The three biggest Seattle Mariner stories impacting the team right now
The Mariners came into the 2017 feeling pretty good about the season. The rotation looked to be solid, led by King Felix, Drew Smyly, and James Paxton. Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager all had good years in 2016, and the Mariners added Jean Segura, who was coming off a breakout year offensively. The offense looked primed to contend in the AL.
Injuries reared their ugly head; however, with Smyly headed to the DL until June, the Mariners rotation instantly took a step back. Segura started the year on the DL, soon afterwards Felix would go on the DL, followed by Paxton. The beginning of a promising season was quickly in jeopardy.
The entire season has not been lost. Segura is living up to the extension the club gave him, hitting .311 with 6 HR’s and 15 SB in 82 games played. Jarrod Dyson has been a nice addition, swiping 27 bases. There are some questions that remain.
1st Story: Is James Paxton a legitimate ace?
History is very small on Paxton, given that he’s only had 5 years in the majors, 3 of which were short seasons. Paxton is uncharted territory with a 12-3 record in 20 games started. With 132 strikeouts in 113 IP, he’s clearly been a dominant force in the Mariners rotation. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the season pans out. He does lead the league in wild pitches, as well as HR/9. He carries a 10.48 K/9 and a 2.54 BB/9. With those peripheral numbers, it’s hard to make a definitive case against Paxton being an ace for this season, but he’ll need more repeatability to earn the title for the long term.
2nd Story: Is Felix finally showing signs of wear and tear?
From 2008 – 2015, you could bank on two things happening in Seattle: it was going to rain, and Felix Hernandez was going to make 30+ starts for 200 innings. During that stretch, only one pitcher made more starts, but no pitcher threw more innings that Hernandez. Hernandez also posted the lowest ERA than the next five closest pitchers (including the names Verlander, Hamels, and Lester). He also had a better K/9 and HR/9. He was arguably the best pitcher in baseball during this span.
That kind of workload will take a toll on any arm. The Mariners are clearly aware of this, according to Fangraphs, the Mariners have a team option for 2020 if Hernandez spends 130 days on the DL with an elbow issue. He’s currently had two stints on the DL in 2017, after going only once before in his career. Shoulder bursitis and bicep tendinitis, both of which are repetitive motion type injuries. There’s obviously no crystal ball to know for sure what Hernandez’s future holds, but it’s worth taking note and watching carefully as the season continues.
3rd Story: Do the Mariners have a secret weapon that will turn the tide for them in the coming years?
Ian Miller is likely going to bring game changing speed to the Mariners sooner rather than later. Miller has been able to swipe 35 bases in 98 games so far between AA and AAA as a 25 year old. In addition to that, he’s hitting .333 with a .387 OBP. If he can bring up the walk rate to increase his OBP, it’s likely to see Miller sooner rather than later, patrolling the spacious Safeco Field.
The thing Miller can truly improve on would be to develop more power to round out his game. If he can develop that, look out for Mariner and Astro showdowns for the next few years.