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Seattle Mariners Rehab: 10-Step Plan To Return To AL West Supremacy

John RozumCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2011

Seattle Mariners Rehab: 10-Step Plan To Return To AL West Supremacy

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    With no division titles since 2001 and only three in franchise history, the Seattle Mariners have been in dire straits for the last decade.

    However, hope is alive in the Northwest and Seattle residents may have something more to cheer for come this season.

    Now don't get me wrong, Eric Wedge will help as the new manager, but it comes down to the guys on the field.

    And although there was light at the end of the tunnel last season with Felix Hernandez winning the Cy Young, these 10 steps could get Seattle through the tunnel and potentially into an AL pennant race.

Step 1: Felix Hernandez Starts off Strong

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Prior to Felix winning the 2010 AL Cy Young, the previous three winners had lackluster seasons the following year.

    C.C. Sabaithia won it in 2007 for the Cleveland Indians, but in 2008 dropped from 19 wins to only six wins. Then he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. 

    A bit of revival with the Brew Crew, and he is now doing well in New York.

    Cliff Lee won it in 2008 for the Tribe as well, but dropped from 22 wins to only seven and was then traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. 

    Lee has since pitched in two World Series' and has won seven postseason games.

    Zach Greinke took home the Cy Young for Kansas City in 2009, but went from 16 wins down to 10 and almost doubled his 2009 ERA (2.16) in 2010 (4.17).

    The message here is that we can only hope Felix does not start off slow, get traded, then revive himself elsewhere.

    If he can pull roughly the same numbers this season, then the Mariners can only improve from last season.

Step 2: Ichiro Remains Consistent

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Obviously this goes without saying (especially when he's a first ballot Hall of Famer).

    And as terrible as the offense was this past season for Seattle, Ichiro easily stood out.

    He batted over .300 for his 17th consecutive year, including his time playing pro ball in Japan.

    The 1993 season was the last time he failed to bat over .300, mind you it was his rookie season in Japan.

    The only problem I see here is him being 37 years old.

    Other than time, nothing is playing against Ichiro that will slow him down.

Step 3: Chone Figgins Gets Back on Track

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    While playing for the Angels from 2002-2009, Figgins batted close to .300 a few times and got over .300 once.

    Not to mention he was part of their World Series championship team in 2002.

    But, excluding his rookie season (only played in 15 games), Chone had never batted as low as he did in 2010 (.259).

    Also, he tied his personal record in striking out 114 times.

    If Figgins can get back to his respectable averages from 2004-2009 then the Mariners offense will definitely improve from dead last in all four of the major batting categories (runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage).

Step Four: Franklin Gutierrez Has a Breakout Season

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    After leaving Cleveland where he was used mostly as a reserve player, his first season with the Mariners was rather respectable.

    With a BA of .283 with 70 RBIs, 160 hits and 18 HRs in 2009, Gutierrez decreased a bit in 2010.

    He's only 27 and if I was him I'd be asking Ichiro for as much advice as possible on how to maintain consistency.

    Obviously it's unfair to compare them, but if Franky G can have the breakout year he is yet to have, Seattle will have even more to cheer about this summer.

Step 5: Erik Bedard Makes a Comeback

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Even though he posted a record of only 5-3, Seattle's second and third starters (Jason Vargas and Doug Fister) both had losing records.

    Vargas finished 9-12 while Fister finished 6-14.

    Bedard had two solid years with the Baltimore Orioles (15-11 in 2006, and 13-5 in 2007) while posting a 6-4 record in 2008 and 5-3 in 2009 with Seattle.

    Currently, he has a non-guaranteed contract with the Mariners, but if Seattle is to get some help with their starting pitching rotation, Bedard will definitely help Hernandez. 

Step 6: David Aardsma Seizes The Opportunities

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    He had five blown saves (most in his career) in 2010. That may not seem like a lot with a 162-game season and the worst offense in baseball, but that is still five more than he would have wanted.

    He totaled 31 saves last season, seven down from his total of 38 in 2009.

    Now I know his opportunities are limited with Seattle's offense and lack of talented depth for the starting pitchers, but if he can prove to be lock once in the game, you can bet on everyone else picking it up.

    Just think, Hernandez gets a start, throws a doughnut on the scoreboard while the offense gets him a run or two.

    Aardsma comes in and you know the other team has no chance. He needs to become a presence like this once on the mound.

Step 7: Focus on Division Rivals

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    A dismal record of 17-40 within the AL West is definitely not sufficient enough for a .500 record, let alone compete for a division crown.

    Out of 61 total wins, only 17 came within the division?!?!

    With their season record of 61-101, this means they went 44-61 outside the division.

    OK, so they obviously play a total of more games outside of their division, but the difference is still ridiculous.

    That's a winning percentage of just under 30 percent versus the AL West as opposed to 41 percent versus the rest of Major League Baseball.

Step 8: The Bats With Runners on Base

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    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Thirtieth in the league in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, YIKES!

    Thus, they were obviously last with only 485 RBI.

    For the coaches, if it seems as though this area is headed for what it was in 2010, maybe they should take more risks while on base.

    Could it hurt? Only going to find out if it's attempted. Plus, it may take the pitcher's focus off the batter a bit, which could sway the chance toward a base hit.

    Anything they can do to improve this area will make an immediate impact and become synergistic throughout the clubhouse.

Step 9: Take More Chances at The Plate and on Base

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    OK, so I mentioned in the last slide about the coaches taking more chances with runners on base.

    Well, Seattle did finish fourth in all of baseball with 142 stolen bases.

    The fact that Seattle finished last with only 344 extra base hits could be the reason for so many stolen bases as well, so an improvement is obviously needed here.

    And with only 513 hits on the year (once again dead last in the rankings), the Mariners are desperately in the need of everyone to step up. 

    That is not just Ichiro maintaining consistency, or Figgins and Gutierrez improving (previously mentioned), but from all involved.

    Like I said in regards to closer David Aardsma: "Seize the opportunities." 

Step 10: Win The Close Games

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    On the year, Seattle finished with a record of 22-27 in one-run games.

    That total of 49 one-run games comes out to just over 30 percent of the entire season.

    When it comes down to the clutch, you can say that you need to "get it done" all you want.

    But what's more is that "you've got to get it done."

    If the Mariners can manage to win a significant amount of the close games, then that confidence will snowball into the comeback games when a rally is needed.

    And if you're a fan of the Seattle Mariners, the only way to go is up, so hope for improvement (at the very least) come Opening Day 2011.

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