2011 was a baseball season that gave Seattle Mariners’ fans hope. Past the halfway point of the season, the Mariners were 43-43 and within striking distance of the division leading Texas Rangers. Then, the wheels fell off, and they dropped 17 straight games. Seattle never recovered from that losing skid, finishing 67-95. Their last place finish in the A.L. West was their third in four seasons, although the team did improve six games from a 61-101 finish in 2010.
As the season slipped away from Seattle in Eric Wedge’s first campaign, the team had to take away from their strength, starting pitching, to bolster their worst category, offense. Before the trading deadline, Seattle dealt away Doug Fister to the Tigers and Erik Bedard to the Red Sox. The Mariners added two young outfielders in those deals, Casper Wells and Trayvon Robinson, that they hope will continue to improve their offense.
Best Case Scenario for 2012
With the improvement that the Rangers and Angels have made in the off season, stating that the Mariners could win the A.L. West seems far-fetched. But, the Mariners do need to move out of the cellar in 2012, and keep improving. I think this team can finish over .500, and that would be the best case scenario. To do that, the young players that the Mariners have are going to have to continue to improve to bolster their offense.
Most Important Mariners
Ichiro has to recover from a down 2011 by his standards. Eric Wedge made news by saying that the Mariners will move Ichiro from his normal lead-off spot to 3rd in the order. I don’t know if this is a move that will stick, but the Mariners are trying to increase their run production by moving down a guy in the order that they know will get hits. In 2011, Ichiro batted a career low .272 with 5 HR and 47 RBI. The rotation will be anchored once again by one of the best young pitchers in the game: Felix Hernandez. Hernandez followed up his Cy Young season by going 14-14 with a 3.47 ERA and 222 strikeouts in 233.2 IP in 2011. It was his fourth straight season with over 200 IP. His 14 wins was also more than he recorded in 2010 when he finished 13-12.
Potential Breakout Players in 2012
Jesus Montero has been brought in by the Mariners in the Michael Pineda deal. Monters is slated to be the big gun in the Mariners’ offense. Montero will probably DH for Seattle in 2012 with Miguel Olivo staying at C. In limited games with the Yankees last season, Montero showed his potential batting .328 with 4 HR and 12 RBI in 61 AB. With the changes in the rotation, Jason Vargas is probably going to become the No. 2 pitcher in the 2012 starting rotation. For the first time in his career, Vargas went over 200 IP last season going 10-13 with a 4.25 ERA with 3 shut outs, 3 more than staff ace Felix Hernandez.
Worst Case Scenario for 2012
In the last eight seasons, the Seattle Mariners have finished last in the A.L. West six times. If the Mariners’ youth doesn’t continue to improve on offense, the Mariners could make it seven last place finishes in the last nine seasons. That would be the worst case scenario for 2012; another season of under 70 wins.
Areas of Concern
The Mariners had to take away from the strength, starting pitching, to bolster their offense. In the last season, the Seattle Mariners traded three players out of their 2011 starting rotation. The rotation will be unsettled through Spring Training into Opening Day. Hisashi Iwakuma, a free agent added in the off season, will be added to the rotation of Hernandez and Vargas. The other two spots are wide open. Contending for these spots will be: Kevin Millwood, Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Danny Hultzen, and Taijuan Walker. Seattle is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle like they did last season when Michael Pineda went from no major league experience to making the rotation and going 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 K in 171 IP.
Who Needs to Bounce Back From a Down 2011
In a bit of a surprising move, Chone Figgins was named the Mariners’ lead-off batter for 2012, replacing Ichiro. Figgins has been disappointing since coming over from the Angels as a free agent to the point where he was shopped this off-season with no takers. Seattle is hoping a move into the lead-off spot will revitalize him. In 81 games last season, Figgins batted .188 with 1 HR and 15 RBI.