Well, let's just get this out of the way:
It's a Giants/Mariners series preview, and you know where your loyalties are. Don't be fooled by shiny objects on other sites. This is where you want to be. This is a serious series.
I've circled this series on the calendar for a while, for a lot of the same reasons you did. There's a certain kinship that San Francisco has with Seattle. The Giants and Mariners both represent teams that play in cities that are better than most cities. It makes us arrogant, knowing that we live in two of the best cities in the world. It makes us feel better than other people, mostly because we are better than other people. So we have an understanding. We can sit in the back of the class and catch each other's eye when another city says something stupid.
More than that, though, this site has a certain kinship with Lookout Landing. Both of the sites use humor to convey their points. Fake conversations, sarcasm, and GIFs are often featured prominently. They have a Felix Hernandez fetish, and we have a Matt Cain fetish. Both sites have a thriving, intelligent, and funny community. And where I'm devastatingly handsome, Jeff Sullivan isn't exactly Vincente Padilla. There are a lot of similarities. So this should be fun. Except that this is a very serious series.
I work with Sullivan. Every weekday for the past year, I've logged into a chat-room-style-doohickey and chatted with him for several hours. It usually goes like this:
Grant B.: /something about books
Jeff S.: /something about volcanoes
Grant B.: /something about a book on a volcano i read that one time
Jeff S.: /acknowledgment of book's existence
Both: /uncomfortable silence
But eventually we get around to talking about baseball. And as you'd expect, we'll talk about our teams a bit. Every time I would bring up the Giants' crappy offense, though, he would one-up me. The Giants scored 3.52 runs per game last year? Oh, that's cute. The Mariners scored 3.43 with the DH. The year before that, the Mariners scored 3.17 runs per game -- that would have been the third-worst total in the AL in 1968. I couldn't bitch about the Giants as much as I'd like. The Mariners were perpetually the 2008 Giants. Often worse. And I couldn't bitch without Jeff wanting to reach through his monitor and stab me in the throat.
So now that the Giants have something approaching a normal offense -- fourth-best OPS+ in the league? -- I really can't say anything. We like to complain about the Giants' hitting. But the Mariners have always had us beat. When you thought you were watching the worst offensive team in baseball -- last year, or the one before that, or the one before that -- there was another one hitting worse. It's discouraging to think about. Slightly encouraging! Mostly discouraging.
Just as the Giants aren't so bad this year, though, the Mariners are doing better. Still near the bottom of the league when it comes to runs scored or OPS+, sure, but they aren't a complete debacle. There's a pocket of teams like the Indians, Rays, and Angels are all doing just as poorly. The Mariners are a normal team. They have some hitters doing well. They have some doing poorly. The latter grouping is the majority, but it's a normal balance.
So if you're expecting a bunch of 1-0, 2-1 games this weekend ... you're probably right. But it's less likely than it might have been in previous seasons! Baby steps.
But, I'll come clean. I know less about the Mariners than I do any team in baseball. My job requires me to write about every team in baseball except the Mariners. Because Sullivan does that. He does it on his site, and in the event there's something we think the general public should know about the Mariners, he does it on Baseball Nation, too.
I mean, I'm looking at their Baseball Reference page, and there's something called a Blake Beavan now? Kevin Millwood is pitching reasonably well now? Good god, what happened to Brendan Ryan? I mean, he was never a good hitter, but cripes. And why is Kyle Seager good? Who is Kyle Seager? I am so confused right now.
So this is basically like one of those exhibition games in spring between the Giants and Scottsdale CC, where I have absolutely no idea who anyone is. Except for that Ichiro cat. And Felix Hernandez. And Justin Smoak, who was totally expected to fix the Giants offense shortly after the 2008 draft. And Dustin Ackley, who has well-documented off-the-field concerns that should have allowed him to fall in the draft to the Giants.
I'm pretty sure there won't be a lot of runs, though. I feel comfortable predicting that.
Hitter to watch
Smoak is their Brandon Belt, for better and for worse. Often worse. At one point in May, he had a .492 OPS -- three points lower than Emmanuel Burriss. Again, that's for a first baseman.
But he's been hitting better lately. And when I say that Smoak is their Belt, I mean in that maddening is-he-okay-will-he-be-good-he-can't-really-be-this-terrible-oh-god-what-is-that-wait-maybe-he's-okay-after-all sort of way.
Plus, everyone here, save a couple of people, wanted him over Buster Posey. What a bunch of morons! The least we could do is watch him.
Pitcher to watch
Do you remember the Giants hitting four home runs in two different games against Felix Hernandez? I don't. Barry Bonds, I get. But Randy Winn and Steve Finley were involved. Steve Finley.
So I'm pretty sure Felix Hernandez is really pissed off about this, and I'm more than a little terrified.
One of you clowns is going to forget to put a subject line over at Lookout Landing, and the SBN servers will melt. Don't be that clown.