Mariners Begin Season, Let’s Review!

At the start of the baseball season I had this idea to write a recap of each series the Mariners played.  Then the season started and I got busy, tired, sleepy, or lazy.  So now here we are, 12 games into the season and I think it’s time to recap what happened so far.  If I do that then I could maybe do a series recap starting Thursday!  Probably not, but maybe.  I’ll keep you on your toes.

For now, I’m going to give you a very short series recap of the 4 series the Mariners have completed and then take a closer look at the lineup.  Let’s get started!

March 31-April 2:  Three game sweep of the Angels!

What a way to start the season.  I hate the Angels so it was nice to pummel them.  The offense battled against some pretty good starting pitching and then destroyed a pedestrian bullpen.  The pitching was very good all series.  The closest game of the series was an 8-3 victory.
Star of the Series:  Justin Smoak – Smoak came up big all series long.  He hit a big dinger in the first game and rocketed a bases clearing double off of CJ Wilson in the second game.
Goat of the Series:  No one – I searched through the box scores.  There was no one to pick.  Every single position player got on base and no pitcher had some crazy meltdown.

Ted S. Warren

Ted S. Warren

April 3-April 6:  1-2 in a 3 game series against the A’s

The A’s seem to be pretty even with the Mariners, actually probably a little better.  This was a strange series.  Erasmo threw a clunker.  Elias was screwed over by the worst umpiring I’ve ever seen.  Felix threw a gem.  The Oakland grounds crew did something ridiculous and a game was postponed.  The series was annoying and really weird.  The offense was able to squeak out 8 runs over the 3 games.  The A’s pitching is really good and the offense hasn’t figured them out yet.
Star of the Series:  Felix Hernandez – I think Felix is the right choice here.  He threw a fantastic game and got the Mariners their only win of the series.
Goat of the Series:  Hector Noesi – Noesi threw 2 pitches and gave up a walk off homer.  It was as predictable as things could get.  He’s now gone.  Other goats considered were Sean Barber, Oakland grounds crew, and Coco Crisp (he really was terrible for the Mariners).

April 8-9:  1-1 in a 2 game series against the Angels.

The season opener was electric.  Paxton recovered from a rocky first inning and threw a great game before coming out with an injury.  Hart had his best game of the season to date, homering twice.  The next game was ugly, as the Mariners were shut out by Garret Richardson.  Roenis Elias threw well but not well enough to overcome the offense being shut out.  That’s pretty much impossible to overcome.
Star of the Series:  Corey Hart – He didn’t do much on Wednesday (although he did get on base) but his two dingers won the game on Tuesday.
Goat of the Series:  Dustin Ackley – Ackley didn’t record a hit in this series.  A small blemish in an otherwise very good year to date.

April 11-13:  1-2 in a 3 game series against the A’s

It sure is annoying playing the A’s all the time.  Each game against them feels like a struggle.  It really is.  They don’t make many mistakes and their pitching is so good that you just have to scratch out some runs.  Friday night was an extremely fun baseball game.  Saturday and Sunday the Mariners scored a total of 1 run.  Thankfully, the Mariners don’t play the A’s very many more times before September.
Star of the Series:  Dustin Ackley and Felix Hernandez – After the performance that Felix put up on Friday, I have to include him.  Ackley went 5 for 8 in the series with 2 doubles and quickly bounced back from his lackluster series against the Angels.
Goat of the Series:  Justin Smoak – Smoak didn’t get a hit all weekend, even though he did hit some balls hard on Friday.

That left the Mariners with a 6-5 record after 11 games.  They won tonight (7-5) and I think anyone would have taken a 7-5 record to start the season.

Some thoughts on individual players after the jump.  

We’ll take it position-by-position.

C Mike Zunino – I believe someone on Lookout Landing said that Zunino is still guessing when he’s hitting but when he guesses right, look out.  That’s pretty much right but there has been some improvement.  Tonight he sat back on a breaking pitch that was outside the strike zone and then drilled it 420 feet over the center field wall.  He’s still learning but he’s hitting .300 with some major power while learning.  His average will fall off a little bit but what we really care about is his strikeouts.  If he can cut down on those then Zunino will have an OPS+ over 100 about 2 years before I expected it.  Defensively, he’s the best Mariner catcher since Dan Wilson.  Let’s hope he’s here that long.

C John Buck – Buck has played in 2 ballgames out of 12.  That’s about the perfect ratio.  He’s a fine backup catcher, just as long as he doesn’t see the field a ton.

1B Justin Smoak – Smoak has already gone through his ups and downs early in the season.  He had an amazing start to the season and then was terrible in the last weekend series against Oakland.  He’s still striking out a ton but he’s shown that the net drill is really helping.  If he can keep his hands in like that, we might just have something here.  There have been a few times this season already where I’ve seen him gearing up for a fastball and he’s going to swing no matter what.  Other times, he’s so timid that he won’t swing at a fastball right down the middle.  He needs to find a balance there.  His defense has been incredible.  Like best in the league, good.

2B Robinson Cano – People were complaining about Cano this afternoon.  He’s hitting over .300 with an OBP well over .400.  People should appreciate this for a while.  He’s starting to get balls elevated but really, just watch Cano and enjoy.  He gets a little greedy once in a while and swings really hard in a hitters count, just like you’re supposed to.  If that doesn’t work out, then he works the count.  Once he gets 2 strikes on him he simplifies things so much and just hits a line drive through a hole.  It’s a thing of beauty.  Stop worrying about the power and just enjoy watching a truly elite hitter.

SS Brad Miller – Miller has a lot of pop but he sure does like to hack too.  His contact rate needs to come up if he’s going to be the player that everyone touts him as.  With that being said, he clearly has a ton of talent.  Frankly, I think we’re seeing his floor right now.  A .230 average with 20 dingers is great compared to recent shortstops and most people think he’s underperforming by quite a bit.

3B Kyle Seager – Seager has gotten off to a cold start but he doesn’t look far off to me.  In another 10-15 games I might be worried but for now, sit tight.  He needs to relax and not try to change his average from .200 to .300 with one swing.  He’ll be fine.

LF Dustin Ackley – What is this, 2011?  Ackley looks like the player that we thought we had when he made his major league debut 3 years ago.  He’s driving the ball all over the place.  He’s showing doubles power with a homer every now and then.  Every now and then, he’s trying to do too much and will roll over to the right side but otherwise he’s becoming our own Alex Gordon.  Keep hitting to the left side, Ack!  His defense is improving in left field.  He has a decent amount of range but there does seem to sometimes be a lack of fundamentals and communication.  That will keep improving.

CF Abraham Almonte – Honestly, I’m still not sure what we have here.  I like his approach.  He’s a patient hitter who really gears up in hitters counts.  He does struggle with the breaking stuff (pretty much everyone in this lineup does aside from Cano and Ackley) and that makes him fairly susceptible to strikeouts but there’s quite a bit of potential there.  He’s a lot of fun to watch too.  That counts for something, right?

RF The Revolving Door – Here’s where we get to talk about Lloyd.  Bullpen management aside, his lineups have been what I’d hoped for.  Sure, you could nitpick over seeing Morrison a few more times than Saunders but those thoughts kind of slip away when you picture what this lineup could be if Morrison played close to what his ceiling is thought to be.  Saunders is being used as a defensive replacement as early as the 6th inning, which is unheard of from managers and outstanding.  Romero really likes to swing.  He’s probably trying to do too much but you can see the power there.  I don’t know how long he’ll last in the lineup but if he succeeds it’s because he becomes a little more selective while staying aggressive.  When he hits it, it goes.

DH Corey Hart – We’ve seen what he can do when he connects with one.  I’m still dreaming of that screaming line drive to dead center he hit in the home opener.  Unfortunately, he’s still getting his legs under him.  If he can put it all together, that’s great.  I still think it could take another month but if we’re patient and see it happen whoever the Mariners face in the playoffs are really going to be scared of that Cano-Hart tandem.

IF/OF Wille Bloomquist – I think Willie Bloomquist is pretty annoying.  But, don’t you want those annoying players on your team?  Lloyd is using him perfectly.  A start once a week.  He annoys pitchers by slapping singles around as they’re trying to get an easy out.  As long as he doesn’t get a much larger role on this team, he’s kind of perfect for what the Mariners need.  Sometimes you’re so prepared to hate a player, like I was, but really you need that player.

All in all, 12 games in, the season has been a success thus far.  Just stay away from that Oakland pitching.  Go M’s!

– Andrew

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