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AL West: Feast or Famine
Over the past dozen days, no American League team has been hotter than ... Seattle. The Mariners have won seven of eight games and sit a game behind the Angels in the AL West. This comes as a definite surprise, especially considering that prior to this tear, Seattle lost six straight games. But then again, this erratic output is nothing new for the Mariners. Since the turn of the millennium, this franchise's production has always been feast or famine.
From 2000-03, Seattle won at least 91 games every season, tying the 1906 Cubs' major league record for wins (116) in 2001. But over the past three years, the Mariners have averaged just 70 wins and finished dead last in the division each time.
So what does the 2007 campaign hold? Will the Mariners return to their steady form of the early aughts or check in for another stay in the division cellar. Early indications are inconclusive (and predictably hinge on Felix Hernandez's recovery)...
Three signs it will be a feast season:
1. King Felix's maturation: Entering this season, the biggest question was whether Seattle's 21-year-old phenom was ready to take over as No. 1 starter after going 12-14 with a 4.52 ERA in his first full season. Felix was nothing short of brilliant in his first two starts, throwing 17 innings of shutout ball while allowing just four hits. Although he was put on the 15-day DL after leaving his third start in the first inning, Hernandez is now expected to make his fourth start next Wednesday.
2. Success against Oakland: Last year, the Mariners opened up their season series against the A's with a 6-2 win ... and then proceeded to lose 17 of 18 to the eventual division champions. But in 2007, Seattle has taken four of five from Oakland. The Mariners boast a 7-5 record against all AL West teams.
3. Putz power: Lost in the shuffle of last year's forgettable season, J.J. Putz compiled some impressive numbers in his first year as closer. On top of posting 36 saves and a 2.30 ERA, Putz boasted a mind-boggling strikeout-to-walk ratio of 104:13. In his second year on the job, Putz has converted all five save opportunities with relative ease, further proving that this team won't give away many games in the latter innings.
Three signs it will be a famine season:
1. King Felix's pronator problem: It took just 17.1 innings for every Mariners fan's worst nightmare to come true. As mentioned before, Hernandez left his third start with an injury and landed on the DL with a strained flexor-pronator muscle. The injury doesn't seem to have long-term effects, but Seattle has already pushed back Hernandez's return from tomorrow to next week. Any lingering concern surrounding Seattle's burgeoning superstar will severely hamper the team's chances in the division race. Mariners brass have made it utterly apparent that Hernandez's grooming process is far more important than immediate team success and they'll shut him down at the drop of a hat.
2. Big Richie's little production: .143 = 15,000,000. Kind of fuzzy math, eh? Unfortunately, this is Richie Sexson's batting average and the money he's making this year. Through 22 games and 77 at-bats, Seattle's No. 5 hitter has managed four homers, six doubles and one single, making him the biggest all-or-nothing hitter since Mark McGwire.
3. The $8.3 million bust: While we're on the subject of underperforming multi-millionaires ... On the heels of a fabulous playoff run with the Cardinals, Jeff Weaver signed a one-year, $8.3 million deal with Seattle in the offseason. So far, he's 0-4 with a plump 18.26 ERA, and in his four starts, he has made it past the second inning just once. The good news: Mariners manager Mike Hargrove says Weaver will get one more start to turn things around and keep his spot in the rotation. The bad news: That start will come Saturday against baseball's most imposing lineup in Yankee Stadium.
Labels: AL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
The one point you have forgotten to mention is the fact that Sexson is leading the team with Beltre with 15 RBI's.
Your batting average while important I think if men are on base you need to be driving them in. And right now Seattle is doing that.
I think they are a better team than people thought they were going to be.
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