Mariners Monthly Roundup: April “Oh My God Are We Actually in 1st Place?” Edition

He's not actually so bad after all.

Erik Bedard was stellar in April.

Record: 13-9

AL West Standings: Seattle, Texas 2 GB, LA 3 GB, Oakland 4 GB

Top Hitter: Many of the Mariners’ projected top hitters have struggled in the early going with Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre, Ken Griffey Jr and Franklin Gutierrez all hitting under .255. The catalyst for the offense in the first month was offseason acquisition Endy Chavez, known for his glove but not necessarily for his bat. Despite his Nicole Richie-eqsue physique, Chavez has been coming up big for the Mariners’, whether batting leadoff or in the number 2 hole behind Ichiro. In addition to getting on base at a good clip, Chavez has  been a threat on the basepaths stealing five bases to go along with his .305 average. A defensive whiz in leftfield, Chavez will prove an invaluable member of the M’s on both sides of the ball if he can continue to anchor the top of the lineup with Ichiro.

Top Pitcher(s): Two surprises have headlined the Mariner’s pitching staff thus far and are a big reason why the team is near the top of the majors in ERA (despite the best efforts of Carlos Silva). Even though he was roughed up in his last start Jerrod Washburn is pitching like a man on a mission after posting a 5-14 record last season. Washburn nearly matched last season’s win total in April alone, going 3-1 with 3.42 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He has been complemented nicely in the rotation by the reemergence of Erik Bedard. Bedard pitched well last season but because he spent so much time on the disabled list, he had little effect on the M’s horrific 2008 pitching numbers. He is once again looking the ace that Seattle had hoped for, and through April is sporting a 2-1 record, 2.61 ERA and has 32 Ks in only 31 innings. Felix Hernandez, the one consistent pitcher for the M’s last year, has led the staff since day one and after the first month of the season is 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA and 36 Ks. Is the Cy Young talk far off? If these three can continue to deliver quality starts the Mariners should stay in contention all season long.

Chavez has been a big reason for the M's great start.

Chavez has been a big reason for the M's great start.

Biggest Surprise: The calendar has turned to May and the Mariners are still in first place…enough said. Let’s just hope we’re saying the same thing come September.

Biggest Disappointment: Although he has been a positive influence in the clubhouse and on attendance, Ken Griffey is playing much more like the senior rather than the junior version these days. Always one for seizing the moment, Griffey started the year strong by homering in his first game and still has about as many walks as strikeouts, but otherwise has struggled mightily at the plate. If he continues to hit at his current clip, Junior will be a major liability in the Mariners’ hunt for the AL West title, leaving manager Don Wakamatsu with a very tough decision about what to do with the aging slugger.

Injuries: The pitching staff has been missing starter Ryan Rowland-Smith since Spring Training. Rowland-Smith started the year with triceps tendinitis, but is expected to resume throwing soon and could return the first week of May, taking the place of Chris Jakubauskas (much to the delight of announcers everywhere). Catcher Kenji Johjima was placed on the 15-DL due to hamstring issues and is also expected to return in early May. Chad Cordero, a free agent signing in the offseason, is slated to throw batting practice soon and could join the roster in within a week or two if his right shoulder soreness improves.

May Schedule: 3 vs. Oakland, 2 vs. Texas, 2 @ Kansas City, 3 @ Minnesota, 3 @ Texas, 3 vs. Boston, 4 vs. Los Angeles, 3 vs. San Francisco, 3 @ Oakland, 3 @ Los Angeles.

Overall Grade: (A-) The Mariners have greatly exceeded expectations thus far despite a sub-par offense and some early issues in the bullpen. If Wakamatsu can figure out an effective lineup this squad could still be playing come October.

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3 Responses

  1. Nice work sir, not sure about the rojected top hitters, but I’ll let it slide. I’m happy to see that you went with my first month grade…

  2. Contrary to their last few seasons performance, the M’s do still play in the AL West, not the NL.

    Ryan Rowland-Smith. You need to figure out what can be done to give him a new name. I bet he gets beat up a lot.

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