Ryan Rowland-Smith turned in another sensational performance in the M’s 4-1 victory

Ryan Rowland-Smith turned in another sensational performance in the M’s 4-1 victory over the White Sox at the Safe last night. Rowland-Smith, now 4-3 on the season with a 3.59 ERA, has been particularly effective in his last five starts, in which he’s pitched 6.1, 8, 8, 7, and 8 innings, respectively. In corresponding order, he’s given up 2, 3, 3, 3, and 1 earned runs. He has, far and away, been the M’s second-best starting pitcher during the second half of the season, behind Felix Hernandez.And therein lies the problem.Mariner General Manager Jack Zduriencik has done a phenomenal job stockpiling promising young arms to compete for spots in the 2010 rotation. While Felix and Ry-Ro are locks, youngsters Brandon Morrow, Doug Fister, Ian Snell, Luke French, Jason Vargas, and Garrett Olson will presumably duke it out for the last three slots. (We’re not listing injury-prone/crap vets Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva because we don’t want to ponder such foolhardy considerations.) This is all great news for the M’s future–beyond 2010. But the fact remains that, next year, the M’s will trot out a rotation of one bona fide ace followed by four bottom of the rotation guys who are a year or two away from being top of the rotation guys.M’s fans need to face one cold, hard reality going forward that has, conversely, been a warm, soft reality this year: On paper, and especially in light of all the injuries they’ve had to contend with, the fact that the Mariners stand to finish on the bright side of .500 is an absolute fluke. The 2007 team, statistically, was somewhat similar; both this year’s and that year’s model were outscored by their opponents, which almost always results in a sub-.500 record. And remember what happened in 2008? One hundred and one losses, that’s what.We don’t expect such a precipitous fall next year, as the culture of the club has changed dramatically, and Wakamatsu has proven a capable skip when faced with finding solutions with less-than-ideal active roster conditions. But M’s fans shouldn’t be disappointed with a 77-85 record in 2010, because that’s about what I’d expect from a team that’s really gearing up to be competitive in 2012.