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The exasperating duality of the 2023 Mariners
With the young guns in the rotation, the Mariners have accomplished what few teams have—they can't waste it.
I don’t pay as much attention to prospects as I used to. I’m not completely out, like I think it’s pretty cool Jonatan Clase is playing in Double-A at 20 and I’d love to see Cole Young in person in Everett before too long, but I’m not hanging on their every game and at bat like I was with Jarred in West Virginia or Julio in Modesto.
As such, I wasn’t losing my mind last week over the Mariners’ top pitching prospect getting the call from Double-A. I don’t mean that as any slight to Bryce Miller, it’s just there was a time when his call-up alone—before any results—would be one of the most exciting things to happen to the M’s in a given year. This is not that time.
Drafting and developing pitching talent is what the Seattle Mariners do. Especially the development part.
And here’s the ungodly hell it unleashes, from the last two days.
Do you know how hard it is to do what the Mariners have done? To identify, land and healthily develop the likes of Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller and George Kirby?
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This largely does not happen. And it is a skill the Mariners have proven to be repeatedly good at. It’s why, here now more than a fifth of the way through the season, they have the best pitching staff in baseball.
Entering today, the gap in fWAR between the #1 Mariners and the next-best team is the same as the gap between the second-best staff and the ninth-best.
It is a championship calibre pitching staff. And if by the grace of god the 2023 M’s won a title, this rotation would be on the first duck boat making its way through downtown on parade day.
It is an entire half of the game and the Mariners are good at it. Really damn good.
Even on the offensive side of the ball, where there have been trades and prospect attrition and a notable sophomore slump, they’ve gotten multiple foundational pieces to the Majors and contributing as everyday players—and sometimes even more than that.
It is the hardest part of the game. It’s the aspect every organization is chasing, the beating heart of the unicorn that is the “sustainable winner.”
Every organization wants to be Dodgers. But they focus on the aspect of the Dodgers’ success—drafting, development and other associated baseball ops black magic—that is easily the most difficult half of the equation.
The other half? Just throwing resources at the Major League roster until you have a great one.
I don’t want to make this another post about payroll because I’ve made my point pretty clear there—and, on top of that, there are other resources to spend on the roster, like prospect capital.
But it’s a credit to this Baseball Operations group—particularly the folks on the pitching side like Max Weiner, Pete Woodworth, Trent Blank, the late Brian DeLunas and others—to accomplish what they’ve accomplished. Of course, there’s Andy McKay setting the tone for the entire player dev operation as well.
This is so hard to do. And they’re pulling it off.
That’s why, with games like last night and the soft underbelly of this lineup, the results are exasperating.
Having a homegrown pitcher face one of the best lineups in baseball and take a perfect game into the 7th while striking out 10 is the hard part. Scoring the three runs it’d take to win should be easy.
It’s still early—but it’s not early for much longer. By the end of the week, we’ll be at the quarter-point of the season. And while everyone’s quick to compare this year’s team with last year’s team, sure, that’s fine.
But we should all want more than last year. This team could be great.
And they’ve already accomplished the hardest part.