The Seattle Mariners currently sit atop of the ultra competitive American League West. One game up on the reigning world champion Houston Astros. Seattle being in first at this point in the season is surprising. The fact that they sit on top with their best player Robinson Cano on the DL (or suspended list) is inconceivable.
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, known for his aggressive style, has made the moves necessary to cover for the 8 time All- Star. These are the reasons why the Mariners are winning without their star
Winning is winning. I will be the first to agree that it really shouldn’t matter who you play your team still has to show up and execute. Still it is hard to ignore that the Mariners schedule is been very favorable over the past few series. The Mariners have still not played the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and have also not had to travel to division foes Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros.
Seattle has won 13 of 16 over their last five series playing only one team with a record above .500, that team being the Oakland Athletics (25-23). Seattle has feasted on struggling teams during this span. Beating up the lesser competition in the American League will be vital as they wait for Robinson Cano to return to the lineup.
2.Bullpen Pieces stepping up
Jerry Dipoto made the first move of the 2018 season grabbing Rays Closer Alex Colome for a few mid level prospects. Colome was another piece added to a bullpen that has begun to fill out their roles to perfection. Offseason signee Juan Nicasio has begun to get back to his 2017 form, allowing the Mariners to have a 3 headed monster of power pitchers at the back end of the game. Seattle’s bullpen sits at 8th in the league statistically allowing opposing hitters to hit just .228 against them.
Closer Edwin Diaz has made the conversion to top ten closer with an astounding .85WHIP during the 2018 season. Emerging arms Chasen Bradford, James Pazos and Ryan Cook have emerged as impact arms early in games. Pazos has been especially nasty. Pazos has substantially decreased his home run rate. The 6’2” 235-lb hurler sports a career 15.6% HR/FB rate, which is thrown a bit out of whack by the 50% figure from his 3.1 innings in 2016. Pazos has given up a total of one run in his last 20 appearances.
3. James Paxton and Mitch Haniger
I put Paxton and Haniger together because they have both taken huge steps in their career during the early portion of the season. Both highly touted prospects in the Mariners system have reformed themselves into team leaders both on the mound and at the plate.
Paxton the third round pick back in 2010 has emerged as the ace of the staff in 2018. Long time ace Felix Hernandez has not been the dominant force that he has been over the last ten years in Seattle. Paxton has emerged to dethrone the king in Seattle becoming more dominant at ever turn. Paxton 5-1, 2.95ERA, has struck out an astounding 101 batters over 82.1 innings. His dominance culminating in a no hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 9th. Still just 29 years old Paxton is entering what could be the prime of his career at a time where the team needs him most.
Mitch Haniger is struggling right now for the Mariners. Over his last 15 games he is just hitting .185. The reason I have him on this list is because he has still been a force in the Mariners order. For the season Haniger is has 12HR 43RBI this season. Haniger has improved his advanced analytics across the board as well. Picking up the production lost by the suspended Cano. Haniger has stepped into the role as run producers for a team that lacked consistency through the order in 2017.
Haniger Advanced Stats (MLBSavant.com)
The Mariners will eventually get back their star. But if they are able to make it to the playoffs Cano will not be eligible to play. This time without him will prepare them for that situation. They have the pieces to contend but the upcoming months will provide us with a true idea of what this team is. I see the playoffs in 2018….maybe.