Simply put, 2013 has not gone as well as the Seattle Mariners would’ve hoped. The progression seemed in place for this team to be a little over or at .500. However, at the mid-season point, the Mariners are on track to finish 70-92, five games below last season’s 75 win total. The youth movement hasn’t panned out for Seattle leading to another season of sluggish offensive numbers. Here are my mid-season grades for the Mariners.
Offense: C-. People who read this column may think that’s too high. The overall MLB rankings for Seattle in the major offensive categories are dismal: 28th in runs (297), 27th in batting average (.237), and 24th in on base percentage (.301). There have been first half of the season bright spots. The Mariners brought in Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales, and Michael Morse to boost the offense, and they have delivered. Ibanez leads the team in HR and RBI, and Morales is batting .277, forty points over the team’s average. Of course, all three are free agents at the end of the season. I expect a big push to re-sign Morales, but the other two might be question marks with Ibanez’s age (41) and Morse’s injury struggles in the first half. Kyle Seager is having another solid season (.268-11HR-36 RBI), but the rest of the Mariners’ young players haven’t produced. Justin Smoak does have his average at career high (.245) but has produced only 6 HR in 188 AB. Michael Saunders is batting .211 in sixty games, and Dustin Ackley, who spent some time in Tacoma, is batting .202 in forty-eight games.
Felix Hernandez hasn’t disappointed in the first half, but Seattle is on pace for only 70 wins, five less than last season.
Starting Pitching: B-. I believe, and would argue, that the Seattle Mariners have one of the best No. 1-2 combos in the league, if not the best, in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Hernandez has been in his ace form going 8-4 with a 2.70 ERA and 123 SO in 116.2 IP. Iwakuma has built upon his strong second half of last season going 7-3 with a 2.42 ERA with 101 SO in 115.1 IP. Joe Saunders has been a solid third starter, but he has looked stronger at home then on the road. He is probably the biggest trade chip if the Mariners decided to make a move at the deadline. The back end of the rotation has been inconsistent. Aaron Harang came over in an April trade and has been up-and-down with a 3-7 record and a 5.08 ERA. Brandon Maurer started the season in the rotation, but he was sent down to Tacoma after some struggles (2-7, 6.93 ERA). After a rocky first start, Jeremy Bonderman (1-2, 4.05) has shown some flash from the No. 5 spot holding four straight opponents to two ER or less before he struggled in his last start vs. the Cubs.
Bullpen: C+. The Mariners’ bullpen started strong with Tom Wilhelmsen closing, but they have now drifted into closer by committee land. Wilhelmsen’s miserable June has left a sour taste in fans’ mouths (0-2, 3 Blown Saves, 10.97 ERA), but he still has 16 saves on the season and no one else on this roster has any experience closing. The former starter Oliver Perez has been lights out of the bullpen this season (2-2, 1 SV, 1.52 ERA). The Mariners have also gotten a strong first half from rookie Yoervis Medina (3-2, 1 SV, 2.76 ERA), who is currently the right-hand option in the closer by committee. The middle relief guys have good power numbers, Carter Capps (31.2 IP, 40 SO) and Danny Farquhar (19. 1 IP, 28 SO), but need to get their ERAs down (Capps 5.97, Farquhar 6.05).
Overall: C-. I toyed with a C here, but this isn’t even an average team right now. At the mid-point of the season, including two-game series, the Seattle Mariners have zero sweeps. They haven’t swept a single opponent. It would take a red-hot July to save them from being sellers, but there isn’t a lot in the cupboard they are willing to trade. Right now, the two best chips are Joe Saunders and Oliver Perez, both free agents at the end of the season. The Mariners haven’t sat on their hands when it comes to addressing their lagging offense. They have called up top prospects Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino. And, in the off season, they were ready to pull the trigger on a deal for Justin Upton, but Upton invoked his no-trade clause. I don’t have the answer here, but, without the offense getting on base more and producing more runs, the Mariners after the first half of the season have looked like they have taken a step back.