Top Hitter: Many of the Mariners’ projected top hitters have struggled in the early going with Jose Lopez, Adrian Beltre, Ken Griffey Jr and Franklin Gutierrez all hitting under .255. The catalyst for the offense in the first month was offseason acquisition Endy Chavez, known for his glove but not necessarily for his bat. Despite his Nicole Richie-eqsue physique, Chavez has been coming up big for the Mariners’, whether batting leadoff or in the number 2 hole behind Ichiro. In addition to getting on base at a good clip, Chavez has been a threat on the basepaths stealing five bases to go along with his .305 average. A defensive whiz in leftfield, Chavez will prove an invaluable member of the M’s on both sides of the ball if he can continue to anchor the top of the lineup with Ichiro.
Top Pitcher(s): Two surprises have headlined the Mariner’s pitching staff thus far and are a big reason why the team is near the top of the majors in ERA (despite the best efforts of Carlos Silva). Even though he was roughed up in his last start Jerrod Washburn is pitching like a man on a mission after posting a 5-14 record last season. Washburn nearly matched last season’s win total in April alone, going 3-1 with 3.42 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He has been complemented nicely in the rotation by the reemergence of Erik Bedard. Bedard pitched well last season but because he spent so much time on the disabled list, he had little effect on the M’s horrific 2008 pitching numbers. He is once again looking the ace that Seattle had hoped for, and through April is sporting a 2-1 record, 2.61 ERA and has 32 Ks in only 31 innings. Felix Hernandez, the one consistent pitcher for the M’s last year, has led the staff since day one and after the first month of the season is 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA and 36 Ks. Is the Cy Young talk far off? If these three can continue to deliver quality starts the Mariners should stay in contention all season long.
Biggest Surprise: The calendar has turned to May and the Mariners are still in first place…enough said. Let’s just hope we’re saying the same thing come September.
Injuries: The pitching staff has been missing starter Ryan Rowland-Smith since Spring Training. Rowland-Smith started the year with triceps tendinitis, but is expected to resume throwing soon and could return the first week of May, taking the place of Chris Jakubauskas (much to the delight of announcers everywhere). Catcher Kenji Johjima was placed on the 15-DL due to hamstring issues and is also expected to return in early May. Chad Cordero, a free agent signing in the offseason, is slated to throw batting practice soon and could join the roster in within a week or two if his right shoulder soreness improves.
May Schedule: 3 vs. Oakland, 2 vs. Texas, 2 @ Kansas City, 3 @ Minnesota, 3 @ Texas, 3 vs. Boston, 4 vs. Los Angeles, 3 vs. San Francisco, 3 @ Oakland, 3 @ Los Angeles.
Overall Grade: (A-) The Mariners have greatly exceeded expectations thus far despite a sub-par offense and some early issues in the bullpen. If Wakamatsu can figure out an effective lineup this squad could still be playing come October.
Filed under: AL West, Baseball, Mariners | Tagged: adrian beltre, AL West, Baseball, carlos silva, Chad Cordero, Don Wakamatsu, endy chavez, erik bedard, felix hernandez, Ichiro, jerrod washburn, jose lopez, Ken Griffey Jr., kenji johjima, LA Angels, Mariners, nicole richie, Oakland A's, ryan rowland-smith, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers |