As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.
What’s there to know about the Seattle Mariners?
The M’s were surprisingly involved in last year’s playoff chase relatively deep into the season as that jumbled group in the middle of the American League couldn’t figure out who was going to volunteer as tribute to get their clock cleaned by the New York Yankees in that wild-card game. It ended up being the Minnesota Twins, and they gave up seven runs in the first four innings, so yeah.
But the M’s were around and could be again in 2018, should everything go right. The lineup’s pretty good, and Felix Hernandez and James Paxton have the capability to form a nice 1-2 punch at the front of the rotation if all goes well. But let’s be honest we’re here to talk about Ichiro.
Yes, it’s the time of the ancient Mariner (that’s a Samuel Taylor Coleridge reference, by the way) in the Pacific Northwest. Ichiro returned to his original big league ballclub for his age-44 season, and he’s said he has hopes to be playing until he’s 50, when he’ll presumably be able to kick, stretch and kick!
At 43, he was able to play in 136 games and slash .255/.318/.332 with the Miami Marlins. He had a career-low 50 hits, a shocking number to see next to Ichiro’s name considering his 262 knocks in 2004 are the most in a single season in baseball history. He was mostly a pinch-hitter/defensive replacement for the Fish, starting just 22 times last season.
How much will he actually play for the 2018 M’s? Who knows, but it’s good to see the living legend back in a Seattle uniform again. Maybe he’ll finally back up the rumors that he could’ve been one of the best power hitters in the game and hit 40 homers or something.
Spring training has started and Future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki is still looking for a job pic.twitter.com/W786gZpXYP— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 1, 2018
Ichiro is back, by the way, because the guy that was supposed to start in left field every day, Ben Gamel, got injured. And getting injured seems to be the thing to do at M’s camp this spring. Hernandez was hit in the arm with a line drive by Cubs catcher Victor Caratini. Robinson Cano left a game with a tight hammy. Andrew Romine has a shoulder injury. And Nelson Cruz left a game with a quad strain. They should be wrapping these guys in bubblewrap.
Aside from Ichiro, there’ll be another new face in that outfield. The M’s got Dee Gordon from the walking fire sale that is the Derek Jeter Marlins, and he’s a nice addition to a lineup that also includes one of the best hitters in baseball, Cruz, along with Cano, Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, Mike Zunino and Mitch Haniger. Gordon swiped 60 bases to lead baseball last season. Dude can fly.
There hasn’t been much mention of pitching to this point, and maybe that's because it could play out a number of ways. Hernandez has been one of baseball's best, but his ERA leaped up to 4.36 last season, the highest it's been in more than a decade. Paxton was great, posting a 2.98 ERA, but the 24 starts he made — still not a full season's worth — were the most of his career. He's averaged just 15 a season as he's struggled to stay on the field. Mike Leake, the Mariners' No. 3 starter, made only five starts with them after being acquired in a trade. And while he was good in those games, to the tune of a 2.53 ERA, he had a rocky final three months in St. Louis, with a 5.78 ERA in his last 16 starts prior to the Cardinals trading him.
The M’s could make a run at a wild-card spot, but the division seems almost completely out of reach considering the defending-champion Houston Astros sit at the top of the AL West. But Ichiro!
2017 record: 78-84, third place in AL West
Offseason additions: Dee Gordon, Ichiro Suzuki, Andrew Romine, Juan Nicasio, Ryon Healy
Offseason departures: Yonder Alonso, Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson, Yovani Gallardo
X-factor: The Mariners' closer is Edwin Diaz, who saved 34 games last season. He finished with 89 strikeouts in 66 innings, but he was particularly effective after the All-Star break, picking up 21 saves and posting a 2.97 ERA in the second half of the season. Also helpful in that bullpen will be Juan Nicasio, who posted a 2.61 ERA pitching for three different teams last season, and Nick Vincent, solid for the M's a year ago.
1. Dee Gordon, CF
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Nelson Cruz, DH
5. Kyle Seager, 3B
6. Mitch Haniger, RF
7. Mike Zunino, C
8. Daniel Vogelbach, 1B
9. Ichiro Suzuki, LF
1. James Paxton
2. Felix Hernandez
3. Mike Leake
4. Marco Gonzales
5. Erasmo Ramirez
Prediction: Third place in AL West, no playoffs
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