Mariners Taking Aim at Angels
Heading into this weekend’s big series against the Angels, the Seattle Mariners have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.
But underneath the good vibes of a three-game winning streak and a chance to take over the lead in the AL West, there are plenty of challenges that this team needs to overcome.
Let’s break down the first three weeks of the Mariners’ 2008 season into three predictable, but timeless categories: the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Those three straight wins are nice, but even so, Seattle is just a game over .500, on track for 86 wins, which will fall a couple wins short of last year’s total, which wasn’t good enough for the playoffs. Still, the fact that the Mariners are tied for second and just a game behind the Halos is great news.
- Seattle ranks 2nd in the AL with 85 runs, but its peripherals don’t support a continuation of this trend.
- The team talked about tinkering with Felix Hernandez’s delivery with the goal of putting him in better fielding position after he throws his pitches. Thankfully, they decided to leave well enough alone, a smart move considering we are witnessing King Felix’s breakout. He’s done a brilliant job of limiting the damage this year, and appears ready to become a stud innings eater who will compete for the Cy Young award. We called this when we ranked him 13 among SPs heading into the season.
- Raul Ibanez doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all at the age of 35. Sure, he’ll come back to earth at some point, but he’s on track for a career year, currently projected to approach 50 homers.
- Brandon Morrow is healthy and back up with the big club. He’s going to be a very important part of a bullpen that has been in disarray without J.J. Putz.
- Adrian Beltre, who stunk it up in his first season in Seattle after a career year in 2004 with the Dodgers, has gotten better every year since, a trend that appears to be continuing into this season. I’d like to see more productivity, but his overall numbers are strong.
- Arthur Rhodes is finally healthy and back in the bigs. If he can approach what he did in his last season in the AL in 2005, he’ll be a huge part of the pen in Seattle.
- This is really more weird than anything, but how about Jose Lopez’s MLB-tying three sac flies on Tuesday? In the same game, Yuniesky Betancourt hit a pair. That’s just the second time since 1954 (when this stat began to be tracked religiously) that teammates have hit at least two SFs in the same game. Wacky.
- Jarrod Washburn is looking fine. He’s striking out more batters and his command has been superb. He’s headed for his finest season as a Mariner. It’s about to time to look at him as a waiver wire choice.
- Speaking of plucking Mariner starters off the wire, how about the undefeated Carlos Silva? He’s an especially superb choice in 4 x 4 leagues.
- The team’s top starter (Erik Bedard) and reliever (Putz) are both on the DL. Putz will toss a simulated game Saturday, so he’s getting close to returning.
- R.A. Dickey is starting in place of Bedard. The knuckleballer has made exactly five major league starts since the beginning of the 2005 season, with none at all since 2006. Don’t expect much, although with a knuckler, you never know when lightning will strike and he’ll completely baffle the other team.
- Richie Sexson’s overall numbers have improved, but there was plenty of room to grow there. He’s healthy and drawing walks, but where is the pop? Without it, he is not a fantasy-worthy option. Besides, his leg is hurting now. He sat Thursday, and may be on the sidelines again Friday. In his place, Greg Norton is starting, and disturbingly, Seattle would be a better team if that continued. But there is that small issue about Sexson’s $15.5 million salary.
- Speaking of players not earning their keep, what’s up with Ichiro Suzuki? He’s only got four extra-base hits so far and his BA is 68 points below his career average. You know he’ll be there in the end, so don’t sweat it. Ichiro was hitting .260 as of May 5 last year, but wound up at .351.
- As good as a few of the starters have been, I’m very concerned about the fact that Seattle ranks 11th in AL in OPS against. That’s going to come back to bite this team.
- Michael Morse is on the DL, which means that Brad Wilkerson is playing almost every day. Lucikly, they’ve managed to keep Wilkerson away from lefties so far, but it’s not as is he’s ripping righties (.156). The dude is batting .135 overall. Time to start the Wladimir Balentien watch.
- Exactly why did the Mariners add another year to Jose Vidro’s deal when they acquired him? He’s somehow getting some runs and ribbies, but that .300 OBP out of a guy often hitting in the five hole is killing this team.