Ichiro Suzuki joined the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and the organization blasted into orbit with 116 wins. Considering the losses of Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, the unexpected wins came aplenty but the Mariners were dismantled in the ALCS 4-1 by the New York Yankees. Since, Safeco Field has been closed in October and Seattle fans should not expect anything different in 2014.
Felix Hernandez is the game’s best pitcher. He has thrown at least 190 innings in each of the past eight years, won a Cy Young award, and finished in the top four voting four times. His dominance on the mound is reminiscent of a right-handed Randy Johnson for the Mariners faithful. In an era where young pitchers tend to break down easily, it is refreshing to see King Felix with an elastic arm. His health and endurance is a thrill for baseball fans because his presence on the mound is important for the game just as much as it is for the Seattle organization. The $240 million addition of Robinson Cano should motivate Hernandez and as he approaches the prime of his career, his first 20-win season is long than overdue. Left-handed prospect James Paxton throws behind King Felix and is the ace in the hole. In four starts last year, he gave a preview of what to expect posting a 1.50 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 24 innings. He allowed only 15 hits and his 0.917 WHIP is a reason for enthusiasm. In his second season, Japanese sensation Hisashi Iwakuma won 14 games while ranking in the top-10 with a 2.66 ERA. After suffering a splint in his middle finger during a spring training start, Iwakuma is expected back in late April. The signing of Fernando Rodney is a major upgrade over Tom Wilhelmsen. Just two years ago, Rodney was the best closer posting a 0.60 ERA with 48 saves in 74 innings. His addition will improve the Mariners win rate during close games.
With a dynamic starting rotation, the Mariners continued problem lies with its batting. On paper, the brass made a huge splash getting Cano to move away from the Bronx to the pitcher-friendly Safeco. With an offense that ranked last in nearly every major category and whose home run leader was 41-year-old Raul Ibanez, Cano certainly bolsters the anemic lineup. As a team, the Mariners strikeout too much, were towards the bottom in steals, slugging and on-base percentage, and do not play small ball well. Corey Hart is penciled to play in the outfield but he spent last year in Japan. Kendrys Morales, second on the team in homers, remains unsigned after foolishly turning down the one year, $14.1 million in hopes for a multi-year deal. While in New York, Cano benefitted with a deep Yankee lineup that featured Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, and others. The right-field porch at Yankee Stadium was only 290 feet which boosted Cano’s offensive numbers. Also, he was constantly overshadowed by the presence of Jeter and Rodriguez. He has nothing close to this with the Mariners and becomes the face of the franchise. His .357 batting average with runners-in-scoring-position demonstrates Cano is not one to succumb to pressure but he alone cannot bat nine times. Unless someone steps up, expect Cano to lead the league in walks as he will be pitched around throughout the season.
Rodriguez bolted to the Texas Rangers in 2001. After three losing seasons, he was traded to the Yankees and shortly afterwards Texas owner Tom Hicks declared bankruptcy along with acknowledging the Rodriguez signing as a failed investment. The same is likely with Cano and the Mariners. As the losing piles up in Seattle, Cano might find himself back in the Bronx.
All stats are courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference. com/.