Those were three tough losses in a row. It’s easy to panic and over-react after a series like that, but the series told us nothing about the Mariner’s we didn’t know already. The defense was good to excellent, even with Tui at short most of the series. RRS was okay but not great. Fister and Vargas were better than expected but not dominant. The bullpen had a rough series, taking the loss in each game, but they’re not any different than what we thought they were: a group of sometimes dominant guys who occasionally get lit up or lose their command. That’s pretty much every good but not incredible bullpen. If they blow every lead the next two series too, then it’s trouble.
Unless the Mariners decide they don’t like the team they’ve assembled all of a sudden, those pieces are going to remain. They were the focal point of the rebuild: excellent defense, solid starting pitching designed to take advantage of Safeco and the defense, and a potentially shut-down bullpen. So far, so good, the bullpen’s last three games not withstanding.
The offense has been the concern, and continues to be. The team is scoring runs better than it did the first week, but it’s short on threats. A quick scan through the roster: two guys are producing better than expected, Guti and Kotchman. Two guys are hitting decently, within shouting distance of what was expected, Ichiro and Wilson. The catching duo is about where we feared they would be, which isn’t good. Figgins and Lopez are below what was expected, but show no real reason to worry yet. Bradley’s in the same boat, with a little more worry, given his combination of age and injuries on top of his 2009 season and low contact rates this year. Not much was expected of Griffey (and Sweeney) by those not with the team, but they’ve done even less. The bench has done nothing.
So, we have mostly a bunch of guys who aren’t performing as expected, with Franklin and Kotchman carrying the team (with occasional help from Ichiro and Lopez). They should still get better, but I’m not sure they’ll be good enough even then. I already made my case this week for what they should do: lose Sweeney and/or the seventh reliever, find a righty left fielder/1B to play the majority of the time, shift Bradley to DH the majority of the time. That’s not likely to happen for a bit still, if at all. Getting Jack Hannahan back will help with the versatility issues, so that we can use a pinch-hitter or -runner for someone other than the catcher on nights like tonight. That’s not a difference maker, though.
On the bright side, this team is one game below .500 and 2 and a half out of first. They play the Royals next and get Cliff Lee back on Friday. Things could be worse. If they win this series, they’re back at .500 or better when Lee comes back, which is all we were hoping for at the start of the month.
Hero: Franklin, because home runs are great. Vargas was good too.
Goat: League. Holding them without a run in the 8th would have been huge. Or they might have just lost it in the 9th.