Seattle is 802 miles from Oakland, the nearest baseball city, but at times in 2013 it may have seemed like the distance from Oaktown to the Emerald City was shorter than the separation between the A’s and M’s in the AL West Standings. The Mariners headed into the season boasting a newly power packed lineup with additions of Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales and the return of Raul Ibanez. The starting staff seemed top heavy with top tier starters Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma pacing the rotation and a major fall off to the three four and five starters.
These things would prove to be true, but other factors would play into the Mariners 71-91 record. Here is the season review of the Seattle Mariners.
They didn’t finish in last. Granted this was due to the Houston Astros being added to the AL West, but it always feels good to not be the worst. This was the first time since 2009 that the M’s climbed out of the cellar, which was also the last winning season the team had. They were not fortunate enough to finish the season with a winning record, but they did have some good things happen.
Hisashi Iwakuma followed up his strong debut season with a dominant performance all season long. For the first time since acquiring Cliff Lee for the first half of the season in 2010, Felix Hernandez had a rotation-mate who was able to match him start for start throughout the season, and for this season King Felix took a back seat. Iwakuma finished with a 14-6 record and a top five ERA (2.66), WHIP (1.01) and IP (219.2). All these numbers added up to a top-three finish in the AL Cy Young voting.
The moving in of the walls in Safeco Park worked. In the past five seasons the Mariners homered an average of 57 times per season at home, but in 2013 that number jumped to 88. The home run production jumped away from home as well. In all, the Mariners homered 188 times, second only to the Baltimore Orioles in all of baseball, and were headlined by Raul Ibanez’s 29, a number that tied Ted Williams for most homeruns by a 41-year old.
In a season that was marked by high homerun numbers, the Mariners inducted their all-time leading homerun hitter into the Mariners Hall of Fame. Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted on August 10 to the team’s hall of fame, joining former teammates Dan Wilson, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and <Randy Johnson, and the man that called his famous dash around the bases, Dave Niehaus.
Unlike with the good, there is a lot more to choose from here, but the most pressing issue was the offense. Although they hit 188 home runs, they didn’t do a whole lot else. Developing hitters like Mike Zunino, Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin and Michael Saunders all failed to hit .240 while glove man <Brendan Ryan hit just .192 before being moved to New York in August. This added up to the worst team batting average in the American League, and an on-base percentage that topped just the Astros and White Sox in the AL.
As for the pitching, King Felix and Iwakuma were the only really bright spots. The top two starters pitched 424 innings of a 2.84, but every other start for the team combined for 536 innings of a 5.83 ERA. Veterans Joe Saunders (5.26 ERA) and Aaron Harang (5.76) ate a bulk of these innings, but young guns Brandon Maurer (6.30) and Erasmo Ramirez (4.98) weren’t much help either.
Bad performances in the rotation paired with bad hitting spelled doom for the M’s this season, but the hot stove brings a new hope for many teams, and the Mariners will be looking to get some help in their problem areas.
With such a shallow rotation and a ballpark still known as a pitcher’s park, the Mariners could be after some of the starting pitching on the market. With the heavy Asian presence in the organization, the M’s could be a dark horse candidate for Masahiro Tanaka, but will likely go for a cheaper option like Ryan Vogelsong or Ricky Nolasco.
The Mariners will have needs to fill in the outfield, as Raul Ibanez and Mike Morse moving on. The free agent class ripe with outfield talent with 5 of the top free agents turning down qualifying offers. The M’s have been near the top of the list for free agent, and native pacific north westerner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and have also shown interest in Shin-Soo Choo.
As for the other spots in the lineup, the Mariners will likely take a similar approach to the 2013 season, hoping for the young studs to develop. If developing prospects like Taijuan Walker, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero can develop into the players they are supposed to be, the Mariners may be starting something very good with Lloyd McClendon in 2014.