Thiel: Mariners' Hot Streak Not A Flash In The Pan
The Mariners remain in first place in the American League West as they host the Angels this weekend at Safeco Field.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says a lot of factors have come together this season to give even the most skeptical fans some hope.Best Start In 13 Years
The Mariners are off to their best start since 2003. Thiel said no one could've predicted it, except perhaps new general manager Jerry Dipoto.
"There are so many new people in so many new positions and a number of them are coming off of down years that you couldn't tell if a bounce back was going to be universal," he said.
"That's especially true for the bullpen. Building a bullpen is one of the great mysteries.
"We've seen it here in Seattle very succinctly. In 2014, the Mariners had a great bullpen and almost made the playoffs. Last year, it was terrible and they were one of the worst teams in baseball. There's not a one-to-one correlation but it is a real factor in success.
"On top of that, there are five relief pitchers they were counting on in spring training who are on the disabled list. So, they're calling guys up from Triple-A Tacoma to fill spots and they're doing it very well. How long that lasts is anybody's guess," he said.
Talent Upgrade A Big Factor
"The number-one factor is talent. And Dipoto has upgraded the talent," Thiel continued.
"They have improved talent at catcher. They've got Ketel Marte at shortstop, who's on an uptick even from last year's quality start. They've got three new outfielders that are most helpful and two new starters. So, there's a lot of upgraded talent and that's primary."
Be In The Moment
"Then there's the psychological and emotional side of it," Thiel said.
"It seems that this team is very open to the suggestions given by Scott Servais and the coaches about additional data. More information to make each at-bat or each pitch thrown more accurate and more effective.
"That's basically the psychological side of baseball that we see [Seahawks coach] Pete Carroll deploying in football.
"Carroll's a big believer in communication among players, breaking down the barriers, and giving them information that will help them - and help them concentrate on the very next play. Not thinking about anything else but in the moment and doing well in it."
Can Fans Have Hope?
Thiel said there is a different air about the team this year. But it may take more wins to win over long-suffering fans who have been waiting 14 years to see their team in the postseason — the longest playoff drought in Major League Baseball.
"The skepticism in this fan base is deeply baked in and they're entitled to every bit of it," Thiel noted. "So, I'm not saying that people should go crazy about this. Do as you feel. But this team is enjoyable.
"It's a team that can produce runs — unlike last year. And it also is a team that can protect a lead. It was so frustrating for fans last year to watch runners on base never coming home because they couldn't come up with a clutch hit. That doesn't seem to be the case at all [this year].
"They're getting delivery on all points - one through nine in the lineup as well as off the bench.
"I think Dae-ho Lee, the slugger from South Korea, is going to become a cult hero if he keeps this up. This has been a lot of fun to watch him and, really, the whole team because everybody is producing, more or less, on at least a Major League-average level.
"So, if you want to ratchet down the skepticism and have a little fun at the ballpark, I think you can give yourself permission with this team."