BY SPNW Staff 05:00PM 04/08/2012

Mariners in Texas, Where Bad Happens

3-1 Mariners had a start similar to this year’s in 2011, then went to Texas for a three-game series and never recovered.

Chone Figgins went 6-for-9 with four RBIs in Seattle's two wins over Oakland and is hitting a team-high .412 as the Mariners play four in Texas. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The FIRST-PLACE Seattle Mariners (3-1), led by MVP candidate Chone Figgins (after four games, anyway), take their moveable feast to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Monday for the start of a four-game series against Texas, winner of consecutive American League pennants and a club that dominated Seattle for two years.

The Rangers defeated the Mariners 15 times in 19 meetings in 2011, including nine of 10 games in Arlington, cumulatively outscoring Seattle, 95-53. In 2010, the Rangers beat Seattle 12 of 19, by a combined score of 101-51. In the past 38 games between the two, Texas has won 27 and outscored Seattle 196-104.

If Seattle can sustain against Texas what it started last week against Oakland, the Mariners might be able to change their negative dynamic against the Rangers. The Mariners produced 15 runs vs. the A’s on an astonishing (for them, given their feebleness of recent seasons) 26 hits in taking a pair, 7-3 and 8-7.

But Texas will throw a trio of pitchers at Seattle this week that went a combined 6-1, 2.88 ERA vs. the Mariners last year and have a combined career mark of 13-5, 3.10 against them.

The Rangers open the four-game set with Japanese import Yu Darvish, on whom the Rangers spent more money ($110 million in posting fees and contract value) to acquire last winter than Texas club president Nolan Ryan made in his own 27-year pitching career (1975-93), $25.7 million.

Darvish, making his major league debut, compiled a record of 72-28 with a 1.72 ERA in five years (2007-11) with Nippon Ham. He is a two-time Pacific League Most Valuable Player (2007, 2009), a three-time league strikeout champion (2007, 2010-11), a two-time ERA champion (2009-10) and a two-time Gold Glove winner (2007-08).

Darvish will oppose Hector Noesi, who will make his first start as a Mariner and only the third of his major league career.

Converted reliever Neftali Feliz, who opposes Blake Beavan Tuesday, has faced 14 of the 25 players on Seattle’s roster. Those 14 are a combined 0-for-28, 0.00 ERA against him. The only Mariner with any success against Feliz: Alex Liddi, who has walked twice.

The Mariners will contest Colby Lewis Wednesday. Lewis, who will be matched opposite former Ranger Kevin Millwood, went 2-1, 3.63 in four starts against Seattle last year and is 6-4, 3.70 against them in his career. Don’t expect much out of Seattle catcher Miguel Olivo here: he’s 0-for-14 with six strikeouts against Lewis. On the other hand, Ichiro (.375) and Figgins (.313) have a record of banging Lewis around.

Thursday’s Texas starter, Derek Holland, went 3-0, 2.77 in four starts against Seattle in 2011, whiffing 27 in 26 innings. Holland is 5-1, 3.17 in six career starts against the Mariners. Holland will match pitches with Jason Vargas (1-0), who defeated the A’s  Friday.

With a 3-1 start, and a .410 batting average with runners in scoring position, the Mariners have a chance at their first winning April since 2009 (13-9 last year) and just their second in the past eight seasons.

If 2012 isn’t going to be, as Sportspress Northwest columnist Art Thiel pointed out in a post last week, a 162-game battle with the Athletics for third place in the AL West, the Texas series is significant in terms of the Mariners sustaining their quality start.

At this time of year, many managers — Lou Piniella especially comes to mind — are fond of saying, particularly if their clubs stumble out of the gate,  “it’s early yet,” suggesting there is a lot of baseball still to be played, and that even a ship listing severely in April can be righted.

Sure, it happens, but not often. In fact, in their own case, the Mariners not only put the lie to this, they stand as nearly perfect examples of what happens to teams, especially in the AL West, that get off to bad starts.

Since 1994, when baseball created three divisions, 36 editions of the Mariners, Angels, Rangers and Athletics have combined for losing records in March/April.  We are not counting April of 1995, when the season did not commence until the end of that month due to the previous season’s player strike (each AL West club played only a handful of April games that year).

Of the 36 losing March/Aprils suffered by the four AL West entries, 27 resulted in losing seasons.

Since 1994, April has been the most indicative month as to how the Mariners are going to perform throughout the season. Consider:

  • 7: The number of times (again, since 1994) that the Mariners have posted a winning record in March/April.
  • 7: The number of times that the Mariners finished with a winning record after having a winning March/April.
  • 8: The number of times the Mariners had a losing March/April.
  • 0: The number of times the Mariners recovered to post a winning record after a losing March/April.

In the AL West, the Athletics and Angels have each had four losing March/Aprils, but rebounded to end the season above .500. Oakland had the most remarkable turnaround, going 8-17 in March/April of 2001, but finishing with 102 victories compared to Seattle’s record 116.

The following are the only AL West clubs that started out losing in March/April, and then finished with a winning seasonal record. Note that of the nine teams that recovered to end on a positive note, only three wound up in the postseason, and only two got past the American League Division Series.

Year Team April Season Postseason
1999 Angels 10-14 87-75 Failed to make playoffs
2000 Athletics 12-13 91-70 Failed to make playoffs
2001 Angels 11-13 99-63 99 wins, but no playoffs
2001 Athletics 8-17 102-60 Lost to NYY in ALDS
2004 Athletics 11-12 91-71 Failed to make playoffs
2006 Angels 12-13 89-73 Failed to make playoffs
2009 Angels 9-12 97-65 Lost ALCS to NYY 4-2
2009 Rangers 10-11 87-75 Failed to make playoffs
2010 Rangers 11-12 90-72 Lost World Series to SF

A little recent history upon which to chew: The 2011 Mariners, like the 2012 edition, started the season on a positive note, taking two of three from the Athletics in Oakland. The Mariners then went to Texas for a three-game series and lost all by a combined margin of 16-7.

That launched a seven-game losing streak, which turned into a 13-15 April, which precipitated a 67-95 record, and the club’s sixth last-place finish in eight years.


YourThoughts

  • RadioGuy

    LA loses 4-0 and Becks blames the refs?  Oh, and the flight was bumpy, the mint on the hotel pillow wasn’t up to par and they didn’t use Evian in the sideline water bottles…nothing to do with performance on the pitch.

    Good performance from the Sounders in a well-deserved win, even if it came against a team that might as well have been playing a PDL match with the Washington Crossfire.

    • jimc

      Hmmm was Donovan still on loan?

    • Artthiel

       Becks has a Closing Ceremony to worry about. This time he’s driving a bus with the MLS under it.

  • Artthiel

     It was unpleasantly loud for the visitors, but they come from a town that does neither futbol nor football.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Kwick/100000069066211 Bob Kwick

    Excellent column.  

    The players will be energized playing with a guy like Wilson.  

    It will be so fun watching the Seahawks with a guy like Russell Wilson playing quarterback.  

    .

  • effzee

    ” The Seahawks have built a team where defense is first, the running game second and passing is third.” And this is why I already love watching PC’s team 1000x more than I enjoyed watching any of Holmgren’s teams. At least now I know that we probably aren’t going to go 3-and-out with a 6 point lead and then drop into a prevent D to give up an 80 yard touchdown drive in the last minute of the game. That kind of football is one of the most maddening things I can imagine watching, right up there with watching NBA refs fix playoff games against the Sonics for years on end.

    Regarding Flynn vs. Wilson, I think they came into this knowing that TJack was not going to be on the team come opening week. He’s still around in case of injury to Flynn or Wilson. I believe they signed Flynn and drafted Wilson to be the top two QBs on this team for a few years to come. I’m convinced that they actually want Wilson to be the main QB of the future, but there was no way to guarantee he would actually be available to them whenever they decided to draft him, so they had to sign Flynn with the intent of making him the starter. I think the plan is probably to still have Flynn start until Wilson takes the decision out of their hands with his play. He’s getting the start this week so they can get more “information” on him, and so if Flynn were to go down with an injury, Wilson would already have “game” experience with the #1 offense.