Smoke and Mirrors


Or perhaps that should be “Smoak and Mirrors.”

Before the road trip the M’s were a scarily bad 8 and 15. I found myself really not wanting to watch that first game against the Tigers because I didn’t want to see them lose and end up with loss number 16. There’s just something about losing twice for every win and that mind numbingly painful. There’s just a level of futility in that 1:2 ratio that’s feels tremendously worse than a 9 an 15 record, even if it’s only one game difference. It’s like the difference between a 99 loss season and a 100 loss season.The team would still be awful, but that single loss that makes it triple digits is just much for difficult to take.

There has been a lot of words written around the Mariner’s blogosphere about the recent 5-1 road trip against the seemingly good Tigers and Red Sox. Geoff Baker over that the Times even said that the road trip “turned the season around.” As good as a 5 game winning streak, and a dominant road trip, feels, is there really reason to be optimistic moving forward?

The answer, unfortunately, is both yes and no. First, the positives:

  • Erik Bedard finally found his control and had a good outing. 7 IP and just 1 ER. He looked like the pre-injury Beard for the first time this season. I wrote a little over a week ago that his “stuff” was still there, he just needed to find his control and he’d be able to be successful. Hopefully this will continue. If Bedard can continue to pitch well the M’s will have more opportunities to win games.
  • Miguel Olivo finally stopped hitting the ball hard right at people and managed to get those line drives to drop in. This was bound to happen. It’s simply a statistical impossibility to make as good of contact as he’d been making and not get hits.
  • Justin Smoak returned from his bereavement leave and crushed that ball. He’s now got an OPS of .893. The M’s finally have someone worthy of a middle of the rotation slot in the batting order.
  • The M’s won despite Milton Bradley being mired in a 2 for 28 slump that had seen his average drop to .200 and his OPS drop to .666. For the first 2+ weeks, the M’s offense was completely dependent on Bradley and Ichiro, so the M’s scoring without contributions from Bradley is a good sign.

Unfortunately, there’s lots of negatives as well:

  • Despite going 2-1 in Boston, the M’s only averaged 3 runs per game. That’s not an improvement. The M’s offense remains poor at best.
  • The M’s bullpen continues to rely on David Pauley to log tough inning in high-leverage situations. They wont continue to win unless this changes.
  • The Doug Fister start in Boston. I don’t think it’s possible to pitch a worse shutout. There were runner on base in almost every inning. Boston’s powerful lineup managed to leave 11 men on base in that game. The M’s just got lucky.
  • Despite the 5 game win streak getting the Mariners close to .500, the team has a combined WAR in April of 0.2. That equates to about 50 wins over the season. While getting Guiterrez and Aardsma back will help, that low WAR value should tell you something about how “good” the team’s performance has been so far.
  • Miguel Olivo’s HR in Detroit shouldn’t have been a home run. While his stat line from that series looks impressive, take away the HR that was a gift from Tiger’s outfielder Ryan Rayburn, and suddenly it doesn’t look quite so hot. Olivo also only went 2 for 13 in Boston with no extra base hits in the series, so it’s not like he’s suddenly became the answer for the M’s lack of a cleanup hitter.
  • Milton Bradley. He’s suddenly looking like that 2010 Milton Bradley again. No, that’s not a good thing.

Lets face it; despite the winning streak, this team still isn’t very good.