It’s one of the annual traditions here at C70 At The Bat, our trip around the majors in blog form. Since 2009, I’ve been asking bloggers from other teams about what’s going to happen with their squad in the coming season. It’s always fun to see what the opposition is thinking and how optimistic some of their most devoted and intelligent fans are. This year, the Pepper series is brought to you by Out of the Park Baseball 16, coming soon for PC. Order this outstanding baseball simulation today!
87-75, third in the AL West
One game. Baseball is a game of inches and one game is pretty much the epitome of that idea. The Giants, whom we looked at yesterday, won one more game than the Mariners, grabbed the last wild card spot, and the rest is history. The Mariners won one less game and that was the difference between a cold October and at least a play-in game for the play-in game.
Still, the Seattle faithful have a lot to be excited about, what with adding Robinson Cano last year and Nelson Cruz this offseason and a pitching rotation headed up by one of the most electric talents in the game in Felix Hernandez. Why wouldn’t you want to check this team out? To find out a little more, we have two bloggers lined up today. Jeff writes at Jeff’s Mariners, which covers all Seattle sports but obviously focuses on the best sport of all. He’s on Twitter @jeffsmariners. After Jeff, we have Tim from Seattle Mariners Musings. You’ll see that Tim’s also on the OOTP bandwagon when you check out his blog! You’ll find him Tweeting @msonmnd24.
C70: What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason? Did they do what they needed to do?
JM: I believe the acquisition of Nelson Cruz giving the Mariners a legit #4 hitter to bat between Cano and Kyle Seager was the move that will put the Mariners over the hump. The other signings of platoon type players including Rickie Weeks are icing on the cake.
SMM: I’m generally pleased with the offseason. I was pleasantly surprised by the terms of the Nelson Cruz deal. I don’t like the Michael Saunders–J.A. Happ trade, but at the same time I like the creativity with the Seth Smith/Justin Ruggiano platoon and the late free agent flier taken on Rickie Weeks. Most importantly, the team held on to their prospect core. I still think it will be wise for the M’s to deal one of their shortstops (my preference is to trade Chris Taylor), but if the right deal wasn’t available in the offseason it was wise to hold on to everyone.
C70: How quickly can Taijuan Walker build on the strong beginning of his career?
SMM: I don’t know. I’ve watched Walker pitch in AAA several times. He’s been inconsistent, though at the same time I never get the feeling he pitches with his best stuff in Tacoma. I don’t know if this is because he is being asked to work on secondary pitchers or because he wants the challenge of facing MLB batters. Personally, I think Walker is still a bit of a thrower and not a pitcher, but his raw stuff is pretty filthy. I’m not sure he will get pushed to learn how to pitch until he faces MLB hitters. Walker’s ability to effectively mix in his secondary offerings, which might as much about trusting Mike Zunino as anything else, will be the key to his 2015. I’m assuming he makes the Mariners rotation because he should.
C70: What’s the key for this team to be successful?
JM: The key for the Mariners to win this year will be getting a strong start in April and May and building a lead in the wide open AL West, then staying healthy.
SMM: The youngsters that will get lots of playing time. The Mariners need some of their young starters to take a step forward if they are going to be legitimate contenders. Mike Zunino, Brad Miller/Chris Taylor, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker are the key players. They don’t all need to step up, but if one or two of them can take a step forward this season the Mariners will be strong.
C70: What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
JM: I pick Dustin Ackley to have a break-out year and hit 300 this year.
SMM: I’d say Brad Miller if I was certain he can grab the starting shortstop gig. He was more productive last year than he gets credit for, and some advanced metrics suggest he suffered through some horrible luck. Without that certainly I’ll say Mike Zunino. He can focus more on his hitting this year now that he knows the pitching staff. His bat speed, hitting mechanics, and work ethic are all too good for him to not figure out how to hit with some authority at some point. Zunino will be a better hitter in 2015. The only question is how much better.
C70: What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
JM: I predict the Mariners will win the AL West with a record of 12 games over . 500.
SMM: I expect the Mariners to win 88 games and finish second in the AL West but grab a wild card spot.
C70: What do you like best about being a Mariners fan?
JM: My favorite part about being a Mariners fan for over 35 years and blogger for my sixth year is that there are so few real long term faithful that when we finally make it back to the playoffs in 2015 it is going to be a feeling only a few of us will be able to truly appreciate. Go Mariners!
SMM: King Felix! He’s a great pitcher and a true face of the franchise. He’s more than a great player – he also bleeds Mariners blue. I want the Mariners to make the playoffs for him as much as I want it for myself as a fan.
I appreciate Jeff and Tim filling us in about the Seattle squad. My son’s a fan of Felix as well, so we try to catch the Mariners after the Cardinal game sometimes. Probably will do even more of that this year!