The baseball world has been enamored by the Cubs’ historic start, what Bryce Harper has done at the plate and the Boston Red Sox’s electrifying offense. These storylines have jumped off the page for the first two months of the MLB season; all of which deserves recognition. However, through it all, people seem to be forgetting about the team out west, and no it’s neither the Anaheim Angels nor Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s the Seattle Mariners.
In past years, this franchise has underperformed when the “experts” have filed them as postseason contenders, fading early in the regular season. But in 2016, the tide has turned, so far Seattle has taken the all-important step with a new regime and a healthy Robinson Cano which has led them to a 28-19 record and first place in AL West.
A big key to the Mariners’ early burst is that they’ve found success on the road, winning 18-out-of-25 away from Safeco Field. Not to mention, the return of Robinson Cano has jump started Seattle’s used to be lifeless offense into a dynamic force, tallying up 222 runs, seventh most in baseball and second most in American League. Cano dealt with untimely viruses for much of last season, which might have induced a loss of power. In 2015, Cano witnessed his lowest SLG, OBP, and OPS percentages since 2008 with the Yankees.
Now functioning at full strength, Cano has remained focus and is providing dependability in the middle of the Mariners’ order. In 210 plate appearances, he’s hitting .294 with 14 HRs and 43 RBIs. But what’s been more impressive is his resurgence of power: generating a career-high SLG (.588) and OPS (.930). Cano is fueling Seattle’s offense along with his partner in crime Nelson Cruz. Both, as of now are legitimate All-Star candidates and is a reason why their lineup has been so deadly.
Call it what you want, but Seattle’s management shuffle by bringing in Jerry Dipoto has payed off big dividends as well. Dipoto is the one person that’s in charge of realigning Seattle’s roster into a perfect composition. The former Angels’ GM was able to construct savvy moves in the off-season to balance out the roster, such as acquiring Leonys Martin from Texas, whose added speed, defense, and a little pop to the lineup. Martin’s made a living so far by getting on base (holding a .336 OBP) and is setting the table perfectly for the rest of the Mariners’ order. Dipoto lastly, dug deep and nabbed a much-needed innings eater in Wade Miley who has logged 56 innings and has alleviated pressure off Felix Hernandez.
Miley has pitched near or above 200 innings the last four seasons. That’s a rare quality for any pitcher in baseball today with several bullpens being so dominant. Speaking of a lockdown bullpen, Seattle is finding consistency in the late innings with Steve Cishek, a side-armer whose career went up in smoke while with the Marlins and Cardinals, but has found his form again, converting 12 out of 15 save opportunities so far. Also, 38 year-old Joaquin Benoit has reinvented his career as Seattle’s set up man. Both of these veteran relievers Dipoto signed to two-year deals, which has molded the Mariners’ pen to the sixth best ERA in baseball at 2.62.
From what has transpired in the first two months, the Seattle Mariners are on pace to chase their first division title since 2001. The process might have taken an extra year or two, but the crop of talent that Seattle has produced is here to stay.