2011 Seattle Mariners Season Preview and Predictions
Some thought the Seattle Mariners had enough talent to win the AL West last season, but instead they finished with one of the more disappointing seasons in franchise history. Seattle went 61-101, to become the only team with a $100 million payroll to lose 100 games. While the blame can be spread throughout the organization, an offense that scored just 3.2 runs per game while hitting just.236, is the essential reason why this team struggled. Not much was done in the offseason to revamp the offense, meaning it is going to take a number of breakout seasons for Seattle to compete in the West. Here is a look at the Mariners starting lineup and starting rotation for the 2011 season, plus our MLB predictions on where they will finish the year in the AL West.
The staple in the Mariners offense is leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki, who hit.315 and reached the 200 hit mark for a 10th straight season. At 36, Suzuki still remains a threat on the bases with 42 steals in 2010. Third baseman Chone Figgins had a major dropoff in 2010, and needs to turn things around in 2011. Figgins hit a career-worst.259 with just one home run and 35 RBIs last season. Seattle is hoping first baseman Justin Smoak is ready to break out and give this organization some much needed power in the middle of the lineup. Smoak hit just.218 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs in 2010, but could easily end 2011 with 20+ home runs and 80 RBIs. DH Jack Cust was also a disappointment last year, hitting just 13 home runs after hitting at least 25 in the previous three seasons. There are is no question center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is an amazing defender, but he has to has to rebound offensively to really help this team. After hitting .283 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs in 2009, he hit just .245 with 12 home runs and 64 RBIs in 2010. The same could be said for shortstop Jack Wilson, who has a great glove, but hit just .249 last season.
The remainder of the lineup doesn't provide much to get excited about. Seattle added veteran catcher Miguel Olivio, who hit .269 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs with the Rockies last year. New second baseman Brendan Ryan hit just .223 with the Cardinals last season, and will likely lose his job as soon as Dustin Ackley is ready to make the jump. Left fielder Michael Saunders is one player who does have some promise. At just 23 he hit 10 home runs in just 289 at-bats last year, and should only get better with more playing time.
Just how bad was the Mariners offense last year? Felix Hernandez took home the AL CY Young with a 13-12 record, thanks to a 2.27 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, and 8.4 SO/9. If the offense shows any improvement, he should win at least 15 games in 2011. Jason Vargas is another guy who didn't get a whole lot of run support. He posted a 3.78 ERA and 1.241 WHIP, but went just 9-12 on the year. Doug Fisher had a modest 4.11 ERA, but went just 6-14, and its hard to see a a big turnaround in 2011 for a guy who doesn't strike out a lot of batters. Top pitching prospect, Michael Pineda, went 11-4 with a 3.36 ERA in the minors last season, but you can't expect a great year with the offense he has behind him. Veteran Erik Bedard hasn't been able to make more than 15 starts in his first two seasons with Seattle, but when healthy he is one of the top pitchers in this rotation. Bedard went 5-3 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 2010, but isn't of much value if he can't stay off the DL.
2011 Projections: 4th Place AL West
There just isn't enough evidence to believe Seattle going to have a huge turnaround offensively. Vargas isn't anything close to the No. 2 starter they had last season in Cliff Lee, and we just don't see how they make it out of last place in a pretty pacled division this season.