It’s been an electrifying month in Seattle. The Mariners are riding high after reaching the All-Star break with an impressive 14-game winning streak. At the same time, the youthful exuberance and immense talent of budding superstar Julio Rodríguez charmed a national audience at the Home Run derby. Still, we shouldn’t be lulled into believing this team has accomplished anything substantive this year.
Yes, we should absolutely cherish the delightful play of a club that’s 14-1 this month – easily the best record in MLB. But let’s face it. The Mariners aren’t going to maintain a .933 winning percentage over the final 69 games of the regular season.
Reasonable minds recognize the Mariners aren’t as good as their July record, nor was the team as bad as its 10-win May. If we momentarily remove these two months from the equation, Seattle is 27-23 – good enough for a .540 winning percentage. Over the span of a 162-game season, that equates to an 88-74 record. Nice, but maybe not good enough to earn a postseason bid.
Certainly, too close for comfort.
If we use the Pythagorean Winning Percentage to estimate what the Mariners’ record should be right now, the results are strikingly similar. Baseball Reference projects Seattle at 51-42, which happens to be the team’s actual record. This extrapolates to a .548 winning percentage and 89 wins over a full season.
Let than sink in for a moment. The Mariners have been tremendous lately, yet the club remains on pace to end this season with a record resembling last year’s. A 90-72 record that left Seattle on the outside looking in.
To me, there are three actions the Mariners could take between now and the August 2 MLB trade deadline to turbocharge the roster for a postseason run. Successfully, achieving any of these tasks will challenging. Some could hurt from a financial and/or prospect equity perspective. But organizations truly committed to winning are bold at the deadline.
Acquire an established starter
As we noted recently, rookie George Kirby will likely be innings-constrained for the remainder of the season. Making matters more difficult for the organization, it doesn’t possess the depth to soften the blow of a potential Kirby absence or unexpectedly losing any of its big-league starters.
Consider for a moment the importance of the Mariners’ starting five to their recent success. They’ve thrown 516.1 innings this season – third most of any rotation behind the Padres (531.2) and Astros (522.2). Over Seattle’s last 45 games, the starting staff has the second lowest ERA (3.03) trailing only the Giants (2.84). The Mariners aren’t nine games over .500 without these contributions.
Acquiring a proven starting pitching is never easy, particularly during the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. That said, Seattle’s playoff aspirations could fade over the final months of the season unless it finds rotation help. Earlier this week, we identified several trade targets capable of helping, although it’s worth noting there are certainly other names to consider.
Upgrade the lineup
Getting both Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis back from the IL will have a massive, positive impact on the Mariners’ offense and postseason chances. Their return from extended absences will be tantamount to adding two new players via trade. That said, beefing up the lineup should still be on the agenda. Second base is a position in need of better production.
Yes, Adam Frazier has been hitting better recently. Perhaps he goes on a tear for the rest of the season. After all, Frazier does have a .314 AVG and 111 wRC+ (100 is league-average) this month. Pretty good for a hitter not known for having a power stroke. Then again, the 30-year-old could regress to the .248 AVG and 81 wRC+ he’s produced over the last 365 days with three teams.
Which of those two outcomes are you betting on?
To be clear, I want Frazier to succeed. But the Mariners should be looking to upgrade the lineup somewhere. If it’s not second base, where? The bench is a possibility. But adding to a roster around its edges isn’t the benchmark of a team wanting to seize the moment it created over the last month.
On the other hand, the Mariners could acquire Juan Soto, who’s reportedly been made available by the Nationals and certain to be the hottest commodity on the trade market this summer. The 23-year-old is already being compared to all-time great Ted Williams and under club control through the 2025 campaign. Perhaps President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto can wrest away to the two-time Silver Slugger from Washington.
Or the Mariners could simply upgrade at second base.
Add at least one more bullpen arm
To some of you, it may seem counterintuitive to suggest improving a unit that’s been stellar lately. But we’ve already seen this season how reliever health can quickly alter the outlook of the bullpen. Losing Casey Sadler prior to the season and injuries to Erik Swanson and Ken Giles caused further upheaval within Seattle’s relief corps. What if someone else goes down or their performance begins suffering from fatigue?
The Mariners have four pitchers with at least 35 appearances this season: Diego Castillo, Andrés Muñoz, Penn Murfee, and Paul Sewald. Only the Orioles have more (5). In fact, Seattle’s quartet has covered nearly half (47%) of the bullpen’s innings this season. Still, one of these relievers is already in uncharted waters from a workload perspective.
Muñoz is currently sitting at 37 innings, which already exceeds his previous career-high (35.2) set in 2019 prior to his Tommy John surgery. Considering that the Mariners place a strong emphasis on safeguarding the health of their pitchers, could the 23-year-old be approaching a club-established limit?
Even if the Mariners do add another starter, manager Scott Servais may need to rely on his bullpen more often between now and the end of the season. To date, the rotation has accounted for 62.5% of the staff’s total innings. That’s the fourth highest workload rate in the majors. Can the current bullpen successfully absorb more of the load?
In late June, we discussed potential trade candidates for the bullpen. Whether it’s one of the nine relievers we reviewed or someone else, adding more quality and depth makes too much sense. Naturally, every other contender in the league is striving to do the same thing.
You are what your record says
Perhaps some of you think I’m overreacting, dumb, or both. The Mariners are nine games over .500 and in the midst of a 14-game winning streak. Things are going swimmingly. True, but consider for a moment Seattle’s record and statistical success against teams with winning and losing records. There’s a significant and somewhat concerning disparity.
|WP >= .500|
|WP < .500|
Intuitively, we’d expect a team to have a better record against lesser competition. It also makes perfect sense to have better stats against sub-.500 clubs. Still, it’s the third week of July and the Mariners continue to have a losing record against winners. Who do you think they’ll be playing in the postseason?
Not the A’s, Angels, or Rangers.
And that’s an important distinction to make. It’s plausible the Mariners’ playoff chances benefit from having 40-plus games remaining against clubs with a losing record. But simply reaching the postseason to end a decades-long drought shouldn’t be where the bar is set for this team. Winning playoff series should always be the expectation of the team and its fan base.
Realistically, the next two weeks may ultimately determine whether the current exhilaration overtaking the Pacific Northwest leads to joyous life-long memories or the all-too-familiar disappointment Seattle fans have endured since the end of the 2001 ALCS. Add the necessary weapons, reach the postseason, do good things in October.
It’s time for the Mariners to seize the moment.
My Oh My…
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