Monday, April 9, 2012

Seattle Mariners weekly recap: March 28-April 8th edition

By Kshell

The Seattle Mariners season has finally begun and the Mariners came out of the gate strong defeated the Oakland A's three out of  four games. In the longest series in franchise history which started in Japan then took a week off to do spring training then resumed in Oakland the Mariners found themselves 3-1 for the first time since 2006. In the two games in Japan both teams had strong pitching performances while over here in the states the Mariners hitting finally woke up. The Mariners also saw two guys who have struggled mightly in the past have a big two game set in Oakland in Chone Figgins and Michael Saunders. The atmosphere in Japan was incredible way to start the season while in Oakland it was business as usual. Like I did last year when the Mariners have a winning week I'll go over the good(the hitting), the bad(there was some hitters who slumped), and the awesome(the great week by Chone Figgins). The Mariners who are now in year two of Eric Wedge as manager are hoping the hitting has improved from last season which ranked last in almost every hitting category. The Mariners are hoping these four games weren't a fluke but just a sign of things to come in the near future for this young ball club.

The Good:

The Mariners went 3-1 against the A's so there was plenty of good. For starters the hitting especially when the series shifted back to Oakland started to pick up. In the first game of the season over in Japan Ichiro playing back in his homeland went 4-5 with an RBI which was a thrill for the future hall of famer. Jason Vargas began the season with two quality starts while Brandon League already has two saves. Felix Hernandez on opening night went 8 innings allowing just one run. The Mariners offense came out of the gate which was nice to see. The Japan series was especially good for Ichiro like I stated he was playing in front of his home fans and responded that series by going 4-9. Dustin Ackley won the game MVP in the first game as over in Japan they reward an MVP each game. In that game Ackley went 2-5 with a home run and also the game winning RBI to earn the game MVP.

Good Hitting:

Chone Figgins: 7-17(.412), 2 runs, 4 RBI's, SB. Hitting .412/.412/.588
Kyle Seager: 4-11(.364), run, 2 RBI's, SB. Hitting .364/.417/.364
Ichiro: 6-17(.353), 2 runs, 3 RBI's, SB. Hitting .353/.368/.471
Dustin Ackley: 6-19(.316), HR, 4 runs, 3 RBI's, SB. Hitting .316/.316/.474
Michael Saunders: 4-13(.308), HR, 3 runs, RBI, SB. Hitting .308/.400/.615
Brendan Ryan: 3-10(.300), 3 runs. Hitting .300/.364/.500

Good Pitching:

Jason Vargas: 1-0, 11.2 IP, 2.31 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 6 K's
Felix Hernandez: 1-0, 14.1 IP, 4.40 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 13 K's
Tom Whilhelmsen: 1-0, 4 IP, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 5 K's
Brandon League: 2 saves, 3 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 2 K's

The hitting has been great as you can see the Mariners have six regulars right now who are hitting above .300 which may be due to a short sample size. After last seasons failures in hitting this is still a pleasant surprise to see.

The Bad:

Not all was good for the Mariners in their 3-1 start. The Mariners have three regulars including two guys who the organization is hoping to be a cornerstone of the franchise get off to a slow start. Add in the blown save in the second game of the year you'll see a couple of bullpen arms make the list as well. As for the hitting Miguel Olivo isn't hitting at all or is he catching well with already two pass balls. With the trade of left handed John Jaso and facing nothing but righties it was puzzling to see Olivo start all four games this year so far. With the team going 3-1 though it is hard to complain too much. The team played well and players will always be slumping but it was frustrating to see Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero come out of the gate struggling. Both guys are prized prospects who the Mariners gave up some pitching to acquire both. This is Smoak's third year in the major leagues as this appears to be a make or break year for him. So far he has gotten off to a slow start despite the home run over in Japan. For the players hitting well and same with the players doing poorly at first this is just four games into a long 162 game schedule.

Bad Hitting:

Jesus Montero: 3-15(.200), RBI, 2 K's, Caught Stealing. Hitting .200/.188/.200
Miguel Olivo: 2-16(.125), run, RBI, 2 K's. Hitting .125/.125/.125
Justin Smoak: 2-17(.118), HR, 2 runs, 2 RBI's, 4 K's. Hitting . 118/.167/.294
Mike Carp: 0-4(.000)

Bad Pitching:

Shawn Kelly: 0-1, blown save,  0.1 IP, 27.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP
George Sherrill: 0 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 homerun

Hopefully this week in Texas will awake the bats of Smoak and Montero. Jack Zduriencik's tenure as Mariners GM will be measured up to how those two perform since he traded all-star pitchers Cliff Lee and Michael Pineda for them.

The Awesome:

Chone Figgins in the past has been a pain in the ass for the Mariners. He was a pain in the ass to the Mariners when he played for the Angels too as he was their leadoff hitter constantly getting on base and causing havoc on the Mariners. Then the Mariners signed him moved him to the #2 spot in the order and he was again a pain in the Mariners ass as he never got on base. Last year he hit below .200 as they were having drink specials based on his batting average. Well this year Figgins is hitting leadoff and in exchange for that he is playing everywhere on the field. He was the opening day third baseman and due to Mike Carp getting hurt in left field Figgins is now playing left field which is allowing Kyle Seager's red hot bat to play third base. The Mariners are hoping this isn't just some small sample size instead the return of Figgins. They also saw Michael Saunders who was once a top 100 prospect according to baseball america continue his hot spring training hitting into the major league season.

Awesome Hitting:

Mariners team: Hitting .266/.291/.385 with 3 HR's averaging 4.8 runs per game

Chone Figgins: Figgins has had back to back three hit games for the Mariners something he has only done twice now in his career. Last year in 81 games Figgins had only one three hit performance. He is playing the outfield now and leading off. Figgins is finally starting to hit and hopefully he is due for a big year.

Michael Saunders: Saunders is getting what feels like his last chance in Seattle. With Franklin Gutierrez out due to injury Saunders is starting in his place. Saunders so far has had a terrific spring training and has started off well this year. His home run came off of a lefty where he has struggled in the past.

The Mariners hitting numbers aren't great but they are day and night better than last season. The Mariners have beaten up on the Oakland A's the one AL West team they seem to do well against the last few years. Now comes the real test as they take on the Texas Rangers down in Arlington in a nice four game set.

AL West Standings:

Seattle Mariners: 3-1, First Place
Texas Rangers: 2-1, 0.5 GB
L.A.Angels: 1-2, 1.5 GB
Oakland A's: 1-3, 2.0 GB

The Seattle Mariners are looking to go 4-1 for the first time since 2001. If the Mariners go 4-1 it will be how that 2001 team did as well winning the opener, dropping the second game then winning three in a row. As we all know that 2001 team won 116 games and is the last Mariners team to play in the postseason. Before we get ahead of ourselves it was nice to see the Mariners playing well coming out of the gate especially hitting. This is a big week as the Mariners take on the two-time defending AL champions Texas Rangers a team who has owned them the last four years and then return home for the home opener which should be pretty special. If the Mariners can keep up their hitting they could possibly surprise some people as they hope to compete for a winning season which they have only had two since 2004.

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