Mailbag: Ten games remain, it's go time!
I answer your questions on the final 10 games of the season in this special Friday mailbag!
152 games down, 10 to go. One of the most special things about this sport we all love so much is that it literally can take all 162 games to figure out who deserves to play in October.
More often than not in the last 20 seasons the Seattle Mariners have ended up on the wrong side of the coin. They have fallen completely flat like in 2018, or just ran out of steam like in 2021. We have experienced the heartbreak of 2016, but also the elation of 2022.
Being a Seattle Mariners fan over the last 20-plus seasons has been a trying experience, but in a lot of ways, it parallels a 162-game season. We spend so much time freaking out about early-season struggles and the turbulence a 162-game season is bound to provide but sometimes forget the patience required to see things through.
This Mariners team has been an especially frustrating, but very fun team. They have dragged us along on another chaotically lovable season, and now find themselves in the midst of a very tightly contested playoff chase.
For many fans, this 10-game stretch could induce the bad feelings those old Mariners teams gave us, but these guys aren’t the “same old Mariners” any longer.
They have a legitimate MVP candidate and a 22-year-old superstar leading the charge, backed up by a Silver Slugger candidate at the shortstop position that also happens to be the captain and the engine of the team. Pair that with the league’s best young pitching staff led by a three-headed monster of right-handed dominance and you have a ballclub that can make some noise in October.
Enough of me talking, let’s get to your questions.
How are you feeling about George Kirby's next two starts? Although this last start against the A's was better than his last three, it still wasn't great. Not striking guys out much and seems like he's still very frustrated. - MarinersJerseys on X
Thank you for your question Jerseys. To be completely honest I am not very worried about George Kirby. There are plenty of other things on this roster that do give me some worry, but Kirby is pretty far down the list.
In terms of importance, he is one of their most important players. George is a psycho on the mound, something I wrote about recently following his comments in the Tampa Bay series.
Kirby is a tireless worker and a fearsome competitor, so his emotions are going to be shown on the mound more often or not. Being in the clubhouse with George as well as press conferences, it is much easier to see his intensity and commitment to his craft.
I really thought George looked much more like himself in both of his last two starts, it really just comes down to some absurd luck making his line look a lot worse than it actually was.
In his start against Los Angeles Miguel Rojas hit a truly unbelievable blast that was at least 18 inches above the top of the zone. The bomb to left field was just his fifth home run of the season.
In his last start against Oakland, Kirby gave up a two-run bomb to Brent Rooker in the seventh inning. The pitch Rooker hit out was a four-seam fastball right above the top rail of the zone, another truly incredible piece of hitting.
Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the hitter. While there are certain things he can improve on (getting more swings and misses), I have no doubt that George can make those adjustments.
We all probably have a heightened sense of awareness of Kirby’s performance after the Tampa comments, but he has consistently shown up in the big moments. I expect to see more of that down the stretch.
Which part of this team are you the most worried about down the stretch? - Casey
Thank you Casey. To be honest I don’t worry much about this team, and I have tried to stay positive on them for most of the year. The offense always has the potential to go dormant, the rotation could finally get stretched too thin, but if I had to choose a unit that worries me it is the bullpen.
I understand that the Mariners bullpen looks really good on paper for the third year in a row, but this feels like the worst unit they have had in the past three seasons by far.
They have two pitchers at the back end that can be true relief aces, some of the best arms in baseball. The issue is, that both players have been inconsistent and unreliable with their command most of the season.
Justin Topa and Gabe Speier have been very good all year, but neither is truly suited for a high-leverage role. Tayler Saucedo and Isaiah Campbell have been good, but seem to get lost in the shuffle all too often. Trent Thornton has been very good at times, but they haven’t overexposed him. Dominic Leone and Eduard Bazardo are wild cards, and likely shouldn’t be used in big games.
I haven’t agreed with much of what Seattle has done with the bullpen all season long. I think they have neglected many opportunities to raise the ceiling of this bullpen by adding Prelander Berroa, Riley O’Brien, and others to the active roster. They have instead opted to keep veteran depth and some players that I don’t think maximize the capabilities of this roster.
With that being said, I think this bullpen can still be a really good unit that can take this team deep into the playoffs. Andrés Muñoz and Matt Brash have been throwing the baseball as well as they have all season.
Justin Topa and Gabe Speier have gotten some much-needed rest, and have been throwing the ball well lately. I am looking for Bryce Miller and Logan Gilbert to both get through six innings to set up these 10 games well from a bullpen standpoint, but ultimately they will go as far as Brash and Muñoz can take them.
Who is the most important player down the stretch? - Brian
Thank you for your question! To me there is really no contest here, it is Julio Rodríguez. The 22-year-old superstar entered the phone booth during the All-Star break and come out with his Superman cape on in the second half.
Rodríguez has a 177 wRC+ in the second half and has put himself in a position to be in the top 3 of MVP voting at season’s end. He is the undeniable offensive leader of this team along with J.P. Crawford, and Seattle needs him to play well if they want to make it to October.
It isn’t fair to put that much on a 22-year-old kid, but Julio has to be a driving force down the stretch if the Mariners want to make a deep run. We are still awaiting news on his pinky, but I have a feeling he will be in the lineup no matter what the X-Rays reveal.
Is anyone else freaking out? The next 10 days will be nerve-racking. #SeaUsRise - On Edge Sports Cards
The next 10 days are absolutely supposed to get your heart rate up, get some adrenaline going, and give you butterflies in your stomach. This is essentially postseason baseball, which can have you on the edge of your seat for every pitch.
I would encourage each and every one of you to be appreciative of these last 10 games and just enjoy what we are watching. This is a super fun team that is headed in the right direction for years to come, and it is going to be so much fun watching them fight over the next two weeks.
Enjoy it ladies and gentlemen, and hold on tight. GOMS.
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