Seattle Mariners Still In the Picture In the AL West

Corey TaylorCorrespondent IJune 24, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 31:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners warms up prior to the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on May 31, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

No doubt about it, the A.L. West is one of the worst divisions in baseball.  Good thing for Mariners fans: The M's are 2.5 games back in the division, trailing only the Rangers and Angels through the first half of the season. 

Fans cannot look at just the negatives surrounding the ball club. With the negatives there are also many positives following the Mariners into the second half of the season.

One of the many things going the Mariners way is their starting pitching.

Felix Hernandez has been dominating the opposition so far this season.  He has managed to go 7-3 in fifteen games this season.  He is also posting a 2.74 ERA. If this continues, Hernandez will not only find himself on the All-Star team, but he could be in contention for A.L. Cy Young.

He is already on pace for his best season yet in the bigs, and every baseball fan has been waiting for him to begin to harness his potential. Another amazing thing about King Felix is that he is on pace to strike out over 200 batters.

The Mariners are in desperate need of getting Bedard back who also was below a 3.00 ERA and was 5-2 before getting hurt. He is expected back in close to two weeks.

A stat that may surprise many is that the Mariners lead most of the A.L. categories in pitching.  They are first in team ERA which is at an amazing 3.66. They lead in batting average allowed which is at a tremendous .249.  They also lead in team OPS and saves.  They are third in team WHIP in the A.L.

It is very clear that the M's do not need much pitching help. Sure their bullpen could use a little help, but whose couldn't? If M's pitching continues its stellar performance it gives them an amazing shot at winning the West.

On the other hand, the Mariners are having a rough time at the plate. 

When Russell Branyan is leading your team's offense with home runs, you are in some trouble. I do not mean to take anything away from Branyan. He is having a fantastic year with 17 home runs currently. That has been the only big bat in the Seattle lineup.

Griffey Jr. is too old to provide the power numbers he used to. If he stays healthy he will most likely flirt with about 15 home runs and less than 100 RBI. Those are not bad numbers for a 40-year-old, but they don't provide much in the middle of the order.

Adrian Beltre is one of the most disappointing Mariners since coming to Seattle. This is the man the Mariners have been depending on to provide the power numbers for a three or four hitter. Beltre is hitting just .254 with five home runs.  This is horrible for a player who once hit 41 homers for the Dodgers.

Ichiro is doing what he always does: keeping the Mariners alive at the plate. What more can you ask out of a leadoff hitter other than to get on base? With Ichiro batting a league leading .354 he is doing just that. Not to mention he has 12 stolen bases. Ichiro is the ray of shinning light for Seattle. 

The Mariners need to make a decision before the end of July. Do they want to spend the extra money it will cost to contend this year, or do they want to be sellers and trade away for young talent? The M's are one big bat away from winning the West. 

The Mariners are batting .257 as a team and slugging only .395 which is good for 13th in the American League.  If they decide they want to contend, there are plenty of bats out there to look at.

Aubrey Huff has a reasonable salary and could provide around 20 to 25 home runs and close to 100 RBI.

Another move that is possible if the Mariners can find a team to take Beltre off their payroll is Mark DeRosa.  He would provide some power and a consistent bat in the Seattle lineup.  Getting DeRosa from the Indians would be a little tougher because so many teams are interested in him.

Seattle fans have nothing to lose. After going 61-101 last season, all signs are pointing up.

Going into the second half of the season the Mariners need to step up at the plate. The pitching will be there as long as Bedard is not dealt away. Someone needs to contribute more in the middle of the lineup because Branyan will not be able to do it by himself. Insert one more bat and the M's will be an exciting team to watch come September.