Because of a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Texas Rangers, the Seattle Mariners finished third in the American League West with a 78-84 record.
The Mariners were a typical .500 team the entire season and lived paycheck to paycheck as they consistently won x-number of games, then immediately turned around to lose the same number of games. The intermittent winning streaks typically put the Mariners within striking distance of the second Wild Card spot, but the coinciding losing streak always dropped them back out of reach.
Despite the sub-.500 finish, the breakdown of the Mariners’ record doesn’t look too bad. They finished 8-4 in walk-off finishes, 7-5 in extra-inning games, 26-15 in one-run games, 28-20 in blowouts (five-plus run differential) and 12-8 in interleague play. That’s all great, but they’ll need to finish better than 40-41 at home to make any real progress toward the postseason.
With one of the best offensive groups the Mariners have put together in a decade, Seattle was still an average team at the plate. The area the Mariners were hurt the most offensively was an inability to draw walks. Finishing 12th in the AL in free passes hurt the Mariners by preventing extra baserunners and extending innings. On the other hand, they were excellent at putting the bat on the ball and finished sixth in strikeouts.
Seattle was excellent at creating outs from balls put in play, and tied for third in the AL in defensive efficiency at .700. The issue on the defensive side came in the form of errors, with 103 total errors committed.
Despite a major focus on pitching over recent years, it turned out to be the Achilles heel for the Mariners in 2017. The primary concern across the pitching staff was health. Starters James Paxton and Felix Hernandez missed extended periods of time with injuries, and Drew Smyly never saw the mound as a Mariner before he underwent Tommy John surgery.
As it currently stands, the Mariners’ starting rotation consists of Paxton and Hernandez, then filled out with Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez and either Marco Gonzalez or Andrew Moore. Of course, it would be nice if GM Jerry Dipoto could find a way to get Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta, but both are highly unlikely.
The biggest change the Mariners need to make this offseason is in the training staff. The number of injuries that have plagued the pitching staff over the last several years is insane. At some point somebody has to stop looking at the pitchers for getting injured, and look to the people who are supposed to help prevent those injuries. Dipoto has said he’ll run a six-man rotation through the middle of the season to prevent injuries, which isn’t a bad idea. But it won’t make a bit of difference if the starting rotation isn’t ready to go when the season rolls around.
The Mariners can compete. Not necessarily with the Houston Astros for the division crown, but definitely in the Wild Card. But they’ll need to be healthy to do it.
Photo by Brad Curnow