2011 Seattle Mariners: 7 Startling Predictions for the 2nd Half
I cover everything from Seattle Mariner trades and promotions to the statistical accomplishments and embarrassments of Ichiro Suzuki, Justin Smoak, Brandon League and others. While the offense appears moribund, the starting rotation of Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Erik Bedard or Blake Beavan is exciting.
Despite disappointments, the Seattle Mariners' first half hints at good things to come.
Doug Fister or Jason Vargas Will Be Traded
The Seattle Mariners have an abundance of good pitchers. As you will soon see, a few of my predictions involve the Mariners cashing in some of those chips.
A large surplus provides little direct value. Doug Fister and Jason Vargas constitute some of the Mariners' surplus pitching. Exchanging one of them for a different type of asset, like a hitter, would benefit the Mariners.
Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Eric Bedard, Blake Beavan and hot prospect Danny Hultzen provide enough potential pitching depth to put at least one of the rotation spots held by Fister and Vargas at risk.
The Mariners would be wise to move Fister of Vargas this season to avoid the logjam just mentioned. The Mariners' leverage on a trade involving them will shrink as Beavan and Hultzen march towards spots in the rotation.
It's better to sell when you want than when you must, hence the imminent departure of Fister or Vargas.
Chone Figgins' Stolen Base Attempts Will Exceed His Walks
This one is a stretch. Chone Figgins's single-season stolen base attempts have never exceeded his single-season walks, barring 2002 when Figgins had only 12 plate appearances. In 2003, Figgins had 20 walks and 20 stolen base attempts. After that, each season has seen Figgins's walk total exceed his stolen base attempts.
As of the All-Star break, Figgins has 17 walks and 15 stolen base attempts. What am I expecting to change in the second half?
Two things will change. Pitchers will throw Figgins more strikes because he is batting .183 and slugging .244. As a result, a larger proportion of Figgins' trips to first base will come via hits. Figgins' difficulty reaching first base via bat skill will see him used more as a pinch-runner. At least the ratio of pinch-running appearances to plate appearances should increase.
Both of these changes will detract much more from his walk total than from his stolen base attempt total.
Brandon League Will Be Traded
Brandon League's 23 saves and All-Star selection should raise his profile and perhaps some teams' perceptions of his skills. That, combined with the Seattle Mariners' relief depth, could see him soon depart Seattle.
The Mariners have no need for the quantity of strong relief pitchers they currently employ. The starting rotation lead by Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda keeps relief work to a minimum.
The Mariners' shortage of hitting in combination their relief pitching surplus should encourage transactions exporting pitchers. Such transactions would extract greater value from the relief corps, Brandon League in particular.
Erik Bedard Will Start Fewer Games for the Seattle Mariners Than Blake Beavan
Two possibilities contribute to the possibility of Erik Bedard starting fewer games than Blake Beavan: Bedard might not remain healthy enough to pick up many more starts, and Bedard also might start games wearing another team's uniform before the season's end.
The Seattle Mariners are long on starting pitching. The arrival of Beavan diminishes the need to return Bedard to the Mariners' rotation.
If one of those scenarios plays out, Beavan will likely get more Mariner starts than Bedard.
Ichiro Suzuki Will Collect Fewer Than 180 Hits
Ichiro's magnificently consistent career at last slows. A question long pondered has been when Ichiro would end his streak of 200-hit seasons. The answer will coincide with this season's conclusion.
Were Ichiro to maintain his current hitting pace, he would tally 180 hits, assuming he starts all remaining games. Given his current struggles, another off day is in the cards. Without another hitting outburst like what followed Ichiro's last off day, even his pedestrian .270 batting average will be hard to maintain.
This season's performance replaces the question “How many more 200-hit seasons will Ichiro have?” with “Will Ichiro have another 200-hit season?”
Seattle Mariners Will Receive No MVP Votes in 2011
The Seattle Mariners have collected at least one MVP vote every season since 1988.
Ichiro Suzuki has been carrying the torch recently. It will go out this year. 2011 will only be the second year in Ichiro's major league career in which he will not receive a single MVP vote. He played his last sans-vote season in 2005.
Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Brandon League are the only other candidates for receiving MVP votes. They are all long shots.
Pineda's innings-pitched restriction will reduce his chances. Desire to recognize Pineda will be born out in Rookie of the Year votes.
While pitching well, Hernandez is not pitching as well as he did in 2009 or 2010. Those stellar seasons gained Hernandez a grand total of seven MVP vote points.
Finally, Brandon League's save total will not suffice because he pairs it with an unimpressive 3.44 ERA.
The Seattle Mariners' non-contention for playoff spots does nobody any favors either.
Justin Smoak and Miguel Olivo Will Hit 20 Home Runs
Justin Smoak and Miguel Olivo have each hit 12 home runs so far this season. During the first 57 percent of the season, 91 games, Smoak and Olivo have made their way 60 percent towards 20 home runs.
Without doubt, this is a very optimistic prediction for Olivo. He has played in the vast majority of games so far. He could very well get more rest in the second half, making 20 home runs a stretch.
I am more comfortable predicting 20 home runs from Smoak. He should play almost all remaining games as he is one of few contributors to Mariner run scoring. Smoak is also likely to get more at-bats per game in the second half. He won't hit lower than fourth in the batting order as he sometimes did early in the season.