The Seattle Mariners just finished a 3-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels, but with a record of 43-52 the team still remains a dozen games behind the Oakland Athletics, who have been dueling with the Texas Rangers for first place in the AL West for most of the season. Now that we have come to the All-Star break and with the trade deadline looming at the end of July, it’s time to take stock of where the Mariners are right now and where they want to be by the end of the season. A few key players will likely make the difference between a decent .500 or better season and a second-half debacle that could cost manager Eric Wedge and GM Jack Zduriencik their jobs.
The one-two combo of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma has been extremely effective up to this point. Hernandez is 10-4 at the break and this is the first time he has won ten games before the All-Star break. Iwakuma is 8-4, and both pitchers will represent the Mariners at the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
The rest of the rotation is where the inconsistency lies. The Mariners recently DFA’d Jeremy Bonderman (who then opted for free agency) and gave his spot to Erasmo Ramirez. If Ramirez struggles, it seems likely that rookies Taijuan Walker and/or James Paxton could get some starts at the MLB level before the end of the season.
The Seattle bullpen has had its share of trouble so far as well. Closer Tom Wilhelmsen hasn’t been as effective as he was in 2012, with his ERA ballooning out to 3.95 recently despite his 19 saves. The only relievers with ERAs under 3.0 are Oliver Perez and Yoervis Medina. Wilhelmsen will need to settle down and the rest of the bullpen will need to get things more under control in late innings for the Mariners to be successful.
Offensively, the team has been on a roll lately with significant production from Kendrys Morales, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak and Raul Ibanez. Michael Morse has been out since June 21 with a strained quad but should return soon after the break. In all likelihood, the Mariners will need his bat in addition to the continued success of Morales, Seager, Smoak and Ibanez if they want to remain competitive.
Given the successes of the last month, it’s easy to be optimistic. It feels like the team is finding some kind of a groove where they can be consistently successful. They have hit home runs in 22 consecutive games and have 114 on the year which is good for third in all of baseball, behind only the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. This is a massive improvement for the Mariners, who were No. 20 in the league in homers in 2012 and No. 25 in 2011.