Well, that’s it. Before the season I predicted 77 wins. I’ve been preaching all seasons that the Mariners would have a roller coaster season. And the whole time everyone that agreed with that premise was hoping that they would prove me wrong. I was hoping they’d prove me wrong.
They proved me right in the least satisfying way possible.
There were certainly some promising aspects of this season, but in many cases it left more questions than answers. While Kyle Seager looks like a guy that could be very good for a long time, Dustin Ackley looked lost all season on any pitch on the outer half of the plate. He pulled off seemingly everything, and never seemed to adjust. Ackley’s pedigree when he came out of college was a guy that would be a professional quality hitter very early in his career. We assumed he would make adjustments. He started hot last year, and fell off a cliff at the end of the season. We made excuses. We said he’d be better amid a full season with time to adjust to his second and third time threw opposing pitching staffs. None of that happened. He’ll get bone spurs removed from his left ankle, which is his rear leg when he’s batting, and people will probably give those bone spurs more blame than they deserve for Ackley’s struggles. Whatever.
Brendan Ryan will also have bone spurs removed, for him it is from his right elbow. Brendan Ryan may hit above the Mendoza line, but he’ll probably walk less than 9.4 percent also. Brendan Ryan isn’t a good hitter. He’ll never be a good hitter. He’s an amazing fielder, perhaps the best the Mariners have ever had. And that includes the age-defying Omar Vizquel.
The Mariners need more offense next year. And oddly, a front office and Eric Wedge have been very vocal about the need to add offense. However, Justin Smoak may have screwed Mariners fans yet again, as he absolutely destroyed the ball in September after not being able to hit his way out of a paper bag the rest of the season. If Smoak has actually turned his game around then it is great news for the Mariners. He’s the ideal lefty power hitter that the team needs, and being a switch hitter, especially with the new Safeco dimensions, make him the kind of guy that they don’t need a platoon partner for. If Smoak can be effective from both sides of the plate then he solves more than one problem for the Mariners. If he can’t, though—which everything leading up to September indicates—and the team doesn’t upgrade at first base, he’ll remain the beacon for their offensive woes. At the very least, hopefully, the Mariners make Smoak earn his roster spot, and fill the roster with someone else who may be able to provide some upside at the position. There’s not much available in free agency at first base but Ike Davis or Logan Morrison may be available in trade.
The Mariners will face tough decisions with Brendan Ryan, Franklin Gutierrez, and Jason Vargas. Ryan is arbitration eligible, as is Jason Vargas. Ryan’s defense may have secured him an opening day roster spot, but Gutierrez’s injuries have kept him off the field most of the past two seasons, while Jason Vargas is probably the player most hurt by the change in the Safeco Field dimensions.
Jesus Montero may be the player most helped as on several occasions Montero drove balls hard off the top of the outfield fence. Montero probably won’t play catcher much next year, but it won’t take much to make him the best DH the team has had since Edgar Martinez.
The Mariners other catcher, John Jaso, has become quite the oversight for many fans looking forward at the Mariners. Jaso is a so-so catcher, and doesn’t hit lefties well. However, if Jaso qualified for the batting title this year (he was a little over 100 plate appearances short of qualifying) he’d have had the ninth highest wRC+ of all players in baseball. John Jaso was the Mariners best hitter this year and most Mariners fans are already handing his job over to Mike Zunino very soon. Jaso has three more years of team control, however, and the Mariners brass seems to like him.
Jaso also caught Felix’s perfect game, and while that left him in Felix starts for a couple times around the rotation, Felix’s late struggles led to an end to the Jaso-Felix experiment.
I don’t know what else to write. Felix was great for much of this year. He was good for the other part. There’s a lot of promise to wring our hands about this offseason, but for now there is just the empty feeling of the season being over for the Mariners, and still going on for 10 other teams.