The 2012 Seattle Mariners may not win 100 games, but they certainly won't be dull.
In Texas they only managed to win one game in a four-game set, but rebounded by taking two of three at home against Oakland this past weekend. Perhaps they didn't quite explode in Texas (as one fool predicted), but they've held their own thus far with a 6-5 record.
Unfortunately, all is not well on the offensive side as Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports:
"So far, the Mariners' offensive numbers through 11 games look depressingly familiar -- a .232 batting average, .267 on-base percentage and .356 slugging percentage for an OPS of .620. That compares to last year's .233/.292/.348 at season's end for a .640 OPS, and 2010's .236/.298/.339 (.637)."
In searching for solutions, M's manager Eric Wedge has tried to juggle several lineups with varying degrees of success to get some answers and production. But questions and doubts are bound to surface with key players like Mike Carp and Franklin Gutierrez due to return to the team from the DL.
One would imagine that time, and by extension performance, will help sort out any potential issues, but whether or not the M's continue to find support up and down the bench remains to be seen.
Ultimately though, several players will need to find a greater level of consistency to prove they belong in the lineup, not to mention the 25-man roster.
Here's a short list of players of those players who need to heat up ASAP...or else.
Sorry, but a home run in Sunday's win is not going to get you off this list.
Yes, Justin Smoak leads the team in homers and is second in runs batted in.
He also leads the team in strikeouts with 13 while hitting .186 with OBP SLG and OPS figures that shouldn't impress for a cleanup hitter.
It's not enough to simply want more from Smoak. This year, the team really needs more from him.
While it's doubtful that Smoak will ever develop into a .300 hitter, the plate discipline needs to improve in order for him to be effective hitting within the heart of the order. Home runs are nice, but the Dave Kingman approach at the plate isn't going to help the M's long term.
The feel-good story of spring training is losing some steam now that the games actually count.
To Saunders' credit, he does have two stolen bases and a home run this season, but similar to Smoak, the batting average and strikeouts aren't helping.
If Saunders doesn't start hitting soon, he will be either be back at the end of the bench or in Tacoma while Chone Figgins gets to keep his spot in the lineup.
It's hard to envy Miguel Olivo at the moment.
Last year he was basically the team's only catcher.
This season, he's been given the task of mentoring his potential replacement.
Most of us figured this would take some time, but already there are some fair arguments to push Olivo to the end of the bench. Dave Cameron at USS.Mariner.com cuts to the chase:
"If Eric Wedge is going to bluster about 'playing the game the right way' and 'being accountable', Miguel Olivo should be on the bench today. In reality, he should be on the bench most days, as he is a disaster of a baseball player, and has no future with this organization."
With Jesus Montero looking more than capable behind the plate, not to mention more productive hitting on the days he catches, and John Jaso making the most of his chances, Olivo is certainly someone who needs to heat up fast.
Much like Olivo, no one really expects Brendan Ryan to hit the cover off the ball.
At the same time, with little space in the lineup and plenty of competition at shortstop, Ryan may need to string together a few more hits after his home run on Sunday afternoon to keep the pressure off.
It also doesn't help that Ryan, for whatever reason, found himself in Eric Wedge's doghouse last week, according to Nick Eaton of Seattlepi.com:
“'I talk about certain things that need to happen this year, and there are conversations that have been had, and there is a level of accountability and a level of responsibility that I feel everybody has,' Wedge said of Ryan’s benching Tuesday. 'I am not going to dive into details on that. I will leave it at that.'”
While I doubt Munenori Kawasaki will steal any significant playing time in the immediate future, players like Kyle Seager and Figgins could once Carp is back in Seattle.
What's funny is that from a statistical point of view, Ryan's numbers aren't as terrible as one would expect, especially when compared to Figgins.
However, when push comes to shove, it's Figgins who will get the nod.
Honestly, you could pencil in Casper Wells here too, but I think Liddi loses out because Figgins must play and Seager should play.
Fair or unfair, Liddi hasn't really made much of the opportunities given to him this season. Expect Wedge to sneak him into the lineup when he can before Carp comes back, but time is running short.
If Liddi doesn't make a strong impression soon, he might be waiting awhile for another chance to play.