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Concerning the Mariners

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Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing answered some questions regarding his team. (These were answered before Tuesday's game.)

1. The M's are only three games back. What are the odds they make the playoffs? Why? Will they be buyers or sellers?

Mathematically, we're looking at odds somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% as of this writing. Of course, with three in New York and three in Boston, that number could drop in a hurry, but I won't get ahead of myself. The key up to this point has been run prevention, and with the acquisition of Ryan Langerhans, it's clear the front office wants to stick with what's worked up until now. Whether this team ends up buying or selling as the deadline approaches, we can't say quite yet - realistically, the team could end up doing either. A lot depends on these next two weeks. After getting through this road trip and later closing the first half with four at home against Texas, we should have a much better idea of this team's position come the All Star Break. Sure would be nice to add a third baseman, though. Missing Beltre is all kinds of suck.

2. How is David Aardsma having such a good year? Will that continue?

Aardsma, as I think everybody knows, has always had a live arm, but with the Mariners he's pretty much abandoned all pretense of having a complete repertoire and started piping in heater after heater. Among pitchers with at least 20 innings this year, Aardsma's percentage of fastballs thrown is the third-highest in baseball at 88.5%. He just throws the same pitch time after time, and what's incredible is that it's worked. The high fastball is a strikeout pitch, and you better believe that Aardsma knows it. Will he continue to succeed at the level that he has over the first three months? That's highly unlikely - he allows a ton of fly balls and eventually some of them are going to clear the fence. But he should still be a reasonably valuable reliever, and considering the low price we paid to get him, that's pretty cool. I'm terrified of his regression, though. His and everyone else's.

3. Who's the MVP (so far) of the 2009 Mariners?

You're probably expecting me to say 'Ichiro' here, and I don't blame you - guys who hit .372 with good defense tend to be pretty valuable. But in terms of worth to the Mariners, Felix has been his equal, with Russell Branyan not far behind, so it's hard to pick one. Uhhhh. I'm going to go with Felix? He has been one of the three or four best pitchers in the AL so far, and our rotation would be a disaster without him. But Ichiro's got just as strong a case and god damn this question is hard

4. Who's been the biggest surprise and disappointment?

The biggest surprise is a toss-up between Aardsma and Branyan. On the one hand, you have a nobody-turned-closer who's suddenly started striking everyone out, but on the other you have a journeyman slugger who currently has the third-highest wOBA in the American League. I'll give the nod to Branyan, since his blossoming seems more sustainable going forward. It's amazing what can happen when an already talented hitter learns to make a little more contact. As far as disappointments go, Yuniesky Betancourt is a pile of poo. You won't see him, since he's on the DL with a hamstring injury, but everything about that guy has gotten worse and at this point his future outlook as a long-term regular is pretty dim. Bonus disappointment: Beltre's surgery. There's just nobody here capable of filling his shoes. You know what we're looking at as an infield for the next little while? Branyan - Cedeno - Woodward - Lopez. Oh my God.