture, little picture, the offense could be decent, but the starting pitching isn’t there and they lost a lot of experience. The loss of Hernandez gives someone a chance to step up. They won 68 last year. I don’t know where the improvement comes from. Maybe 70 but that’s a stretch. Let’s say… 68.

Coronavirus 60-game prediction: 19-41

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