Meattle Mariners Mid-Meason Meport.

The Seattle Mariners are still the Team That MLB Forgot. They still don't get the respect they deserve - probably because they couldn't handle the dregs of the dregs of the NL Central - and they don't even get the attention they deserve as a team 2.5 games behind one of the best teams in baseball.

We can look towards the All Star Game - being played to little fanfare tonight in San Francisco - for the concrete proof. Ichiro, of course, is on the roster, but that's always a tainted accomplishment because he's got all of Japan voting for him. If the fans were allowed to vote pitchers in, you'd probably see Dice-K throwing in the first inning in tonight's game. Other than Ichiro, the only guy on the Mariners who managed to earn a spot on the roster is J.J. Putz. And he had to pull a 0.88 ERA and 24 out of 24 saves out of his ass for that feat; easily the most dominant closer in baseball at the moment.

Here's the thing: an awesome lead-off hitter and a massive closer doesn't get your team 13 games above .500 by themselves. We're the fifth best team in the American League (which, incidentally, means we're the fifth best team in baseball); somewhere in between the first guy batting and the last guy pitching, there's got to be guys in there getting the job done.

Well, as a team we're batting .283 - which puts us near the top in the game - but after Ichiro, who really scares you? Johjima's the only other batter hitting over .290; Ibanez is our RBI leader with 53 at the break; Sexson's leading us in homers with 15 (all the while batting a robust .205); and Beltre is leading the team in doubles with 21. This ain't exactly Junior, Gar, Bone, and A-Rod. Pitching through the middle of our lineup this season is like taking down the Gauntlet in American Gladiators with a bunch of 90-pound weaklings in your way.

Nevertheless, lack of intimidation aside, we somehow get the job done. While we may not have one standout guy in the middle of our lineup driving everyone home, 8 out of 9 starters have 30 or more RBI and 8 out of 9 are hitting .270 or better. That's telling me that SOMEBODY is stepping up when it counts, even though damn near no one can sacrifice bunt to save their fucking lives.

On the pitching side of things, you could say we're even less frightening (if that's even possible). Felix, our consensus Number 1 Starter, is throwing an ERA of 3.72; ditto Jarrod Washburn. Miguel Batista finally got his down to 4.54 after spending most of the season in the 6 range (he's also just getting his fastball back to respectability in the 94 mph range). That leaves Weaver who NOBODY can make heads or tails out of; he starts out with an 0-6 record and an ERA over 12, now he's at 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA after a run of quality starts. That leaves our alsoran conglomorate of Horacio Ramirez (injured), Cha Seung Baek (injured) and Ryan Feierabend, he of the 9.31 ERA and in the Number 5 role coming out of the break. 31-31 is the record of all those starters I just mentioned (which isn't even accurate because I know for a fact that Batista got one of those victories in relief). That means our starters are pitching sub-.500 ball right now.

Pretty much, nothing's changed from my last prognosis of this team: exciting hitting and rock-solid bullpen. Late-innings comeback victories are carrying this team to the standing they're at right now. While that's all well and good (and making for a reason to be excited sportswise during these summer months), you can't count on beating the other teams' starters the fourth time through the lineup and/or their bullpens all the time.

It's easy to say, "Oh, all we gotta do is get another starting pitcher and we'll be all right." Yeah, OK, except every damn team within sniffing distance of the playoffs has the same exact need (not to mention the Yankees, who you'll never keep out of the fray); what are the odds we've got the horses and the savvy GM to make a deal possible? And now with Buehrle off the table, who's out there?

Well, Bronson Arroyo from the Reds is on the table. You know who I'd like to see? There's this guy in Baltimore by the name of Jeremy Guthrie. He's only 4-2, but his ERA is only 2.74 and he's got a shitton of No Decisions due to their inept offense. If we could get THAT guy and replace Tacoma Joe from our Number 5 spot in the lineup, we'll instantly add 5-10 wins between now and the end of the season. Won't come cheap, but dammit the time is now!

I'm excited about the second half of the season, but I'm also waiting for the other shoe to drop onto my nuts. There are plenty of hitters in our lineup we've seen do a lot worse, you never know when Weaver's going to swing his pendulum back around to the dark side, and eventually these bullpens tire come August and September. Putz won't be perfect forever, just ask the L.A. Dodgers and Eric Gagne.

In conclusion, Go M's, screw the Angels, and let's go win a World Series!