The 2013 season has been a streaky one for the Seattle Mariners. A team that was at one point on the brink of exceeding the .500 mark has since earned the label of a "bad" or "mediocre" or "same old Mariners" team.
Luck hasn't been on the sides of some key players this season, including Michael Morse, who got off to the hottest start of his career before getting hurt. Now he frequents the disabled list and hasn't played a game since June 20.
Gold Glove center fielder Franklin Gutierrez always seems to be on luck's bad side. He, too, started extremely well before falling victim to the all-too-common injury bug, and missed nearly two months. In his first game back, he hit a home run then was re-injured the very next day.
The Mariners have won three straight after sweeping their first three-game series of the season but have consistently alternated wins and losses over the last month. The offense has improved lately, and Eric Wedge seems to have finally put a consistent lineup in place.
As we head towards the second half of the season, here are Seattle's hottest and coldest players.
All statistics via ESPN.com
It almost feels like cheating to put this guy at the top of every hot/cold type piece, but it's hard not to. He's one of the best pitchers in the game and rarely disappoints. Over his last four starts, King Felix has given up six earned runs in 29 innings, with 28 strikeouts to six walks. He only got credit for two wins, but they brought him to 10 on the season—not bad for a pitcher on a fourth place team. Hernandez currently leads the AL with a 2.53 ERA.
Rookie of the Year candidate Nick Franklin is experiencing his first big league slump. After recording averages of .286 and .296 in May and June, respectively, Franklin is batting .195/.267/.366 halfway through July. He's also struggling a bit with the leather, posting a .970 fielding percentage thus far, but at this point his bat is a much bigger need and is getting the most attention. Of course, Franklin couldn't be expected to hit as well as he was for his entire rookie campaign, but, once you hit the big leagues, you get the privilege of being included in these types of articles when you start to slump.
How crazy has this guy's season been? Nobody really knew what to expect out of Raul Ibanez; a 41-year-old playoff hero who used to be a 20-30 home run guy was returning to Seattle for what, a nostalgic final season? This year has been more than nostalgic for Raul; it's been spectacular. Throw batting averages out the window, Ibanez has been the Mariners best hitter and is among the league leaders in home runs with 24, 22 of which have come since May 10. After being used as a platoon outfielder and hitting .158 in April, injuries opened up a spot for Ibanez in the lineup, and he's been there ever since. In fact, he's only had one game off since May 30. Pretty impressive for someone who could have easily retired after last season. Oh, he's also hitting .367/.415/.735 with five home runs in July.
Hisashi Iwakuma's still an All-Star, but in six starts he's raised his ERA from a Cy Young-worthy 1.79 to a less stellar 3.02. The fact that he allowed four or more earned runs in five straight starts and still maintains an above-average ERA speaks volumes to how good he is, but 'Kuma hasn't been the same pitcher has was early on in the season. Against the Red Sox two starts ago, Iwakuma lasted only three innings, his shortest outing of the year, surrendering six earned runs on eight hits, three of which were long balls. He still leads the AL with a mind-boggling 0.94 WHIP and has maintained close to a six-to-one strikeout to walk ratio. He's struggled lately, but after getting back on track with a win in his last outing, he should be back to his regular self.
Status: Coming down to Earth, a little
Perhaps the most overlooked of Mariners prospects, Kyle Seager has turned out the best to this point. He's shown that he can consistently hit for average and power and can easily be a 25 homer per season guy in his career. Seager saw his numbers dip last month but is crushing the ball so far in July. He currently holds a 14-game hitting streak and has scored a run in all but one of those games. His 22 hits this month are dangerously close to his hit totals from May (25) and June (29), and he's already hit four long balls. His July slash line isn't too shabby, either (.458/.542/.750).
Status: Scorching hot
Justin Smoak: .386/.460/.659, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 6 2B in July
Joe Saunders: 20.2 IP, 3 ER, 12 K, 3 BB, 0.97 ERA last three starts
Brendan Ryan: no multi-hit games since June 5 (3-for-7)
Yoervis Medina: 5 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA in July
Dustin Ackley: .204, 3 RBI since being recalled June 25
For the most part, the Mariners as individuals are playing extremely well right now, an encouraging sign moving forward even if a second half turnaround isn't enough to complete a historical comeback.
But it's still possible, which is why baseball is the greatest game on Earth.
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