Ten Reasons Why the M’s Will Win the West
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 20, 2006
There are literally dozens (maybe) of Seattle Mariners fans that actually understand the game of baseball enough to appreciate the daily grind that is being a fan, player, coach, manager or front office personnel.
But they're all in it for the same thing – to win. Though I will not include every member of the M's upper management, those in the personnel department want two things from baseball… a high-paying job and to win.
The recent streak put together by the hometown nine have many excited for the possibilities, and while the skeptics continue to be, well, skeptical, there is reason to feel pretty good about the 2006 baseball season.
There are, however, just as many reasons to be pessimistic, but for now, let's be positive.
The 10 reasons why the Mariners will win the American League West —
10. The winning is not a fluke.
The recent streak of wins came against bad teams, yes, but not versus bad pitching staffs, save the Kansas City Royals. The offense has pushed runs across the plate against the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels and San Francisco Giants. Minus the Oakland series, the M's have scored 81 runs in their past 13 games, 11 of them wins.
The Twins rank seventh in the AL in ERA at 4.62 but are second in the league since Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser joined the rotation with a 4.04 mark. The Mariners faced both Bonser and Liriano, as well Cy Young favorite Johan Santana in the three-game set at Safeco June 6-8, and still scored 17 runs.
The club then plated 22 runs versus the Anaheim Angels, who currently rank third in the AL in ERA at 4.26. Furthermore, the M's beat Kelvim Escobar (4R, 7H in 8IP) and John Lackey (8R, 9H, 4.2IP), who both rank in the top 15 in the league in ERA at 3.46 and 3.54.
The M's then were swept in Oakland – again – but did manage to score 10 runs anyways.
Scoring 18 runs in three games at Safeco against any club is an accomplishment , but lighting up Noah Lowry (5R, 8H, 3IP), Jason Schmidt (6R, 9H, 6.1IP) and Jamey Wright (4R, 8H, 6.2 IP) is something in which to take note.
In June, the M's rank second in the AL with an .819 OPS, first with a .478 slugging percentage, second with a .285 batting average, sixth with 22 home runs (NYY leads with 25), fourth with 32 doubles, and third in runs per game at 5.6.
Point is, this club has been hitting and scoring runs, and they've done it versus good pitching. And when the season began, the offense was the biggest of a lot of major question marks.
9. Felix Hernandez is heating up with the weather.
He has won four starts in a row (2.74 ERA), and has been really good in three of them. Hernandez could be the difference between a good Seattle Mariners club and a mediocre pretender lucking out in a bad division.
Jamie Moyer is still doing his thing, remarkably, and Gil Meche has given the club some quality outings, even more remarkably, so Felix doesn't have to carry the team… but he might.
8. J.J. Putz and Rafael Soriano are great relievers — and that is a fact.
Combined, the two have posted an 86-17 K/BB ratio and a 2.33 ERA. If Mike Hargrove can figure out a way to avoid overusing them, not an easy task, the two right-handers may carry the M's bullpen out of mediocrity.
Putz is among the best eight closer's in baseball right now, and if given the chance, Soriano might be, too. Nobody is hitting these guys and they aren't walking anyone, either.
Soriano's SLGA is just .354 and Putz's sits at an incredible .260. Putz hasn't walked a batter since May 13 (14.1 IP) and Soriano has walked just one since May 28.
No other club in the division has two relief options like this… Not Otsuka/Cordero, not Calero/Street… and not even Shields/Rodriguez this year.
In fine fashion, all games involving the Seattle Mariners are six innings affairs. Soriano and Putz share two+ innings while George Sherrill, who has allowed just three hits in 35 ABs to lefties (.086), takes care of the tough southpaw sticks.
And then, in the wise words of Ferris Bueller, it's over, people. Go home.
7. Ichiro Suzuki is a hit machine.
No explanation necessary, unless you've been hiding in Canada dodging the draft since 2001
6. Dave Cameron has a secret power that he can use only once, and he has assured me that he will abuse his powers on the 2006 Seattle Mariners.
Apparently, he's a big-time geek like the rest of us and would use such power on his favorite baseball team.
Oh, wait, we already knew that.
5. The M's are winning home games.
Seattle has won 15 of their last 20 home games after an insanely horrible 6-13 start. If they can manage to hover around .475 on the road, the club has a shot to win 85 games – maybe more.
4. Yuniesky Betancourt is not making a lot of outs.
That's right, YuBet is hitting .297 and while he's not drawing walks or hitting for power, that isn't his game, swinging away and striking the ball consistently is.
He is slugging .427, which is a .438 mark in park-adjusted environments and he's hitting .352/.386/.537 in June – a mighty impressive .185 IsoP.
Betancourt currently ranks 5th in the AL among shortstops in average and sixth in slugging. How's that for a no-hit all-field 24-year-old gold glove shortstop?
This sure beats the days of Wilson Valdez, doesn't it?
3. While Kenji Johjima is struggling at the plate, he's getting his learn on.
Johjima's catching ERA in April was 5.34 and it didn't get any better in May (5.37). But the first-year backstop has posted a CERA of 4.24 since May 23 and it sits at 3.95 in June.
One can't put too much stock into the CERA statistic, because ultimately, it's up to the pitcher not the catcher, but the M's starters must get comfortable with Johjima and it appears that is happening.
This may be the biggest key to the starting rotation and if Johjima can work well with the staff the rotation may be a lot more consistent than it has been the first two months of the year.
2. Richie Sexson is going to hit – for damage.
He may not end the year at .265 or so, like he typically does, but you can bet that Sexson will do some major damage. He's already begun a nice streak since the end of May and as long as he gets the opportunities, he will drive in runs consistently. It's the only way he knows how to hit – productively.
Since the start of June, Sexson has hit five homers and driven in 15 runs. He's also limited his strikeouts to 14 to go with eight walks and is slugging .475. It's a start, and though he's hitting just .205 on the year, it's his run production that is most important to the M's.
1. Adrian Beltre is hitting the baseball.
In his career, Beltre's best months have been July, August and September, with June a close fourth. Without question, his worst month has always been May, with April a close second.
And this isn't just a National League thing clouding his numbers. Last season, in which Beltre's season totals of .255/.303/.413 reflected that of a No. 9-hole hitter more than those a middle-of-the-order hitter, he slugged .444 in June after .361 and .353 marks to start the season.
In July of 2005, he hit just .245 but posted a .472 slugging percentage and followed that up with the best month of the season in August. where he hit .288/.342/.538 with six homers.
Well, it's June and Beltre is hitting again.
After a treacherous April (.189/.284/.233), Beltre hit .264/.302/.355 in May but is posting more than acceptable numbers this month.
Will .261/.311/.493 with four home runs, 11 RBI and just 12 strikeouts in 69 ABs keep you happy?
Beltre has raised his average 31 points this month and his slugging percentage has risen 50 points. He's hit safely in all but four games since May 19 and has seven multi-hit efforts – including 14 extra-base hits.
If Beltre can duplicate June, or mirror his June-July-August performance of 2005 (.282/.343/.477, 13 homers, 19 doubles), the M's offense will be fully capable of scoring enough runs to compete in a struggling, but surging division.
There are other reasons why this team isn't a bad baseball team and may win the division, such as Jose Lopez, Raul Ibanez and Jamie Moyer, but even Lopez isn't surprising people anymore, and Raul and Jamie are steady veterans.
Tomorrow: Ten Reasons Why the M's Will Not Win the West