The Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez is a legitimate first starter.  Doug Fister is a second starter type, who is third in the rotation because Jason Vargas is in between. Coming into this year, Seattle had also “imported” two first-starter types in Cliff Lee and Ian Snell.

With that kind of a rotation, Seattle ought to have had a shot at the postseason. No such luck, which is why Lee was re-traded to the Texas Rangers early in July.

Because of injuries, Lee didn’t start until May 5.  Meaning that his “season” (to the time of trade) was a third over by the time he got started. And this was after Seattle had lost crucial games in April and early May to division rivals Oakland A’s and the Texas Rangers.

Ian Snell WAS a first starter. And only for the Pittsburgh Pirates. As far back as 2007. This year, he had a good six-inning, one run first start, and then went downhill from there.

After that, he never pitched more than 5.1 innings, and either gave up three or more runs, or pitched too few innings to count (sometimes in relief), or both. This led to an 0-5 record in decisions, and a record of 1-9 in games started by him. Small wonder Seattle demoted him to AAA, as did Pittsburgh last year.

Between Lee’s absence in the first month, and Snell’s dismissal after mid-June, the Mariners have had to fill the gap with Ryan Rowland-Smith. Given his 1-10 record in decisions, (4-18 counting no decisions), that was the other closest thing to having a sure loser every fifth day. That is, until they pulled Luke French out of the bullpen to (better) fill his shoes.

The other three starters haven’t done so well, either, but that’s for reasons not relating to pitching. In a word, it’s mostly not their fault.

Vargas has the best record, in large part because he’s had halfway decent run support, at least in two-run starts. His 9-5 record is the only one for the Mariners that is what you might expect, given his 3.15 ERA.

Of Hernandez’s nine losses, three were poor starts that he deserved to lose; three were six inning, three-run efforts that should have given the team a 50-50 shot at victory (instead of being losses); and three were long-inning, two run efforts that he should have won, but lost, because the Mariners didn’t score enough runs.That’s why he’s only 8-9.

Despite his having the worst ERA of remaining “Big Three,” Fister hasn’t won a game in which he gave up more than one run, because of inadequate run support. Small wonder he is 4-8.

So Seattle’s real troubles are exemplified by the other former Pirate, shortstop Jack Wilson.

Wilson was a light hitter that even Pittsburgh was willing to give up last year—for the chance at another “draw.” But Wilson’s offense and defense has declined from 2009, meaning that the Pirates did not lose anything by accepting the more durable arbitration-year Ronny Cedeno in trade for him, and saved a bit a salary.

Jeff Clements, whom they also received, represented a ”free roll,” although a busted one, for them.

Even so, Wilson, with his slash line of .249/.282/.316, is now a middling hitter on the Mariners. That, unfortunately says something about the rest of the lineup.

Apart from Ichiro Suzuki, batters Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Lopez, and Chone Figgins are all shadows of their former selves. Like Wilson, they are hovering around the .250 range in batting average, and the .237 team average is dead last in the majors. Nor are they doing better by other metrics.

The Seattle Mariners are now 30th in most offensive categories, and overall. In so doing, they have taken this dubious distinction away—from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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