Half the 2014 Season is in the Books
With 81 of 162 games now complete if you have the least bit of optimism in your life you have to be pretty pleased with the Seattle Mariners 2014 campaign so far.
The Mariners have compiled 43 wins vs. 38 losses which puts them solidly in 3rd place in the AL West and in the post season as the 2nd AL Wild Card team if the season were over now.
You have to like what you’ve seen so far as a Mariner fan. Let’s break down which groups and areas on the Mariner’s team that have performed the best, and the worst.
The Starting Rotation
Led by King Felix himself the starting rotation for the Seattle Mariners has been one of the best in baseball. Here are the numbers:
- Felix Hernandez 9-2 record, 2.24 ERA, 128 strikeouts
- Hisashi Iwakuma 5-4 record, 3.48 ERA, 55 strikeouts
- Roenis Elias 7-6 record, 3.96 ERA, 87 strikeouts
- Chris Young 7-4 record, 3.15 ERA, 47 strikeouts
Officially, Young has been the 5th starter. The 4th starter has been a mix of Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer with limited success. Suffice it to say, those two have an ERA near 7.00 and just two total wins between them.
One bit of good news is that Maurer, since his demotion, and subsequent recall has pitched quite well in a couple of relief appearances.
Still, having four spots in the rotation all with winning records and all with ERAs under 4.00 is truly remarkable. Besides, the M’s may solve their 5th starter problem this week with the not official, but widely expected return of Taijuan Walker on Monday in Houston.
Starting Rotation Overall Grade: B+
The relief corps for the Seattle Mariners just might be the brightest part of this team. The Mariner bullpen has compiled a collective 2.59 ERA with 230 strikeouts in 229 innings. That ranks the M’s bullpen as 3rd best in the majors and #1 in the AL.
The M’s bullpen is led by a guy most people really didn’t see coming in Dominic Leone. Leone has given up just eight earned runs all year in 29 appearances giving him a 2.18 ERA.
The really amazing part about Leone’s numbers are that four of those runs were given up in one single appearance. If you eliminate that one bad outing for Leone his ERA is a stunning 1.09 in 28 appearances.
That’s getting it done.
Leone is not alone. Despite continual jokes about the “Fernando Rodney Experience” as if it were some kind of ride at Six Flags, the Mariner’s closer has pitched well. Rodney has 22 saves at the mid mark along with a 2.30 ERA and 36 strikeouts in just 31.1 innings.
Most teams would be very happy to have a closer on pace for 44 saves on the year. Heck, the Mariner club record is 45 by Kazuhiro Sasaki in 2001.
The other pitcher of real note is Joe Beimel. Beimel has worked out of the pen as a situational lefty and he’s done quite well in that role.
Besides a strong arm and great control Beimel has one of the best pickoff moves you’ll ever see from a left hander. He wasted no time in showing it off early in the year by doing something that hasn’t been done very many times in the history of MLB.
Joe Beimel stepped on the mound for the Mariners in the eighth inning on April 1st. The veteran lefty hadn’t thrown a pitch in a Major League game since Aug. 11, 2011, when he closed out an 8-1 loss for the Pirates against the Brewers.
When Beimel walked off the mound moments later, he still hadn’t thrown a Major League pitch in that 951 day span. Yet, he recorded an out and got the Mariners out of a jam.
Now that’s pitching! Well, sort of.
Bullpen Overall Grade: A
As far as the gloves go, the defense has been rock solid for the Mariners. That’s an interesting statement when you consider how many young players and players in new positions the M’s have playing on a regular basis.
Dustin Ackley has never played left field before this year.
Kyle Seager did not come up as a 3rd baseman.
Abraham Almonte started in center as a rookie and now James Jones is going the same.
Mike Zunino is starting his first full year as a big-league backstop this year.
Despite the inexperience with positions or the big leagues the M’s boast the 2nd fewest number of errors through the midpoint of the season with 39. Cincinnati leads this category with 32 errors.
Breaking it down by game the M’s have committed just .48 errors per game. Again, it’s good enough for 2nd overall.
Some of the real standouts defensively have been Robinson Cano with just three errors so far, Mike Zunino also has just three errors and Justin Smoak has just two himself and has saved his teammates from countless errors with his great glove skills at first base.
The biggest surprise defensively has to be the guy I mentioned at the beginning, Ackley. Despite playing a 3rd different position in 3 years Ackley has yet to commit an error in left field.
If you’ve been one of the ones wondering why the M’s keep hanging on to Ackley, this is the reason. He’s an incredibly adaptive defensive player. If the M’s can find a way to get him to hit, they’ll really have something.
Defensive Overall Grade: A-
The nicest way to describe the Seattle Mariners offense would be to use the term “inconsistent”. To put it bluntly, they have been lousy on a semi-regular basis.
The Mariners rank 25th out of 30 teams in overall batting average, batting .241 on the season. As with any team stats there have been heroes and villains within. Here’s a few heroes:
One of the more amazing stats is that Seager number. You might remember Seager went through spring and the early part of the regular season really, really struggling at the plate. As of April 22 Seager was batting just .156 on the year.
Major kudos have to be given to him for righting the ship and driving that average back up where it belongs.
In addition to hitting for a good average Seager leads the club in RBIs with 55.
Obviously that’s a pace of 110 for the season.
Who was the last guy to drive in 100+ runs for the M’s in a single season? Raul Ibanez in 2008.
While the M’s have a few guys hitting well most are not.
Take a look at some of these regulars:
As always, there are a few bright spots within each of these guys’ numbers. Zunino has hit 11 homers which leads all AL catchers. Miller seems to have recovered and is batting .300 in June after hitting .173 in April and .136. in May.
Smoak and Ackley? Well, we just keep hoping and praying.
Ackley tends to hit well in the 2nd half. He hit over .300 after the all star break last year. Smoak had been bothered by a quad injury which made his bat suffer. Hopefully he can recover in the 2nd half as well.
Other things to consider in the offensive grade is the ability to hit with runners on and that’s actually something the M’s have done well this year despite their low overall hitting numbers.
With runners in scoring position (RISP) the M’s have compiled a .265 batting average which puts them just above the middle of the pack in the big leagues at 8th.
If you change that stat slightly to RISP with two outs the M’s average drops to .259 but it also raises their ranking in the big leagues to 3rd.
The ability the Mariners have shown to get their runners in when they actually do get a few out there is a big reason why they are five games over .500 and right in the middle of the pennant chase heading into the All-Star break.
Offense Overall Grade: C-
Seattle has a good start, the best we’ve seen from them in a decade. They need to shore up a few things if they want this season to end in the postseason however.
The M’s have to find a 5th starter either via trade or by having Walker and/or James Paxton return from injury and perform well.
The Mariners also must find more production from their corner outfielders. Ackley has to have his batting average rebound or a trade has to happen to bring someone in left field with some pop.
Like Ackley, Smoak needs to recover. He’s still currently the best option the M’s have at 1st base as both Morrison and Hart are weak defenders and aren’t hitting much better than Smoak anyway outside of Morrison’s one hot series against Boston.
Even as a DH both Hart and/or Morrison have to perform better at the plate. The M’s were counting on thunder from these two and we haven’t seen a whole lot of it. Zunino has more homers than Morrison and Hart combined.
Michael Saunders just has to keep doing what he has been doing and stay healthy.
All that said, the M’s are in contention at this point. The pitching is very solid overall and the M’s have received hitting when it counted most.
It will be very interesting to see what ownership does for this team in the 2nd half. This is a team that needs to be supported with pennant chase moves that most likely will involve taking on additional salary for the stretch drive.
Will ownership have the courage to do so?
I can’t wait to find out.
First Half Overall Grade: B-