With the opening month of the 2014 MLB season in the books, it’s time to contrast and analyze the difference between the rest of the league, and how the Seattle Mariners‘ April of 2013 stacks up to their results this season.
Last year, the Mariners sauntered into May with a 12-17 record under then-manager Eric Wedge. The team was 8-8 at home, and a dismal 4-9 on the road. This was good for third place in the AL West, 6.5 games back from the first place Texas Rangers (17-9). In 2014 under the guidance of manager Lloyd McClendon, whose last tenure as skipper was from 2001-05 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle is fourth in the AL West at 11-14, with neither winning records at home (5-6) or on the road (6-8). They sit 5.0 games back of the Oakland Athletics (17-10) in the division.
Not many positive gains here. With two postponed games, the total number of games played are somewhat askew from 2013 numbers. The Mariners get a D for their division standing in 2014, as well as an inability to win series at home or on the road. Having only two more wins than the Houston Astros and being ranked lower in the AL West than at the same time last season, Seattle will look to have a motivational month of May.
Offensively, in 2013 the Mariners were ranked 12th in HRs (29), 22nd in team AVG (.242) and 25th in runs scored (95). Comparitively, in 2014 after the addition of the highly talented second baseman Robinson Cano and veteran DH/RF Corey Hart, Seattle is tied for 15th in total HRs (21). Their accumulative team batting average ranks 26th (.227) and they come in 29th in runs scored (87). No real gains in production here after the $240 million acquisition of Cano, but also the additions of Hart and outfielder Logan Morrison. Safeco Field is traditionally a pitchers ball park, so the numbers have never been eye popping for the Mariners since first calling it home in 1999. Poorer in every category listed above at this point last year, the Mariners’ offense gets a grade of F for April. After the team signed Cano and added a few experienced veteran bats with solid track records, fans would have expected some strides to be made. Instead, touted youngsters like left fielder Dustin Ackley (.256/.298/.372) and shortstop Brad Miller (.174/.211/.326) are doing nothing to help offset the overall dismal numbers.
From the perspective of pitching and defense, the analysis is somewhat more subjective due to the onslaught of injuries the rotation has experienced thus far in 2014. At this time in 2013, the Mariners collective ERA was ranked 23rd (4.23), were 8th in issuing free passes (73 BB) and 5th in strikeouts (225). The bullpen was eight for nine in save opportunities. Meanwhile in 2014 with the likes of Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker being mostly free of competition from the Mariners’ pitching staff, the squad ranks 14th in ERA (3.74), 25th in walks allowed (92) and tied for 24th in strikeouts (184). Fernando Rodney has been 5/8 in converting save opportunities. Again, devastating injuries to the staff have caused McClendon to do some shuffling and experimenting, and for the most part he has been resourceful. Ace Felix Hernandez (3-1, 2.40 ERA, 47 K) is doing everything in his power to give the Mariners chances to win ball games when he starts games. But because this group has faced the most adversity in 2014, yet have experienced an improvement in team earned run average, the pitching gets a grade of C+. This area is where fans should expect the most gains when the rotation is healthy, with a high ceiling that could carry the Mariners through the balmy summer months.
Overall, there are some team concerns. Spending $240 million on Cano, the most highly coveted free agent of his class should cause reason for optimism. Expectations were that his elevated play would rub off on others in the lineup. But so far, most optimism lies on the whims of a yet to be healthy and full-functional pitching staff.