5 Reasonable Goals for the Seattle Mariners for the Rest of 2012
Let's be honest, if you're reading this you've decided to take a break from the Seahawks.
Just admit it, it's okay.
Now that that's sorted, what's left for the Mariners the rest of the way?
Good question and one that I'd love to answer with broad, sweeping thoughts and theories to help instill a sense of accomplishment for this year's team and provide hope for next season.
That, however, would be madness, although last night's Tampa Bay" href="http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/mariners/2018918186_mariners15.html" target="_blank">come-from-behind win against Tampa Bay was a pleasant surprise.
Honestly though, I'm just here trying to keep expectations manageable and provide five reasonable goals for the M's for the rest of the 2012 season.
Most in an ideal world should serve as building blocks, but one or two might simply be nice to have for the sake of helping make the season not seem like a total failure.
No, not for the team's final record, but just in general for the remainder of the season.
Since the All-Star break the M's have been up, down and all around, yet through it all, they've come to play just about every night in every facet of the game.
While it would have been easy for the team to collectively mail it in for the second half, it seems this group genuinely wants to give it a go as we saw last night, for example.
Will they do it?
I actually think they can. With 44 games left to go, an even split of 22 wins and losses seems reasonable, although the September schedule does scare me a bit.
A rough goal of 76-86 is far from exciting, but even if they're not perfect it would be an improvement from last year and the team would also avoid losing 90 games.
Get the Starting Rotation in Order
Ok, let's list off who the Mariners have in their starting rotation...Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, and???
On Monday, I put forth my case for Hisashi Iwakuma as the team's No. 3 pitcher given his recent string of solid outings. It's almost a shame that the season will be over in a few weeks given the fact that Iwakuma finally looks like he's figured out what he needs to do.
Beyond him though, the M's are offering up Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood.
For now, I like both guys as they've managed to stick around through thick and thin, but I'm not sure I love either of them beyond this year.
While it would seem unlikely that Millwood would come back for another season, Beavan's situation could very well depend on how Iwakuma fares, whether either Erasmo Ramirez or Hector Noesi figures out how to pitch in the majors come September if given the chance, or if any of the "Big Three" make any significant strides next year at spring training.
In other words, don't count Beavan out.
He's neither flashy nor exciting, but he's looked good since returning to the roster following the All-Star break.
If he can continue to pitch six-plus innings, only give up three to four runs and strikeout a few hitters along the way, much like Iwakuma, he could very well end up cementing his status as the No. 4 or 5 starter next season at the back of the rotation.
Get Felix a Few Cy Young Votes
It's in some ways an insignificant point, but one that could be considered "nice to have."
Friday night's loss to the Angels was in many ways a lost opportunity for Felix to notch another win in what has turned out to be another impressive season.
Since losing to the San Diego Padres on June 12th, Felix has not lost a single game. That's more than two months of watching Felix pitch near flawless baseball.
While I, along with the rest of the Mariners fanbase, would love to see Felix win his second Cy Young award, I keep wondering if he can keep up this pace?
Even if he did, would he have a real shot?
The potential is there if you look at the numbers, but Felix would probably need to throw in a noteworthy performance along the lines of a no-hitter or a 20-strikeout performance while winning the rest of the way to get the voters to give him the final nod.
In other words, don't bet on it.
Get the Outfield Sorted?
Before I get too far ahead of myself, can we once and for all just chip in and get Franklin Gutierrez a gigantic bubble to seal him inside to keep him safe?
I wish I were joking, but the on-going saga of Guti's lost year is perhaps one of the saddest stories in all of the Seattle sports scene. I do hope that some day he can come back, yet I'd just as soon count him out for this year and next.
With that said, who is left to play outfield for the Mariners now that Ichiro is gone?
According to this depth chart from Yahoo!Sports, none other than Chone Figgins is playing left field for the Mariners.
If that doesn't leave you with cause for concern, then you really have given up on this team.
Seriously, the options beyond Figgins are equally questionable as Michael Saunders, Casper Wells, Eric Thames and Trayvon Robinson all come with some serious question marks and very few answers at the moment.
Yes, Eric Thames came through when it counted against one of the toughest closers in the business in Fernando Rodney, but he also struck out three times earlier in the evening.
The good news is that for the next several weeks we have time to at least try to get this sorted.
The bad news is that barring a major move during the offseason, this same group will be back for more next season.
The Young Core Finishes Strong
If the outfield looks like a mess, then what can be said of the young group of players who are trying to establish themselves either in the infield or behind the plate.
Depending on your view of the world, either Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager have put together disappointing seasons or have made the most of the opportunity under some pretty trying circumstances.
I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle as each player has dealt with their own growing pains throughout the season.
If we were to map out how they've performed in a spectrum ranging from pleasant surprise to downright disappointing, I'd imagine most fans would consider Seager's season as a revelation, Montero roughly in the middle but generally good, Ackley opposite Montero towards disappointing and Smoak on the far edge of problematic.
A strong finish though by all of them would do wonders, even for the recently recalled Smoak who now has a chance to redeem himself with Mike Carp on the DL once again.
A few weeks ago I put together some rough projections for each of them in the second half and thus far, they've managed to hold their own. It seems that at least one of them each game puts together a solid night and on the rare occasion more than one make some noise, the M's usually win.
More than anything else on this list, if these four players can actually gel in these final few weeks, the team should consider that a small victory unto itself.
No one expected this team to win a division or even chase a wild card spot, but everyone hoped this young nucleus would slowly mature into the building blocks for something bigger. The time is now for the boys to become men and finish a full season, to prove that they are major leaguers capable of being the leaders for a bright future in Seattle.
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