With the second half of the season underway, the Seattle Mariners face many questions with no apparent answer.
What's their status at the deadline? Are they trading their top performers or splurging on offensive help?And what do you do about useless players like Jack Wilson and Chone Figgins anyways?
What I can tell you is that the second half will be as unpredictable and unbelievable as the first (how did the M's win that many game with such a bad offense anyways?). But I'll try my best to lay out the next 71 games for you.
Okay, let's get this out of the way first. Ichiro is getting his 200 hits.
Ichiro has had a tough first half without a doubt, and hit for just .210 BA in May. Having collected 101 hits at the All-Star break, he's on pace for 180 projected for a full season.
He hasn't looked great in July, but had a decent bounce-back in June.
I don't think Ichiro is done by any stretch- is he declining? Sure. But I fully expect him to have a resurgent second half that allows his batting average to finish at above .290. With the number of plate appearances he has, it'll allow him to scrape out his 200 hits.
This guy has got to be one of the worst players the Mariners have put at DH.
Jose Vidro was terrible and more overpriced than artisan bottled water, but at least he hit for an average. Ken Griffey, Jr. was mediocre and ended his career as poorly as a legend could ever end his career, but at least he had some pop.
Cust has none of that. In over 200 plate appearances, he's only hit three home runs. He's driven the ball deep on occasion, but the slugger the M's wanted when they signed him is nowhere to be found.
Eric Wedge himself has admitted that he can't find at-bats for Cust, and I expect Smoak and Halman/Peguero to get a lot of the DH'ing duties from now on.
Being paid over $2 million makes it tough for the M's to toss him out, but it's a move they'll eventually have to make. Cust has no future with this team and I expect him to be designated for assignment before long.
Despite the emphasis being placed on big bats like Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, it shouldn't come as a major surprise that a lot of teams still need starting pitching.
Mariners fans have been treated to a ridiculously effective rotation thus far, but many contending teams don't have that kind of rotation.
Vargas is a lefty that can command pretty nice value on the market because of his ability to pitch very deep into ball games and eat innings.
Bedard offers some value, although diminished with the injury, but can offer a contending team some form of a back-of-the-rotation type starter without many expectations.
The M's might be able to net a type "A" prospect for Vargas, and maybe some low-level talent for Bedard.
You don't need me to tell you that Pineda has been amazing this year, because you already know that. You also know that the last thing the M's want is to overwork him and get him injured.
That doesn't mean they'll shut him down in September or something. In 18 starts, Pineda has only thrown over 100 pitches four times. Having pitched 113 innings, it means he's incredibly economical with his pitch count.
The M's will definitely continue this and at some point may skip a start or two, but in his first season in the majors, I expect Pineda to go about 170 innings, even if the starts mean little come September. You'll just see a lot more games where he pitches less than six innings.
Carlos Peguero has looked lost at the plate and in left field so far this season.
Well, his fielding has improved some, I'll give him that. But the offensive numbers are atrocious for Peguero.
The bottom line is, Peguero isn't seeing the ball and his approach has been hacking at the ball with huge swings rather than a more disciplined approach. He also does little else other than hit fastballs, and pitchers know better than giving him a dose of fastballs.
Peguero will not have any success in the majors if he keeps that up. Wedge has shown a lot of faith in Peguero, borderline blind trust in fact.
However, as he still continues to hit below the Mendoza line, I think Peguero does not have much longer with the ballclub. He'll be sent down to Tacoma to work more on his batting before coming up again late in the year if he makes improvements.
Brandon League is the M's most valuable trade chip as we close in on the deadline. Many teams are in need of a closer, or at the very least a strong setup man.
League has been one of the best closers in the AL, and I'm sure Jack Zduriencik will be getting tons of offers for his services. Jack Z also doesn't have a reservation in trading closers if the value is there, like when he dealt J.J Putz and subsequently brought in David Aardsma.
If the M's are lucky and find a willing trade partner, they could net a very solid prospect for League. Maybe not of the caliber of Jesus Montero, but salivatingly close.
Halman is a mystery to many M's fans. Quietly, he's been one of the better hitters for the Mariners lately, but his numbers don't look good. He doesn't take many walks, and he goes on O'fer streaks with regularity.
However, unlike Carlos Peguero, he's been able to make contact with the ball and put it in play. I think that as the season wears on, Halman will continue to improve in his approach at the plate and finish with a solid .250 average.
After the .200 performances by Peguero, Carp, and Saunders, Halman hasn't been too dissapointing and there's things to like about his game. We haven't seen much of his power, but he has the potential to be a four-tool player.
The M's have realized that Halman is currently their best option in left (and even center) field, and he'll get some regular playing time as a result. By the end of the season, I think he'll be making nearly all of the starts in left field.
In 20 games, Dustin Ackley has become one of the best players for the Mariners this season.
Seriously, he's about the only player I have hope for when he comes up to the plate, besides Adam Kennedy.
Can he maintain the success he's had since he's been called up? Can he fight his way through an inevitable slump?
I can't answer these questions, but he is an exceptionally mature and hardworking player with a consistent approach that has worked. He should be able to continue to adjust as pitchers (lefty pitchers especially) figure him out.
At the end of the year, something like .290 BA with 12 home runs and 55 RBI is not out of the question, especially if he keeps hitting out of the three spot. And in 90 games or so, that's some pretty good numbers.
We like that you love your teammates, but really, what's up with you, Chone Figgins?
By now, you've probably heard all the Chone Figgins bashing and hate, so I'll spare you from any more. Yeah, we know he's terrible.
It might be the super-disciplined approach that gets him behind in counts too much, that's my best guess. Maybe he's just lost a step from his Angels days. Either way, whatever uniform he's in, he's still killing the Mariners.
I don't think the M's have the guts to release him outright. They know they won't get anything for him in a trade, and a high-salary swap won't do them much good either. I think there's also a degree of reluctance to get rid of him, just in case he starts tearing it up elsewhere.
Regardless, the M's are going to keep Figgins for the rest of the year. In this time, he might get more playing opportunities if Seager gets sent back down. I think the last-ditch attempt to get him going again will be to give him consistent at-bats and hope he puts together a streak and regains confidence.
There's a lot to like about this season and the way it's gone so far. But as much as I'd like to be optimistic and think the team wins a bunch of games down the stretch and goes to the playoffs, they won't.
This team is decent, and a good deal better than last year. If they make a couple trades, they won't be as good, but they will still be a pitching-dominated team.
They'll probably win somewhere between 30 and 35 games with 71 remaining. They'll still have the same offensive struggles and pull out tight one-run victories.
For the Mariners, that'll be considered a good expectations. You have to remember that this team was pretty much a non-upgraded version of last year's squad, with a few surprises along the way.
75-86 is not a bad way to finish this season.