Casey at the Bat | Mariners Lead Seattle Ship Out Of Troubled Seas

Casey McLain@caseymclain34Senior Analyst IApril 26, 2009

SEATTLE - APRIL 16:  Manager Don Wakamatsu of the Seattle Mariners looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on April 16, 2009 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Three-and-a-half games—this is the Mariners lead on the AL West.

This is great news for Seattle sports fans who are on the verge of seeing any hope for an NBA return to Seattle dashed.

Had anyone definitively said that the Mariners would lead the AL West near the end of April, fresh off a series victory of the defending AL West champs in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, they’d have been laughed at.

A few weeks ago I made some parallels between the 2001 season and this season, somewhat half heartedly, as such a comparison is by definition hyperbole.

However, one of the major reasons the Mariners, and many other teams, have had success was not because they won every game or did incredibly well during stretches of games, but because they won series.

The Mariners have won four of the six series they’ve played thus far, including two against the Angels, a sweep over the Oakland Athletics, and a tie in a four-game series against the Twins.

The Mariners also beat the 2008 AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays.

This season, however, hasn’t been a result of smoke and mirrors as 2001 seemed to be, but rather tangible improvements and rational causes.

An improved outfield has helped Jarrod Washburn, today’s start notwithstanding, who has gone from scrub to stud through the first month of the season.

The team has weathered an injury to fifth starter Ryan Rowland-Smith with a respectable, albeit rocky, beginning to the starting career of Chris Jakubauskus, and even Carlos Silva notched his first win since June 28 of last season.

Erik Bedard, a source of fan frustration last season, has an ERA just over two and opposing hitters are batting at a .214 clip against him, while the touted lefty has given up only three walks in 26 innings compared to his 37 free passes issued in only 81 innings last season.

Endy Chavez, brought in for his defense, is hitting .341 with a .410 on base percentage, and Russell Branyan has begun to show the suspected hidden power he’d been harboring in limited playing time throughout his career.

And while RBI are a very dependent statistic, the team’s two leaders, apart from Branyan, Jose Lopez and Adrian Beltre are hitting only .220 and .171 respectively.

There is a lot of room for optimism considering that the two are producing with runners on base, which means they are coming to the plate with the table set.

“Waka-ball,” something I assumed would be akin to the A’s extreme station to station play, has proven to be much more strategic.

Less nuclear warfare, more deception and craftiness.

For a city torn in half, or more realistically a less equal margin by the departure of the Sonics, fans of Seattle’s professional sports haven have been given their first positive ray of light in over a year.

All this on the same weekend that the Seahawks executed perhaps Tim Ruskell’s best draft to date.

What a weekend.