The Seattle Mariners are on a quest to end a 15-year playoff drought and bring post-season baseball back to the Pacific Northwest.
This will not be an easy task. All four teams in the American League West have improved and the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox each improved on paper as well.
Not to mention the Yankees have a ton of young talent and the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles bring powerful lineups and nice pitching staffs to the ballpark every night.
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So how can the Mariners climb their way to the top of the heap? Some things need to happen for them to have a shot. Other things would be nice, but not necessary to achieve their ultimate goal. Let us distinguish between these needs and wants.
Imagine you are buying a house. You have two kids, a dog, plus you and your significant other. So, you need at least two rooms; one for the kids and one for you but you want three rooms to have some extra space.
Maybe you need a nice yard for the kids and dog to run around in but you want a pool to entertain the family as well. Starting to get the idea?
Needs are a must have, in this case, for the Mariners to make the playoffs. Wants are cool extra’s you can live without, but they sure would be cool to have.
So without further ado, here are five things the Mariners need to do to make the playoffs, and five things we want to see them do in 2017.
Sep 21, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) reacts after the final out of the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Felix Hernandez NEEDS To Give The Mariners 200 Quality Innings.
If the Seattle Mariners are going to make the playoffs in 2017, they will need a healthy “King” Felix. Hernandez was a major disappointment in 2016 and is as responsible for the team missing the playoffs as anybody.
The team needs the King to be his 2015-self, to stabilize the rotation and give the team a chance to win every five days. A repeat of 2015 would require 200 innings of 3.33 xFIP and 8.5 K/9. Not unreasonable for the future hall of famer.
We WANT Felix Hernandez To Return To His 2014-Self.
If Felix can come close to repeating his 2014 season (236 IP, 2.14 ERA, 248 K’s) the Mariners go from playoff contender to a World Series favorite.
Hernandez is working hard this off-season to return to his Cy Young form. He is strengthening his lower half, which should help with his endurance and perhaps velocity.
Sep 30, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura (2) hits a foul ball during the third inning against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Jean Segura NEEDS To Solidify The Shortstop Position
The biggest off-season addition, Jean Segura, must be at least a solid starter at shortstop. The last time the Mariners had a shortstop exceed 2.0 fWAR was in 2011 -that was Brendan Ryan. Segura needs to break that streak.
If Segura posted just a starter quality 2.0 fWAR, it would be a 2.5 win upgrade over the tandem of Ketel Marte and Shawn O’Malley.
We WANT another 20 home run, 30 stolen base season from Segura!
Wouldn’t this just be awesome? Can you name the last Mariner to go 20/30? If you guessed Mike Cameron, you win! The Mariners haven’t had this power/speed potential since 2002 Mike Cameron.
It probably won’t happen, but if it did, the Mariners offense becomes one of the three best in all of baseball. How many teams could boast a 2-5 of Segura, Cano, Cruz, and Seager? Sign me up.
Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (22) runs the bases after hitting a two-run homer against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Nelson Cruz NEED To Be All-Stars
Ok, so they don’t all have to make the All-Star team, but they need to play like All-Stars in 2017. A repeat of their 2016 seasons is a lot to ask, but it is doable. Even 80% of 2016 makes this team legit contenders.
The SeaCruNo trio has to post a WAR in the 10-13 range for this team to end its playoff drought.
We WANT This Team To Finish Top-5 In The AL For Steals and Home Runs
General Manager Jerry Dipoto quest for more speed this off-season makes this a somewhat reasonable request. The team sacrificed minimal power at their first base platoon and in left field and added major power at shortstop.
Jarrod Dyson, Jean Segura, and Leonys Martin all finished in the Top-20 of stolen bases, and Segura and Dyson finished 7th and 10th respectively.
The 30 HR potential of Cano, Cruz, and Seager, plus the 20 HR potential of Danny Valencia, Mike Zunino, Mitch Haniger, and Segura make it possible. Combined with an additional 20 home runs between Martin, Dyson, and the rest of the bench, and you have a real shot at this
April 22, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Steve Cishek (31) and catcher Chris Iannetta (33) celebrate the 5-2 victory against Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The Mariners NEED to find another high-leverage reliever
Edwin Diaz was great last year, although he did look like he ran out of gas in September. The team is hesitant to make Diaz an old school “fireman” type reliever, and seem content on making him the traditional closer.
If this is the case, the team needs another pitcher to fill the “fireman” role. What is the “fireman”? As one might guess, he puts out fires. When the game is on the line in 6th, this is the reliever you bring in to shut down the opponent. He is the closer before the closer.
It should be Diaz, but the team has been steadfast that he will pitch almost exclusively in the 9th inning. The reliever might already be on the roster. Dan Altavilla, Evan Scribner, and a healthy Steve Cishek all flashed this ability in 2016. Thyago Viera is a flame thrower who will start the year in AA. He could be the guy.
Bottom line is, the team needs to find Edwin Diaz 2.0.
We WANT James Paxton To Become A True Number Two Starter
Call it a number two guy, call it a co-ace, but Paxton has all the tools to be just that. In fact, the underlying numbers suggest he might already be a co-ace.
Paxton ranked 14th in the American League with an 8.7 K/9(100 inning minimum) and his stuff is excellent. He ran into bad luck in 2016, as hitters had .347 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) tied for the highest in the AL. League average is .300
As a result, the solid 3.79 ERA looks even better when you neutralize the luck. His 2.80 FIP (fielding independent pitching) ranked 2nd in the AL and his 3.35 xFIP ranked 4th.
The Mariners NEED to stay healthy
This is obvious but it doesn’t make it less true. The team can survive a short-term injury to one of the starters and in the bullpen. They can even survive if Leonys Martin hits the DL with a bum hamstring.
But the team has almost no MLB ready depth at SS, 3B, 2B, C, and to fill a top-of-the-rotation starter. A serious injury at one of these spots can derail the season quickly.
Jun 5, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson (1) makes a diving catch on a ball hit by Cleveland Indians right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall (not pictured) during the sixth inning at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
We WANT a Top-5 Defense
Not just in the American League, but in all of baseball. It is tough to judge defense entirely on statistics. Errors are a terrible indicator of actual performance, and while metrics have come a long way, they still aren’t always reliable.
On paper, the defense looks capable of achieving this task. Zunino is one of the premier defensive catchers, Seager and Cano are Gold Glove quality. Segura will make the routine play and should be no worse than slightly below-average.
The outfield contains five players capable of playing centerfield. Martin was great in the first and last 2 months, and solid average when battling the hamstring in June and July. Dyson has terrific range and is an excellent CF as well. Haniger graded out as the 2nd best defensive outfielder in September and Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia can both play center adequately.
What do you think?
Do you think we missed something? Have your own ideas? What are your needs and wants for the 2017 Seattle Mariners? Comment below or send us a tweet @SodoMojoFS