The Mariners: Hot or not in the new season?

With October well underway, the Major League Baseball postseason has begun as well. As is seemingly tradition, with the end of the regular season comes the end of the Mariners season as well with nobody really knowing whether or not they were a good team. They were definitely capable of putting out monster numbers in their games and put up decently impressive win streaks at random points in the season, but could just as well lose in a way that makes people ask if they’re even capable of scoring a run. On the other hand, Seattle’s pitching staff has over the years been considered leagues better than their offense and proved it with many games having only a couple runs on both sides, if that. However, there was a day in June where they actually allowed 20 runs to come through in a single game against the Twins. Also in June, the Mariners had back to back games with 10 runs scored against them each time against the Rangers. What does this mean? At what level are the Seattle Mariners at, who were close up in the wild card race up until a couple weeks before the season ended?
The Mariners season was not without its share of good news, putting together the most promising run the Mariners have seen in recent history. Nelson Cruz hit his fourth 35 plus home run season in a row with 39 coming in this year. His 482-foot home run in August was the longest homer hit this season. The rest of the Mariners’ starting lineup looked better than it has in a while, with stars like Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano alongside newer members like Jean Segura and Ben Gamel all batting relatively well. Even Mike Zunino, who’s had a hard time in the past few years, made major improvements to his hitting this year. On the defensive side, Seattle’s outfield was littered with talent. Gamel, alongside Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia made for a really strong fielding team, as well as Segura making a monstrous impact at shortstop in his first year as a Mariner. All of this begs the question: What kept the Mariners from being a playoff team?
First and foremost the Mariners got beaten with injuries, particularly to their pitching roster. Four starting pitchers for Seattle were out multiple months throughout the season. Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez was out for four months and another star pitcher from last year in Hisashi Iwakuma was sidelined for five. Drew Smyly missed the entire season and while James Paxton was truly an all-star during the time he could play, he missed three months on injuries as well. Because of these major injuries and having to constantly make changes, the Mariners ended up fielding 40 pitchers throughout the regular season, which tied an all-time MLB record set by the Rangers in 2014. Of these pitchers, the bullpen found itself struggling for a large part of the season as well. Seventeen of the 40 fielded pitchers this season were starters, which left 23 for the relief staff, who remained underwhelming the entirety of the season. The volatility of these players as wild cards meant that fans could not count on Mariners to successfully close out the game at any point.
There are other minor points of influence that the Mariners could use to polish up their game in the first base and catcher positions. While Zunino is arguably the best iteration of Seattle’s catchers that they’ve had in a long time, there’s a lot of pressure on him to play every game which could wear him down tremendously.
Backup catcher Carlos Ruiz is heading to free agency which means there’s another spot open for someone to give Zunino a break from time to time.
Over the years, the first basemen of Seattle have been a revolving door of inconsistency. From the days of Justin Smoak in 2010 to 2014, the statement has stood true last year with Dae-Ho Lee and Adam Lind and even this year with Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia. While being able to go on hot streaks it’s often been the weak part of the team and ideally the Mariners can fix their issues going into the 2018 season.