For the first time in a while, we can say that there is a baseball buzz about the air in Seattle. Tonight at Safeco Field, there were 45,462 fans in attendance watching the Mariners take 2 out of 3 against the best team in baseball, and while probably a fifth of those were Phillies fans, it still shows that locals are starting to care about this team again.
One month ago, the M’s were 16-23, and dead last in the American League West. Since then, they have had the fourth best record in baseball. They currently sit a game back in the American League West. Their pitching has been the fourth best in baseball, while their offense has been at the bottom.
There are some that are saying the Mariners offense has gotten lucky to date, even with the worst BABIP in baseball, and their "timely hitting" won’t continue to go forever. However, is no denying that the amount of runs the bullpen has allowed is unsustainable. The bullpen has put up a 2.08 ERA, while spotting a 4.21 xFIP. The Mariners will face another losing streak this season, and most of them will probably be because the bullpen blows the M’s slim leads. Every team faces a cold stretch, and it won’t be pretty.
The next stretch of games has the Rangers facing the Astros, Mets, and Astros. I expect the Mariners to fall a couple games in the next couple weeks due to the Rangers easy schedule. Though, from August until the end of the season, 13 of the 16 series the Rangers have are against teams with a record currently above .500. If the Mariners keep playing above .500 from here until the end of the season, it’s not hard to imagine them winning the division with a late surge when the Rangers have their tough schedule.
Let’s say Ackley hits .270/.360/.400 for the rest of the season, even though he could do much more than that. That would bring up the Mariners lineup from .242/.295/.344 to .246/.306/.355, and that’s not counting Ichiro or Gutierrez coming back to career norms (which I think will happen), or Chone Figgins hitting above the Mendoza Line (which I think will happen too). Now, let’s say all of those will happen. Figgins hits .230/.290/.310, Ichiro hitting .300/.350/.400, and Guti hitting .260/.310/.400 from here. That brings the lineup to a monstrous .254/.314/.382. Somebody could win an MVP with that line!
On May 19th of last year, the San Francisco Giants had an OPS+ of 86 and were one game out of the NL West. A couple weeks before, they called up their prized prospect Buster Posey, who was hitting .349/.442/.552 at AAA, and then hit .305/.357/.505 with the Giants, carrying them to the World Series.
Right now, the Mariners have an OPS+ of 84, and are a game back in the West. A couple days ago, they called up their prized prospect Dustin Ackley, who was hitting .303/.421/.487 at AAA, and has impressed both offensively and defensively since being called up. Hitters like Ackley have adjusted quickly after coming up to the big show, so there is a chance Ackley carries this team like Posey did with the Giants, but the M’s will have to acquire some bats to stay in the race.
Here are some players the M’s might be rumored to be talking about: (I’m really sorry if this is rosterbation. I guessed it was appropriate because I am not going to make any predictions or focus on one player)
Carlos Quentin: RH, OF/DH .263/.367/.556, .400 wOBA, OPS+ 151. Carlos doesn’t really seem like a Jack-Zduriencik-type-player, but Quentin has a serious bat although his range is pretty putrid, and wouldn’t play well in Safeco’s spacious outfield. He is also a right-handed hitter, and moving from U.S Cellular field to Safeco would be a huge change. Carlos is getting paid $5 million this season, and is set to become a free agent in 2013
Ryan Ludwick: RH, OF .259/.327/.406, .325 wOBA, OPS+ 110. Ludwick has put up above-average offensive numbers all while playing in Petco Park half the time. He is a free agent after this year.
Luke Scott: LH, OF/1B/DH .244/.322/.438, .332 wOBA, OPS+ 109. Scott seems to be talked about every year, but he is in the final year of his contract, and the O’s may be looking to deal him. He isn’t much of an outfielder, though his bat makes up for it.
If the M’s can acquire one of these players or another good bat, while continue their performance, they will make things very exciting in September, and bring the Mariners back on the map. A lot of things would have to fall into place for this to happen, but it’s not like the Mariners haven’t had that this season. Believe Big
Last poll, most of you guys thought that the Mariners would win between 76 and 80 games this season. That was back on May 24th when the Mariners were a game below .500. I'm curious to see what the thinking is now.