Since opening day in Japan, the Mariners have played seven games over two series with the Oakland A's, going 5-2. By this time next week, the Mariners will have played over 1-10th of their games in the 2012 season, and almost have of them will have been against the A's. To which I say, at least our opponents can only get more interesting from here. I mean, outside of Yoenis Cespedes, I'm not sure there's a single interesting player on that team. Okay, Eric Sogard is interesting, but that's just because you don't usually see ballplayers wearing prescription glasses. He's interesting in the same way that Nascar is interesting, in that you watch to see if something terrible is going to happen. If it were me, I'd be constantly terrified that a wayward pitch or a funny bounce is about to lodge both baseball and shards of glass in my eyes.
Which is one of the many reasons why I haven't posted about the Mariners much over the first few weeks. I don't know how stat-oriented guys like Jeff Sullivan and Dave Cameron make posts on baseball after every game (sometimes MULTIPLE posts!) because in effect, these guys (who are clearly allergic to small sample sizes) are forcing themselves to find even a little bit of meaning in 1/162nd of a season. Even after two weeks, it's not clear
- Whether Chone Figgins or Ichiro have truly bounced back (my gut says the latter has, but the former has not)
- Whether Michael Saunders or Justin Smoak are going to take that next step
- Whether Kyle Seager is legitimate
- Whether we should be worried about Felix (no?)
- What the hell the Mariners are going to do with the rest of their starting rotation when the phenoms are ready
- When the Mariners will drop Olivo (I like the guy, but three catchers on the roster is like two kickers on a football team).
Sullivan, Cameron, and Baker have tough jobs, and only one of those guys is getting paid to do what they do (I think?). I find it remarkable to say the least.
But anyway, what Seager and Jesus Montero have done so far this season has been encouraging. While having two rookies leading your team offensively isn't typically a good sign, It's nice that the Mariners finally have multiple players hitting .280 or higher. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure the Mariners had anyone like that last year, at least over a full season. Interesting to note that Jesus' OBP is lower than his average right now, thanks to his lack of walks and a sac fly or two. But if he keeps having eight-game hitting streaks and home runs to dead center, I'm not sure the free bags are going to bother me too much.
I didn't think much of Seager prior to this year, and he could just be having a hot streak, but right now he's the best hitter on a Mariners club that isn't last in hitting. He doesn't seem to have the traditional corner power expected of a third basemen, but then again, he's already hitting the ball much harder than his size would suggest. I hope and believe that the Mariners will ride his train as long as he keeps conducting it. I assume he's playing 3rd base because he doesn't have the range for SS, but if he continues at his pace, I don't know what the Mariners will do if Alex Liddi or Vinnie Catricala start knocking at the MLB door. Perhaps Ackley to the outfield, Seager to second, and Liddicala at third? But as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself.
It's true that a traditional batter to bat third in your lineup would be someone that hits 30 hrs a year, but Ichiro has looked like a natural in the role so far in 2012. Not that he was a stranger to hitting in an RBI spot (it was his position in the order for nearly his entire career in Japan) but he has had no trouble finding the outfield grass and has four extra base hits on the season. If Ichiro manages another 200 hits this year, I'll be disappointed if the Mariners don't sign him for another two or three years. The Ichiro hate wagon has been riding strong for more than five years now, but he stuck with this team through thick and thin, and he deserves another playoff appearance in a Mariners uniform. Ichiro may be a first-ballot hall of famer, which would be a first for a career Mariner. Unlike other past Seattle icons, maybe this time we don't have to drive them out of town, instead letting him retire on his terms.
Brandon League, 5 for 5, 0.00 ERA. Hard to take any meaning from it, but if he learned anything from those rough stretches last year, he could be the game's best this season.
Next up is Cleveland. I feel like the Mariners will take two of the three and retain second place in the west. And on that note, I don't know if I put it in writing on this blog, but if not, I'll say it here for everyone to see: The Angels aren't going to compete for the AL West this year. They weren't that good in 2011, and they didn't get much better in 2012. Their core players are mostly old, and Pujols is simply blocking a roster spot that Trumbo or Trout could be taking. I wouldn't be surprised if they lost 80 games this year.