Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
April 5, 2008 9:34 AM
Posted by Geoff Baker
Not to repeat myself, but it has been only four games since the regular season began. No, a 2-2 start is probably not what the Mariners envisioned, starting the regular season at home against Texas and then playing one game in Baltimore against one of that team's weaker starters in Steve Trachsel. But a lot of funny things have happened around the game the first four or five days. I'm not making excuses. Just telling it like it is. Ask the Detroit Tigers if they thought they'd be 0-4 to start the year, especially getting to feast off the Kansas City Royals at home the first few days. So, what do you think? Are the Tigers out of it already? Hmm, I would not make that bet.
I know, I know. The offense hasn't looked very good and the bullpen is a little shaky. Tell you what, if the same thing is happening a couple of weeks from now, it will be time to worry a bit. In the meantime, the Los Angeles Angels are not exactly running away with the AL West. The Mariners could even be in first place by the end of tonight. Their goal coming in here had to be to at least split, if not flat out win this series by taking three of four. Win tonight's game and there's a strong chance that will happen with Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez going after that. The advantage of a staff with dual aces. The Angels don't have that right now, started replacement arm Dustin Moseley last night and got torched by Ben Broussard and the Texas Rangers. It's a long season folks. Strap yourselves in.
In the meantime, here's something to cheer you up. This is one of the funniest Mariners-related videos I've seen in a long time, submitted by Charles Armstrong, one of our regular readers. If you can't laugh at this, you seriously need to seek treatment. Especially after the winter we all endured arguing with one another back and forth. Enjoy it. Something for everyone.
If not, we can still talk about panic areas.
What is hurting the Mariners right now? As I said, it's still very early, but the team is clearly not getting the offensive production it needs from Raul Ibanez, Richie Sexson, Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro. It's that simple. When your No. 9 hitter is the most productive guy on the team, the offense is going to struggle. I blame a lot of last night's defeat of Cha Seung Baek for not getting the job done. Jarrod Washburn takes some of the heat for only going five innings at a time his team needs more. His lack of a true out-pitch cost him last night. But again, Washburn left with the score at only 3-2. A productive offense and decent bullpen should have allowed Seattle to come out on top, playing against what should be one of the worst teams in the American League.
Ibanez is 3-for-15 and hitting .200 with four total bases. Sexson is 3-for-14 and hitting .214 with seven total bases, four of those bases courtesy of his ninth-inning homer last night. Wilkerson is 1-for-12 and hitting .083 with one total base. Vidro is 2-for-15 and hitting .133 with five total bases.
Now, again, it's very early. A few hits tonight and Sexson will be at .300 for the year. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to forecast anything based off these numbers. I'm just going to state a fact, so listen up. When a team's first baseman, left fielder, right fielder and designated hitter put up numbers like those, over any sample size of a couple of games or more, chances are the team will not get the results it wants. I suspect the Mariners wanted to be 3-1 after their first four games, not 2-2. Is it the end of the world? No, it is not. But the fact is, the four spots I just mentioned -- all power-hitting postions for most clubs -- need to produce more. And the thing is, they could all be hitting .300 with far more total bases by the time this series ends. But they cannot continue at this pace, obviously, for any prolonged stretch as a group without the consequences being serious.
Some of you have your opinions as to who will continue and who won't. I am not going to base any opinions off of what I've seen so far because it's too early. Have I mentioned that yet? But clearly, if we're going to look for reasons why the offense has sputtered at times, those four spots are the best place to start.
Want the good news? There are still six AL teams with equal or worse total bases numbers than Seattle has. Among them, the Tigers, Blue Jays and Yankees -- all expected to be playoff contenders this season. In other words, measuring a team's slugging ability at this stage is pointless. The Tigers have one of the most feared lineups, on paper at least, that we've seen in years.
ESPN and Fox Sports have tried to do some early-season power-rankings and are all over the map with them. Why? Because as I've said, it's tough to spot any real trends taking shape after four or five games. In Fox's case, after no games.
So, my best advice? Sit back, relax, try to enjoy the games and leave the chronic worrying for a couple of weeks down the road. Nothing has been sorted out yet. Again, I'm not making excuses for the underperformance of certain guys. But trust me, it's too early to get worked up about any of it, regardless of what Sexson, Vidro, Wilkerson and others did a year ago. Let's at least wait until this series ends, and see if we can spot any trends taking shape.
For now, try to enjoy the video.