Seattle Mariners: 3 Reasons They Will Flourish in the New AL West
For the first time since 1994, the American League West will be realigned with the addition of the Houston Astros for the 2013 season. Surely this change will affect the landscape of the league, let alone the division.
The Astros, as well as the Seattle Mariners, were cellar dwellers in their respective divisions in 2012. With the AL West being more competitive than it had been in years past last season, it's unfair to count out any of the five teams who will be competing to dethrone the Oakland Athletics.
Here's why the Seattle Mariners will flourish in the West in 2013.
Addition of the Astros
The Houston Astros have completely fallen off since their World Series run of 2005. At 55-107, they compiled the worst regular season in Major League Baseball since the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks went 51-111. In other words, no team has been as bad as the Astros since the Nationals were the Expos.
That being said, the 'Stros will likely be a sub-par club again next season, which will allow each team in the West to win more games. Teams within the division will also play one another less than in previous seasons—the M's will be seeing a lot more of the Astros and a lot less of the A's, Angels and Rangers.
This gives Seattle an improved chance of competing in the AL, and the new five-team format will make their division much more competitive.
New Safeco Dimensions
The Mariners' offense has been struggling for a few years now, and Safeco Field has always been known as a "pitcher's park." The new dimensions (above) should allow Seattle hitters to up their home run totals and increase run production.
The most notable change is in the left center field power alley, which is being brought in from 390 feet to 378. Right-handed hitters will flourish in the new Safeco.
Although the new dimensions will surely benefit opposing hitters as well, I like to think the M's have a ton of power waiting to happen. Kyle Seager still went deep 20 times while playing half the season at Safeco, and Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak added 19 bombs apiece.
The new look Safeco Field will add entertainment value to the club as well as provide a better opportunity to score runs.
They Still Have King Felix
I've said it before and I'll say it again; as long as the Mariners have Felix Hernandez, they'll remain competitive.
King Felix arguably had the best season of his career in 2012, and at 26 years old he only has better years ahead of him.
I fully expect Felix and the Mariners to surprise the baseball world next season by challenging for the division and sneaking into the playoffs. A young squad with constantly increasing team chemistry and youth can only thrive in a new-look division and a new-look ballpark.