Tale of the Tape Breakdown: Playoff Contenders, Mariners vs Guardians
Why the Guardians are a threat
To win in the regular season, you need depth. To win in October, you need your stars to show up. I think Cleveland has the ingredients to do both.
The Cleveland offense carried 5 hitters that had an OPS+ over 120 in 2022, and have now added Bell and Zunino. If those guys mesh and produce, Cleveland will have six really good hitters surrounding their superstar in Jose Ramirez. From a pitching perspective, I expect Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie to continue to be stars, while the bullpen should still be really good, even with some reasonable regressions.
Depth on offense, two great starters to pair with an elite bullpen. The Guardians may have struggled against the Seattle Mariners last season record-wise, but most of those games were really competitive.
So… The Guardians or the Mariners?
While those games were close, I can't help but think about how the Mariners went 6-1 vs Cleveland. Time and time again, the Mariners looked a little deeper. On offense, Julio Rodriguez has the ability to match Jose Ramirez, while the depth of Ty France, Geno Suarez, Teo Hernandez and Cal Raleigh is a slight edge for me over Steven Kwan, Josh Naylor, and Andres Gimenez. Shane Bieber’s best may be better than anything Seattle has, but the potential of the Mariners having four #1 quality starters is something Cleveland can’t match in a 5 or 7 game series, even if their bullpen is slightly better than the Mariners.
With the Guardians expected to run away with the Central, I can't help but wonder how aggressive they'll be at the trade deadline. With Shane Bieber's time and eventual contract demand getting closer to the day, and Cleveland's budget limitations, are they willing to strike big for a World Series chance this season? We'll see who is on the market, but if a certain team in Anaheim is struggling and the greatest player of our generation is made available…look out for Cleveland.
While that hypothetical probably changes the balance of power in baseball, let's stick with what the Guardians are right now.
The additions of Bell and Zunino closed the gap, but the Mariners still hold a slight edge.
Tale of the Tape Winner: Seattle Mariners