Mariners Still In Wild Card Playoff Hunt Despite Injuries, Other Problems
The Mariners play the Yankees in New York this weekend. It’s the most important series of the season, according to KNKX sports commentator Art Thiel.
Mariners May Break Record For Most Pitchers Used
"It has been unbelievable to see the churn on the roster - all based on injuries," Thiel said.
"I've never seen anything like it with the Mariners. And they are approaching baseball history. Right now, they've used 35 pitchers this season, which is an ongoing club record. The max was 32 previously."
"The Major League record is 38. And, with the annual September call-ups, they'll probably break that record and they'll have the most players used in Major League Baseball history."
"Then, on top of that, they've got injuries to all the position players. It's just really astonishing."
"(General manager) Jerry Dipoto said in May he'd never seen anything like this. Now, here we are: June, July and August and they're still falling and they're still in contention."
Lack Of Quality Minor Leaguers
Thiel noted that another problem is supply.
"The biggest issue there is the absence of quality prospects in the farm system," he said.
"Typically what franchises do when they run into personnel crises like this is that they trade prospects for veteran players who are immediately serviceable. But the Mariners don't have very many prospects."
"And the reason is they simply blew it over the years under Bill Bavasi and Jack Zduriencik, the GM predecessors to Jerry Dipoto. (They) failed in first- and second-round draft picks so egregiously that there's nobody left to trade."
"And those are the problems that beset this current Mariner team because they can't get a big name pitcher."
"And nearly all of the players in the minor leagues that they do have now aren't quite Major League ready. They call it in baseball 4A. You're a better player than Triple-A but you're not good enough to be a solid, substantial Major League contributor."
"That's what we see on the pitching mound. I've often said that starting pitching in baseball is like the offensive line in football. If you don't get that right, all the rest of the team struggles to try to make up for the deficiencies."
"And that's what's happened with the Mariners. They can't move forward without taking a step back."
Yet They're Still In The Race
As the Mariners continue to chase a second Wild Card playoff spot, Thiel said there's one unanswered question.
"It's really hard to say until James Paxton gets back."
"I do think - and I've said this all year - that their 1-9 lineup is as good as the Mariners have had since the early 2000s when they were winning 90 games a year."
"I do think that lineup is sufficient to get them into the playoffs. The question becomes: Is Paxton a contributor? Is Felix Hernandez a contributor in September?"
"The amazing thing is that the Mariners, since the All-Star break, have played 12 series and they've won nine of them and split one and lost two. That's a remarkable string of successes, given how many short-timers and 4A players and journeymen have been populating the lineups and the pitching rotation."
"It may not be a thrilling thing to say but do appreciate they job these guys have done to get there. They do have talent and they do have the ability to keep this team going despite this cavalcade of injuries."
"So, enjoy while it lasts. And if it gets past Labor Day, this is going to be a party town for baseball."