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OUR CORNER: So how about them Mariners?
By Bill Marcum
So much hype coming into this season one would have almost expected the Mariners to be undefeated in the first month of the season. But the loss of Cliff Lee, a multi-million dollar star left hander, added to a rough start. However, some of the kids have done a fabulous job of picking up in the rotation. Both Jason Vargas and Doug Fister have been pitching like seasoned veterans. Vargas was 2-1 in four games with a 3.60 earned run average and Fister was 2-1 in four games with an ERA below 2.0.
Think about that for a minute: Fister with one loss, giving up less than two runs per game. Felix Hernandez, the No. 1 starter, started 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA. Basically, he is giving up two runs a game in his five starts and has two wins, one loss and two games in which he did not get a decision.
What does all that mean? It means just what most of us baseball fans thought all through spring training and now throughout the first month of the season: the Mariners are going to struggle to score runs. The pitching staff could have the best ERA in the league and Seattle might still be a .500 ball club. The M’s team ERA was 3.37, sixth best in all of major league baseball, before Lee got his first start Friday. Yet, the team had 11 wins and 11 losses in the first month of the season.
Lee had a stellar outing Friday but wasn’t in on the decision, as Seattle’s relief corps couldn’t hold the lead.
Fister experienced much the same Sunday, scattering three hits during eight innings, departing with a 1-0 lead. Texas managed to win that one in extra innings.
That brings us to the offense, the often-seen weakness of the team during the off-season as management continued to rebuild the team. These next comparisons are based on all 30 teams in the major leagues, as of late last week. Batting average, M’s .244, 22nd in the league; home runs, nine total, LAST in the league; hits, 175, 25th in the league; runs, 82, 25th in the league. The team scored four runs or more 11 times and scored three or less 14 times.
Let’s see, the record is what? Oh, yes, 11 wins and 14 losses. And just think, three of those victories came when Seattle scored three runs or less. Again, good pitching.
I know, it’s only the first month of the season and it is a very long season. The dismal news is May has arrived and the team still appears in April form. The good news the M’s traditionally start slow and the saving grace this year is the American League West division is probably the weakest in baseball, which means the team that wins September will probably win the division.