OK so we are a little past the midseason point, but let’s take a look at the Seattle Mariners midseason grades. Seattle is off to an impressive 51-37 start to the 2019 season – best since GM Damon Macioce took over the reins in 2016. They have maintained a wild card position all year, but have not been able to surpass the Angels for the division lead. The biggest hurdle this past March was how the team would respond to new Manager Jeff Banister and Pitching Coach Nelson Cruz. Banister was hired to fill the void of Tim Foli who unexpectedly retired this past off season, but his resume was promising leading the Texas Rangers to three-straight 90+ win seasons. Nelson Cruz was promoted from AA Jackson after the impressive results in his two seasons there. Also his focus on ground ball pitching fell in line with the previous regime approach. Overall the team has performed well, but there is room for improvement in some facets.
Felix Hernandez has been Seattle’s marquee starter for several seasons now, and 2019 has not been different. He has two complete games, 4.03 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 113 K’s and a 10-6 record. Hernandez is not only the Mariner ace, he is the staff leader as well. Danny Hultzen has been a solid #2 posting a 5-1 record, 4.13 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. He has left a couple games early due to injury, but in both cases it was minor and was still able to make his next start. Taijuan Walker started the season as the #2a starter, but his recurring back spasms forced him out of the rotation for 9 weeks. He recently was activated from the IL, and will make his first start in over two months. He replaced Lewis Thorpe who started the season as the #5 starter, but was ineffective in his rookie season with a 7.00 ERA and a 1-7 record. Thorpe has been demoted to AAA Tacoma to work on his command, but will probably be back before the season is over. Adys Portillo has been solid most of the season, but has had a few rough starts recently. This has inflated his ERA to 5.00. His 40 BBs have been the biggest problem, but Cruz sees potential that his command issue is fixable and should be better as he continues to develop. Grayson Garvin stepped into the rotation after Walker went down. He started the last two months last season, and performed well, but lost the #5 spot to Thorpe in spring training. Garvin has posted a 4.31 ERA, but his 1-3 record and 1.69 WHIP are concerning. He may lose that spot to Thorpe later in the season if he doesn’t right the ship. GRADE: B-
Closer Jacob Lindgren has had a very successful season so far with 22 saves, a 5-1 record, 3.70 ERA and a very impressive 0.97 WHIP. He has played a major role in Seattle’s 51 wins so far. Many of the other Seattle relivers have taken a step back from expectations though. Dominic Leone and Kevin Quackenbush have posted decent numbers with 10 and 13 holds respectively, but both have had games giving up multiple runs in relief. Danny Farquhar – the former Seattle closer – has a 5-5 record and 3 blown saves. The once dominant closer has fallen into the 6th/7th inning setup reliever behind Quackenbush and Leone. Felipe Rivero has been a surprise in his rookie season posting a 3.79 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. GRADE: B
When the Mariners traded Mike Zunino in the offseason, that lead the way for Tyronne Ibarra to be the Mariner every-day catcher. Ibarra has not disappointed so far with a .294 average, 17 HR, 52 RBIs and a 2.9 WAR. He has been spelled on occasion by Rule 5 draft choice Jose Colina who started off the season strong only to see his average dip to .238 recently. Ryan Zimmerman was claimed off waivers last season, and signed a new contract this offseason to be the Seattle 1B for the foreseeable future. He has been steady in his production with a .269 average, 15 HR, 48 RBIs and an .823 OPS. Second baseman Chris Taylor has had an up and down season, but has posted moderate numbers with a .258 average and 11 stolen bases. Team captain Brad Miller has had a similar season to Taylor, starting the season on a tear with a .300+ average, but has seen that dip to .255. This kind of performance may force the Mariners to consider dealing him in the offseason because he will command a salary that may be out of their price range. His impact on his teammates and fanbase may force Seattle’s hand though. The team MVP at the season’s midpoint has to be Ryan McMahon. He has 24 HR, 54 RBIs, .941 OPS and 3.8 WAR. Banister – a former hitting coach – feels McMahon still has yet to reach his potential which is scary. GRADE: A-
Christian Yelich missed the first three weeks of the season Plantar Fasciitis, but has been on a tear since returning. He is posting career-best numbers so far with a .335 average and 39 RBIs in 72 games. His HRs are down with only 4 so far this season, but that may just mean he’s due for a whole lot in the second half. Right fielder Alex Jackson started the season off near the top in HR and RBIs, but a rough few weeks has tempered expectations dropping his average to .243. Even so he has 19 HR and 60 RBIs on the season, and is another who may not have reached his true capabilities. In mid-April Seattle dealt top prospect Joey Gatto to the Washington Nationals for Terrell Joyce. The hope was to cement the Mariner outfield for years to come with Joyce-Yelich-Jackson. Joyce has been decent so far, but may need to adjust to his new surroundings more to produce at the level Seattle is hoping for. Andres De Aza has been a wonderful surprise to management. Since being recalled early in the season to replace and ineffective Travis Jankowski, all De Aza has done is hit .306, 10 HR, 28 RBIs and has an 0.990 OPS in 29 games. He has been a mainstay in the DH spot spelling Jackson and Joyce at times in LF and RF. GRADE: A
Overall fans and management have a lot to be happy about, and look for the team to make a push to secure a playoff berth, an AL West Title and maybe even more this season.