Douglas Adams' immortal opening words of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy are etched in my brain this spring, as the Mariner's bullpen has pulled a complete 180 degree turn from last year's outstanding performance.
It's not as bad as it seems. Really. What we are observing right now is the confluence of completely random events. In the off-season, the club dealt George Sherrill (who is nearly perfect this year as the Orioles closer), Brandon Morrow was injured late in spring training (he'll be back by May), and JJ Putz was also injured after only three appearances (he'll be back by May as well). It's a linchpin effect. Take away the setup man, then the setup man apparent, and all the pressure is on the closer to be perfect. He strains himself, and then you've got situational pitchers and middle relievers trying to close out. Miguel Batista even racked a save on one of his off nights.
So don't panic people. JJ's coming back. Morrow will be back as well. The bullpen will gel. And with the strong pitching they're getting from the starters, this team can go very far in the AL West. They are my pick to win the division (and lose to Boston in the first round), and I see no reason to believe differently.