5 Lessons Learned from Mariners-Athletics Opening Series

Todd PheiferAnalyst IIIApril 5, 2013

5 Lessons Learned from Mariners-Athletics Opening Series

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    The 2013 Major League Baseball season is finally underway, and the Seattle Mariners have one series under their belt. In the first two games of the opening set with the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners looked like the hot team of 2013.

    In the second half of the series, fans were reminded why this team has struggled over the last few seasons.

    It is obviously difficult to make an extended judgment on a team after one series, but there are some things that immediately stand out about this squad. Some results from the series were positive, while others are reasons for concern.

    This team may look very different after a month of play, but here are five lessons from the opening series between the Mariners and the A’s.

Michael Morse Is Happy to Be Back

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    When Michael Morse was traded back to the Seattle Mariners, he indicated that he was “glad to be back home” (via The Seattle Times). Apparently, he wasn’t kidding.

    Morse has certainly started this season with a bang. After a very solid spring, Morse was a force at the plate against the A’s.

    A .375 average. Four home runs. Six RBI. 18 total bases. A slugging percentage of 1.125 for the series.

    Welcome home, Mr. Morse.

    This is exactly what Seattle hoped for when they traded for Morse, and fans are hoping that he continues to power the lineup. If other hitters get going and Morse keeps hitting, this could actually be a potent offense.

The Pitching May Take Some Time

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    Brandon Maurer was dominant in spring training. That dominance did not continue in the final game of the series, as the rookie pitcher was roughed up for six runs on eight hits in six innings on April 4.

    The night before, Joe Saunders was not much better as the veteran pitcher only lasted four innings. He and Jesus Montero didn’t necessarily seem to be on the same page. Obviously, Saunders is still very new, and a relationship with his catcher is going to take some time.

    Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma looked great in the first two games of the series, but the back-end of the rotation may not be quite as effective. It will be interesting to see if Saunders finds a comfort zone and Maurer is able to shake off his bad start and regain the swagger from spring training.

    If King Felix and Iwakuma are the only strong pitchers in the rotation, it could be a very long year. Perhaps, Blake Beavan can right the ship against the Chicago White Sox on April 5.

The Lineup Is Hot and Cold

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    As mentioned, Michael Morse is off to a very hot start with the Mariners. In addition to Morse, Franklin Gutierrez also had a very good series against the A’s. The oft-injured center fielder batted .333 with four hits in 12 at-bats.

    Even Brendan Ryan is hitting .286 with a .500 on-base percentage.

    Then there are the struggling hitters. Dustin Ackley and Kendrys Morales have both started off 1-for-12 and are hitting .083 after four games. Justin Smoak isn’t doing much better with two hits in 14 at-bats for a .143 average.

    Will all of this even out eventually? Probably. Morales, especially, will hopefully find a groove soon. Ackley and Smoak may be another issue, and management is likely to keep a close eye on their progress.

    This team will need balance if there is going to be sustained offensive production.

This May Be the Final Winning Percentage

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    Again, it is early. The baseball season is very long, and there are many games left to be played in 2013.

    However, the result of this series may be a preview for the rest of the season. The Mariners may be better this year, but an 81-81 record is not out of the question.

    Seattle made a number of changes during the offseason, but a winning season will depend on a number of players stepping up and playing better than they did in 2012. Otherwise, this lineup may struggle for yet another year.

    It will be interesting to see how the Mariners do when they get home to Safeco Field. In 2012, Seattle didn’t exactly have a home-field advantage when it was playing in the Emerald City.

    Perhaps, that will change in 2013.

There Is Reason for Optimism

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    The 6-2 and 8-2 losses were tougher to watch after the Mariners looked so strong in their 2-0 and 7-1 victories. However, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this team.

    Felix Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in baseball. The Mariners have a number of hitters that could make this a much-improved lineup. The minor league system is stocked with a bevy of pitching talent.

    The Mariners are due. Maybe.

    After one series, it is difficult to know whether this is the year where everything starts coming together. There are statistical measures of a team, and then there is the general vibe that a team projects.

    So far, this team has the look of a franchise that could be on the rise. The Mariners may not challenge for the division, but there is certainly reason for optimism.

    This team may surprise some people in 2013.