As I sit here watching the Mariners play their first game of the 2nd half of the season, I thought I should look back the first half and review a bit how we got to where we are. Here have been the major story lines from the first half of the season:
- Contending? After a horrendous 8-15 start, the Mariners got hot and pulled back to within a half game of the Rangers as of about 10 days ago. The M’s have cooled off over the last 9 days and are now 4 and half back, but the Rangers aren’t running away with this. We’ve been debating whether or no the Mariners are truly contending for some time now, and unless the Rangers really start to pull away I expect the debate to continue for some time.
- Brilliant Pitching. Especially the starters; all 5 have ERA’s under 3.75. Erik Bedard and Michael Pineda have been particularly brilliant even though very little was expected of them before the season started. The bullpen has been very solid as well, including unlikely setup man David Pauley and new closer Brandon League.
- Anemic Hitting. The offense hasn’t been good. Other than Justin Smoak and Adam Kennedy, it’s actually been pretty awful. Ichiro’s average bottomed out at .252, Figgin’s average is still dropping and is down to .187. LF has been a black hole in the lineup no matter who’s been playing out there, and CF has been equally as bad. As a team, the Mariners struggle to score 3 runs in almost every game.
- Injuries Franklin Gutierrez missed 6 weeks with a stomach ailment, end up losing 15 pounds from his frame where he didn’t have 15 to lose, and has struggled with his strength since returning. Adam Moore is gone for the year. Erik Bedard is now on the DL with a sprained knee, and Chris Giminez going to be out for a long time with a grade 3 oblique strain. Plus, both David Aardsman and Shawn Kelley have run into elbow troubles in their attempts to return from other injuries and likely will never pitch for the Mariners this season.
- Rookies! Lots of them, and for the most part, they’ve been good. Michael Pineda has looked like an ace, and recent callup Dustin Ackley looks like he’s going to be a superstar. Outfielders Carlos Peguero, Mike Carp and Greg Halman have all contributed. Other rookies who’ve seen time, though with lesser productivity, include Mike Wilson, Tom Wilhelmsen, Josh Lueke, Adam Moore and Dan Cortez. Jose Yepez is now on the team, though he hasn’t played, and there’s a good chance we’ll see pitcher Blake Bleaven in a few days. Sometimes I find it amazing that Tacoma has enough players to field a team.