30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — Seattle Mariners

Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the Seattle Mariners.

It’s been a while since the Mariners have had much success; the last time they made the playoffs was 2001. They did, however, have a marked improvement last season, going 87-75 — their first winning record since 2009 — but that was good for just third place in the American League West. Looking to gain ground on the Angels and A’s, the Mariners signed DH Nelson Cruz in the offseason, looking to add a power bat to the middle of the lineup.

The Mariners didn’t have a good offense lat season. Their .244 batting average was tied for second-worst in the AL, the .676 OPS was worst in the league and 3.91 runs per game was tied for third-worst in the league. The team’s 136 home runs ranked a little higher, sixth-worst in the AL. Led by SP Felix Hernandez, pitching is where the team excelled in 2014. The team ranked No. 1 in the AL in both in both ERA and runs allowed per game, at 3.17 and 3.42, respectively.

Adding Cruz — who hit 40 home runs last season and has averaged 29 homers since 2009 — to the lineup should help the team rise up the offensive rankings. C Mike Zunino hit 22 home runs last season, his first full season in the majors, but hit just .199 in 438 at-bats. He is hitting about .300 this spring and, even though spring stats don’t mean much, if he can get his regular season average up closer to even .240 or .250, that would be a big improvement to potentially help the team score more runs. On the pitching side, SP Hishashi Iwakuma had the worst season of his three-year career in an injury-shortened season that saw him post a 3.52 ERA in 28 starts, up sharply from his 2.66 ERA in 2013. If he can stay healthy and get back to his 2013 form, that would be an added bonus to an already-impressive pitching staff. If young hurlers like SPs James Paxton and Taijuan Walker can step up and have impressive years in their first full seasons in the majors, the staff could be even tougher for opposing teams to face.

Although 87 wins is a good total, it wasn’t enough for the Mariners to end their lengthy playoff drought last season. With an offense that should be better than last season and a couple young starters looking to step up to the next level in the rotation, the team should add a few wins to its total, getting closer to — if not reaching — 90 wins. That should be enough to at least get Seattle a wild card spot in the playoffs in 2015.

Source: http://www.mariners.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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