The Seattle Mariners are not starting out particularly well in 2013. Despite some solid individual performances, the M's have limped to an 8-15 record (through April 24). Seattle has had a hard time scoring runs, and starting pitching has not been consistent.
Some of this is not a great surprise, particularly to fans who have seen this team struggle over the last few seasons. However, there is always hope and optimism going into a season, which means that there will be mixed reactions when a team starts 8-15.
There are some surprises in the 2013 season, and here are the most profound in the first month of the season.
It isn't necessarily a major shock that Hisashi Iwakuma is doing well this season. After all, the Mariners rewarded him with a two-year extension after he posted a 9-5 record with a 3.16 ERA in 2012.
Still, Iwakuma's hot start in 2013 has been a pleasant surprise for a team that has had some challenges in the starting rotation. Through five starts, Iwakuma is 2-1 with a 1.99 ERA. In 31.2 innings of work, Iwakuma has only given up seven earned runs.
The Mariners can only hope that this productivity will continue.
Play against the Houston Astros
When the Houston Astros joined the American League West, there was a general assumption that the Mariners would do fairly well against a franchise that went 55-107 in 2012.
Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way so far.
So far, the Mariners are 2-4 against Houston. In the two series that have been played, Seattle has been outscored 38-27. That is not exactly fitting with the expectation that the Mariners are one step above Astros in terms of franchise talent.
Perhaps a 6-0 record against Houston would have been an unrealistic expectation, but it is a little surprising that the Mariners are 2-4 against the 'Stros.
The play of the offense
It is fair to suggest that few expected the Mariners to suddenly evolve into an offensive juggernaut in 2013. Still, it is a bit surprising that the team continues to struggle at manufacturing runs.
The season started out fairly well. Mike Morse and Franklin Gutierrez were hitting. There was some assumption that the presence of Kendrys Morales would have a positive impact on the young hitters. Guys like Justin Smoak had solid success in spring training.
Unfortunately, the Mariners have put together a weak .228 average, which is good for 27th in the league. Granted, there are some positive signs. Kyle Seager is now hitting a very nice .284 for the season. Ackley and Smoak are slowly but surely inching up.
Still, it is somewhat surprising that this offense has not done just a little bit better.
The Mariners have some hot young flamethrowers on the pitching staff, so it not a big surprise for one or more of them to do well. However, Stephen Pryor has been particularly hot.
This season, the young Pryor has pitched in seven games. In 7.1 innings of work, he has given up no earned runs, three hits and only one walk. Pryor has also struck out seven batters and compiled a 0.55 WHIP.
For the Mariners, the surprise is that Pryor has been basically unhittable. Unfortunately, he is now on the disabled list with a back injury. Seattle can only hope that he comes back soon and continues his dominance out of the bullpen.
The final surprise concerns pitcher Hector Noesi, who was recently recalled to the big club. It is fair to suggest that Noesi did not have a particularly effective 2012; he went 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA. Noesi continued his struggles in the spring and did not last long in camp before being sent down.
Since returning to Seattle, Noesi has only pitched in two games. However, those appearances have been very successful.
In four innings of work, Noesi has not surrendered a run and has only given up two hits while striking out two batters. Obviously this is a small body of work, but it is still a pleasant surprise for a player that went through a very rocky stretch.
It will be interesting to see what kind of surprises are in store for the Mariners as the season unfolds.