Starting pitching: A-
Graded: Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Erik Bedard, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Blake Beavan.
The starters have made the Mariners relevant this year. Until Erik Bedard came up with a strained knee a few weeks ago, they had not missed a start this season. They lead the American League in ERA (3.14), opponent batting average (.228), strikeouts (503), innings pitched (607), complete games (nine), opponent on-base percentage plus slugging (.630) and quality starts (60), meaning 6-plus innings, three earned runs or fewer. Yet they are 30-35.
Why? Because they receive the lowest run support in the American League at 3.34 runs per game. The starters have done their jobs and then some. They just don’t have much to show for it.Bullpen: A-
The season started with David Aardsma and Shawn Kelley on the disabled list; the closer had little closing experience; they had two rookies, a lefty who isn’t a specialist against left-handed hitters and a few retreads. And yet, this motley crew has been one of the best. League is second in the AL with 23 saves, and more importantly he survived a rough stretch and came back just as strong. Pauley, a converted starter, has been one of the best setup men, posting a 1.91 ERA in 34 appearances. Wright was outstanding early, but has struggled. Ray has started to regain his form and shown himself to be a valuable late-innings presence.Infield: B
Ackley’s emergence, Kennedy’s rejuvenation, Smoak’s improvement and Ryan’s defense at shortstop raise this grade significantly. Figgins ($9 million salary) has been the biggest disappointment (lost starting job and confidence while hitting .183). Wilson ($5 million) rarely gets to play. Yet Ackley makes everything better — his presence at the plate, solid defense at second base and his underrated baserunning. Smoak carried the team for about a month, but slowed down when he was moved to cleanup spot. He’s still the team’s best power threat. Ryan has been outstanding in the field and as a leader, plus he has the second most hits on the team.Catching: C-
This grade belongs mostly to Olivo (Gimenez started 13 games before going on DL, Bard has caught seven games). Olivo (69 of the 91 games) has shown a little bit of power (12 homers), lots of strikeouts (77), solid leadership and hustle, and some shakiness behind the plate. He’s not great defensively but has thrown out 15 of 50 runners trying to steal. His inattentiveness toward blocking balls — trying to backhand them versus moving his feet and blocking with his body — needs improvement and leaves the pitchers credited with wild pitches. Will Olivo wilt in the second half from playing so many games? It happened last season with Colorado.Outfield: C-
This grade might be a little generous, particularly if you remove Ichiro’s production – which is not exactly overwhelming – from the group. Gutierrez came back after missing most of spring training and the first 41 games with irritable bowel syndrome and was predictably rusty. The left field spot has been a revolving door of strikeouts, occasional homers and inconsistency. Peguero has shown glimpses of power, but he has 52 strikeouts in 141 at-bats. Halman has shown solid defensive skills and some potential offensively. Carp hit a little, but not enough to keep him there. Saunders won’t likely be back until September, if at all.Manager: B+
He preached a no-nonsense style before he managed a game for Seattle, then followed through. We saw it with how he handled Jack Wilson asking out of a game early in the season. He’s benched players for lack of production and held everyone accountable. The offense is a joke, ranking last in almost every category, yet the Mariners have still managed to be competitive.
Of course, he hasn’t been perfect. Three-ball walks? Sort of ridiculous. And his insistence on playing Carlos Peguero? Confusing. But Wedge has shown that he’s not willing to watch struggling veterans give him little, if any, production and will gladly play a younger player instead.