Seattle Mariners: Can This Team Be a Contender in 2013?

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIIMay 10, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 8:  Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during the seventh inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 8, 2013 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Seattle won the game 2-1.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Just how good are the Seattle Mariners? On paper, they are strictly below average. In reality, they might be better than people think.

Seattle is 16-19 as we get close to the midpoint of May. Certainly not a stellar record, but a short winning streak would put this team above .500 for the season. Then, who knows?

As of May 9, the Mariners were only 5.5 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West. This division has already proven to be one of ups and downs. Just ask the Los Angeles Angels.

Could an upstart Mariners team make a run?

Despite the lowest run production in the American League West (second-worst in AL), Seattle has won seven of the last 10 games, and it went 3-2 on the last road trip. These are positive signs.

Obviously, fans have to be realistic. This team could very easily be mediocre all season, win 75 games or less, and continue a string of disappointing seasons.

When you look at how this team has performed, there are some things to feel good about. The 26th-ranked .235 team average isn’t great, but the Mariners have been more productive on offense. Kyle Seager is having a great year, Kendrys Morales is warming up and Michael Morse has provided some much-needed power.

Even Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley are starting to hit better after starting out very cold at the beginning of the year. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have been stellar, and Tom Wilhelmsen has been virtually unhittable out of the bullpen.

Obviously there have been some problems. Despite his great defensive ability, Brendan Ryan has been dreadful at the plate, and Robert Andino hasn’t been much better.

The Joe Saunders experiment has had mixed results. Brandon Maurer has looked great at times and like a rookie at others. Then there is (was) Blake Beavan and Aaron Harang. Let’s just say that the back end of the rotation is a work in progress.

There are real possibilities for this team. Maybe one of heavily hyped young pitchers like Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen could make their way to Seattle and provide stability in the rotation. Perhaps the hot-hitting Nick Franklin (via The Seattle Times) could get a call-up and provide some real offensive production at the shortstop position.

Maybe.

There is much to like about this team, but there are plenty of reasons to be cautious with the optimism. More stars could get hurt. Offensive production may plateau. There may be no help coming from the minors anytime soon.

At the trade deadline, will the Mariners be close enough that management would think about going out and getting another piece? It has been some time since the Mariners were in that position.

Obviously, it is still very early by baseball standards. However, this is the time of year when teams start to get into a particular groove. This is the point in the season where a team like the Mariners can either start to believe, or fall back into a familiar routine.

Last week, Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times tweeted this:

Do you believe in this team?

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