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Where Did the Seattle Mariners Go Wrong?

Saturday, August 08, 2015

 

Safeco Field, home of the Mariners since 1999

2015 has not been kind to the Seattle Mariners. They were pegged as World Series favorites entering the season – expectations that really weren’t all that lofty as the team had a scarily dominant rotation, led by future Hall of Famer Felix Hernandez, who was followed by young phenoms Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. They signed reigning home run champ Nelson Cruz to a 4-year deal this past offseason in the hopes that he would pair with star second baseman Robinson Cano as a potent 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup. Fernando Rodney was the nominal closer in a solid bullpen.

Fast forward 4-odd months and everything is in shambles. Hernandez has been great, but the rest of the rotation has been shaky at best. Cruz is putting up monstrous numbers, but a stomach illness sapped most of Cano’s power. And the rest of the lineup is still comprised of anguish/despair/Austin Jackson. Rodney blew up and the rest of the relief corps followed suit. For a franchise so used to misery, this year has been particularly disappointing.

They’re 7 games out of the division lead and equally far back in the Wild Card hunt. Those deficits are anything but insurmountable; unless they can turn things around quickly, they could be out of it for good.

Robinson Cano

They have obvious weaknesses. According to Fangraphs’ measure of WAR (Wins Above Replacement for the uninitiated), their catchers have been the worst in baseball with a cumulative -1.0 WAR. Mike Zunino, the team’s first round pick in 2012, is about to complete his second straight season with a sub-.200 batting average and sub-.700 OPS. Even for a position historically known for defensive capabilities over offensive prowess, this is horrendous.

Although the offense ranks 13th overall in slugging percentage (.397), they rank 23rd in runs scored (408) and 26th in on base percentage (.303). They rank 5th in strikeouts (862) and 23rd in stolen bases (46), showing that they don’t just have trouble getting on base, but the few runners that find themselves with a chance to advance another bag aren’t successful in doing so.

Curiously, the pitching staff has issued 33 intentional walks, tops in the AL and just one behind the major league leaders, the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets. While the pitching has been better than the offense, the staff still ranks firmly in the middle in most counting stats.

Fielding metrics are still relatively new and therefore volatile, but in terms of DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), this is where the Mariners have experienced their biggest failures. Their -19 mark ranks 26th in the game and helps explain why all that good pitching has gone to waste. While they’ve only committed 59 errors, they aren’t making timely plays or executing simple fielding plays properly.

Brighter days are presumably ahead for the Mariners. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement, and the team is still young enough to hope for positive regression. The farm system was somewhat replenished with the trades of Dustin Ackley, Mark Lowe and J.A. Happ, and some of their top prospects might be ready as early as next year.

Still, with Cano, Hernandez and the rest of the roster another year older and another year further away from their prime, the time is now for the Mariners to make some noise. The AL West is only getting stronger between the dominant Houston Astros, intimidating Los Angeles Angels and reloading Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. 2015 may be a bust, but 2016 is no guarantee. Heaven (or Ken Griffey, Jr.) help us.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Top 20 Must-See Sporting Events This Fall

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Portland Marathon Weekend

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When: Friday-Sunday, Oct. 3-5

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Portland Boulder Rally

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MLS Soccer

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When: Saturday, Oct. 4, 8:00pm

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Golf

AJGA Junior Golf Invitational

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When: Friday-Monday, Oct. 10-13

Where: Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, North Plains, Ore.

More info: here

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Fencing

USA Fencing North American Cup

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When: Friday-Monday, Oct. 10-13

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Roller Derby

Guns 'n Rollers vs. Cherry City All-Stars

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NCAA Football

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When: Saturday, Oct. 11, Time: TBD

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NCAA Football

No. 2 University of Oregon v. University of Washington

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CCL Soccer

Portland Timbers @ CD Olimpia (Honduras)

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When: Tuesday, Oct. 21, 4 p.m.

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MLS Soccer

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NBA Basketball

Portland Trail Blazers v. Oklahoma City Thunder

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No. 2 University of Oregon v. No. 16 Stanford

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When: Saturday, Nov. 1, Time: TBD

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There is no doubt as to whether if this will be the NFC West's biggest game of the year.

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No. 2 University of Oregon v. Oregon State University

Civil War!

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NCAA Basketball

Portland State v. University of Oregon

The Ducks will take on intra-state rival, Portland State, as both teams look to start off the regular season in full form.

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Hockey

Portland Winterhawks v. Spokane Chiefs

Remember how I said the Portland v. Seattle hockey rival featured quite a few brawls (354 to be precise)?

In second place is the Portland v. Spokane rivalry, which has hosted 210 fights throughout the years, according to http://www.hockeyfights.com.

When: Friday, Dec. 12, 7 p.m.

Where: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR

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