Last year, you would have had to look hard to find anyone who was particularly optimistic about the Seattle Mariners.
They just didn’t look like they were going to be very good. If anything, they fell below expectations.
Only Houston and Minnesota had fewer wins than Seattle’s 67, and they never really showed any spark or competitiveness. Their pitching was solid, but you don’t have to be a forensic expert to figure out what went wrong for the team.
They were last in all of baseball in runs scored, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, too. They were almost impossibly bad offensively, and it made it very hard for them to compete.
They’ve taken some steps to remedy that situation, though it remains to be seen if it is enough.
They have also gambled on the mound.
Will it all pay off?
At the very least, it probably can’t get any worse.
2012 Seattle Mariners predictions and futures odds (odds via BetOnline)
2011 Record: 67-95
2012 Wins Over/Under: 72.5
Odds to Win 2012 AL West: +3750
Odds to Win 2012 AL Pennant: +5000
Odds to Win 2012 World Series: +8500
This is the one area in which the Mariners obviously feel pretty good about themselves. A team doesn’t trade away a starting pitcher as young and as good as Michael Pineda unless it feels like it has some talent to replace hm.
It’s not an absolute certainty that they will be this year, but chances are good that in the next couple of years this will be a truly elite rotation.
At the top, of course, is the great Felix Hernandez. He’s nasty, and that won’t change.
Behind him are three absolutely stellar young arms. Taijuan Walker was the team’s top draft pick in 2010, Danny Hultzen went second overall last year, and James Paxton was a fourth-round steal in 2010. It’s quite possible that none will make the roster to start the season, but it’s equally likely that all will be seen before the summer ends.
The challenge for this team is figuring out how to bridge the gap until the young arms are ready.
Hernandez and Jason Vargas are reliable at the top.
With Erik Bedard, Doug Fister and Pineda gone, though, the rest of the rotation is uncertain. Hisashi Iwakuma is over from Japan to try the major leagues, Kevin Millwood is looking to extend his career, Hector Noesi has only two career starts, and Charlie Furbush and Blake Beavan were unimpressive in limited action last year.
The team might find something to work from among that group, but there’s also a good chance that this group will create headaches and lead to plenty of losses.
Simply put, this team needs to hit dramatically better if they want to have any chance of success. That is largely going to fall onto three young sets of shoulders.
Jesus Montero was the prize that convinced them to part with Pineda. The Yankees prospect has one of the top bats in the minor leagues, and the team will rely on him to provide power right from the start.
Dustin Ackley put up solid numbers in 90 games last year, but he will have to take a step forward in his first full season in the majors. The second baseman is a major talent who should be up to the challenge.
Justin Smoak came from Texas in the Cliff Lee trade. He was highly touted, but he has yet to find his way and his numbers have been seriously disappointing. It’s not too late for him to shine, though, if he can find his confidence.
Beyond that, the team needs Chone Figgins to bounce back from a terrible season. They also have to hope that there is still some gas left in Ichiro Suzuki’s tank. For the first time ever, he won’t start the season leading off. That will take some getting used to.
The Mariners scored only 556 runs last year — just 3.43 per game. That’s a small step forward from the 513 they scored the year before, but it’s still a long, long way from good enough to be even remotely competitive.
It will pay to keep a close eye on the runs per game average for this team out of the gate. If you don’t see enough improvement then it could just be more of the same for this young bunch.
2012 Seattle Mariners Predictions
Two years ago, the Mariners won 61 games. Last year, they won 67. They are moving in the right direction, but they certainly aren’t in a hurry to get there.
There are some real issues with this team — youth, lack of depth, questions about the bottom of the rotation, an aging Ichiro, and so on.
They are getting better, though. They’ll still be near the bottom of the league offensively, but hopefully not dead last.
They are still well-positioned to wind up last in their division, and there will be more ugly nights than great ones. However, this will be a better team than last year.
2012 Seattle Mariners MLB Season Win Total Predictions
Last year, Kansas City won 71 games and Oakland won 74. Those are decent comparisons for these Mariners, so something within that range seems more than reasonable. That means that there isn’t a lot of value in the total of 72.5 as it sits.
If forced to choose I would go ‘under’, but not with enthusiasm.
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