The Seattle Mariners are going to have a good season. In fact, they might be one of the surprise teams in 2013. As one might expect, some of the early 2013 predictions (via CBS Sports) are not particularly favorable. One can assume that many previews will keep the Mariners towards the bottom of the American League West.
It isn’t like the M’s are necessarily going to rise up, take the league by storm and make a miracle run to the World Series in 2013. However, this team has real potential and if they can get into a groove, they could make some noise this season. The predictions are not insulting, but there are a few reasons this Seattle Mariners team may be better than some experts think in 2013.
The Mariners will hit
Seattle has struggled to get on base, and this has been a glaring weakness the past few seasons. As noted by Dayn Perry of CBS Sports, “Yes, Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales have pop, but they don't address the team's central shortcoming, which is getting on base.”
The reality is that Morales is a career .281 hitter and Morse has hit .295 during his eight-year tenure. Will this not theoretically have a positive impact on a Mariners team that finished with a .234 team average in 2012?
There are other reasons to believe that this team will hit better in 2013. While nothing is guaranteed, it seems reasonable to project that Dustin Ackley will improve on his 2012 average of .226 and Justin Smoak will not hit .217 again. In addition, there is optimism that young players like Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders could continue to progress.
Add in the tutelage of Raul Ibanez, and this team just might produce on offense.
This is not to suggest that Seattle will jump from a team average of .234 to .275 in 2013. However, a .250 average and a .315-.320 OBP seems reasonable. If the Mariners had hit .250 in 2012, they would have ranked 19th in the league, which is lot better than 30th. How many more wins might that have produced?
The future may be now
Perry also notes, “Yes, Seattle's strength lies not in the present, which, insofar as the 2013 season is concerned, is not a good thing. But as dismal as things are in the short term, the Mariners have cobbled together an exceptional collection of young talent.”
To suggest that the present is “dismal” seems a bit negative given the changes that Seattle has made since the end of last year. This is a team that finished 75-87 in 2012 and arguably improved their roster in the offseason with the additions of Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez.
In addition, it would not be a shock to see some of the top prospects in Seattle this season. Perhaps players like Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Nick Franklin, Stefen Romero and Brandon Maurer will not make their presence felt until 2014 and 2015.
Then again, some of these players have looked pretty good in spring training. Seattle is obviously going to be hesitant to rush their young talent, but why couldn't the Mariners start infusing young talent into the lineup this season?
Does the plan always have to be focused on two to three seasons from now?
The finish will be strong
It seems reasonable to assume that most experts are going to project that the Mariners will finish fourth in the American League West. The prediction from CBS Sports is in line with this prognostication. Still, there are some flaws in the argument.
The worst-case scenario presented by CBS Sports is that the Mariners will finish in last place. Obviously this prediction is a way for the author to cover his bases (no pun intended), but there is no way that the Houston Astros finish ahead of Seattle. To be fair, anything is possible, but a last-place finish is not going to happen.
This may be a bit bold, but a second-place finish is not out of the realm of possibility for this team. Certainly a lot of things would have to go right, but could the Mariners show offensive growth and maintain their solid pitching? Could this lead to overcoming the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels or the Texas Rangers?
The Angels and the Rangers obviously have formidable offenses, but pitching is what gets things done in baseball. If either of these teams take a step back on the mound, the Mariners could actually find themselves at the top of the division rather than the familiar cellar.
Perhaps the Mariners will have another mediocre season. Then again, perhaps there is reason for genuine optimism.