Can the Mariners recover next year?

The Seattle Mariner 2013 campaign has officially come to an end as of Sept. 29, although many critics, fans and even players have considered the season over only mid-way through the actual season. The Mariners finished fourth in the American League West division with a record of 71-91. The only team in their division they beat was the Houston Astros who set a record for losses in a season getting a 51-111 record which was last in all of major league baseball. It is no shock that the Mariners had another abysmal season, but as an optimist I have found some good things from the season looking forward to the 2014 run.

One of the big problems the Mariners had over the course of the season was consistency in their starting pitching. Going into the season, we knew we had a dominant ace in Felix Hernandez and a decent pitcher in Hisashi Iwakuma. The other three spots weren’t decided until the end of spring training where we selected veteran lefty Joe Saunders, righty Blake Beavan and rookie Brandon Maurer. There was a lot of uncertainty in the rotation early in the year. Both Beavan and Saunders under impressed, and Maurer did not transfer his spring training success to the big leagues. That left Hernandez and Iwakuma to carry the weight. Thankfully, both did have stellar years to cement themselves in the rotation. As the year started to come to a close, the M’s brought up some of their young pitching prospects in Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. Both had strong performances in their few starts which impressed both the fans, and the coaching staff. If the team keeps them to next year, they would have four cemented starters coming into the 2014 year.

Another big problem the team has is in their contact offense. In previous years, every thought that if we had some big homerun hitters on the team, it would fix our offensive woes. They have been proven wrong. The Mariners ranked third in the MLB in homeruns, but still had a disappointing season. While finishing near the top in home runs, the team was near the bottom of the barrel in almost every other offensive category. The trick here is going to be if the young players they have now can find their groove and get some decent batting averages in the next year.

The biggest problem in my eye surprisingly is the bullpen. Going into this season, the bullpen seemed to be our strongest aspect. They had solid relievers in Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor and a shutdown closer in Tom Wilhelmsen. Pryor had a season ending injury in April, Capps lost his groove and was sent down to AAA and Wilhelmsen lost the bite off his curveball and fastball and was replaced by reliever Danny Farquhar who became the closer almost on accident. Since then, the Mariners have lost a ton of games in the later innings of games because the relievers couldn’t hold leads. If the Mariners can find some strong relievers in the off-season so they can hold off opponents at the end of games, they will have a better record.

The Mariners have had a sad season. Starting pitching problems, low batting averages and poor relief pitching are the main cause of this season. If the M’s can address these problems in the off-season, and the young players find themselves as major league ball players, then there is no reason why the M’s couldn’t turn their numbers around next season.