The baseball season has finally started! The Mariners are now 1-1 on the season as they return home from the two game set in Japan. Here are some of my thoughts on what we saw in the first series of the 2012 baseball season.
Things I liked:
There were some things to be excited about for the Mariners, the first of which was their starting pitching. Felix had a fantastic outing as expected, and already appears to be in mid season form. Eight innings, five hits, no walks, six strikeouts were his totals in his first outing of the regular season. Vargas also had a great outing as he allowed a run in over six innings of work while giving up just two hits and two walks. Mariner fans were starting to get worried about Jason after a couple of poor spring training outings, but most of those doubts were erased by that start. Neither pitcher allowed a homerun which was also impressive considering how well the ball seemed to fly in the Tokyo Dome.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was nice to see Ackley and Smoak get homeruns. I especially liked Smoak’s for a couple reasons. First of all, it was a 2-2 pitch that he didn’t try to do too much with. He just kept his hands back and drove it the other way for a homerun; Good piece of hitting. I also like it because it’s a confidence builder for Smoak and Mariner fans. This could be a do or die year for Justin. It’s not fair to judge him on his performance last year considering that the death of his father, a bad hop that broke his nose, and some unfortunate hand injuries plagued him. He may not have that kind of grace from the organization this season. The Mariners need some sort of sign that he can produce, and this year could determine what his future in Seattle looks like. A homerun in his second game is a good way to start the year.
Things I didn’t like:
Despite long balls from Ackley and Smoak, the offense looked horrible. My dreams of a 700 run season have already been crushed by their inability to score runs in the opening series. Four runs on twelve hits were all that the Seattle bats could scrap together against average pitching in a pretty hitter friendly ball park. I know that this is a young lineup and it’s still early, but only four runs? What troubles me even more was that we could only get one walk in the two games. A .174 batting average and .186 on base percentage against Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon is very discouraging. Yes, McCarthy had a 2.86 FIP last year and Colon did have a great outing yesterday, but honestly, both of those guys are probably back of the rotation or long relief guys in the Ranger or Angel pitching staff. If we want to score runs this year, we need to beat guys like Bartolo Colon on a consistent basis. I also feel bad for Felix and Vargas. Neither of them got wins despite great performances.
On to the bullpen. I actually don’t believe that there is too much cause for concern there. Yes, Kelly hung a slider and Sherrill absolutely piped a pitch to Josh Reddick, but both of those guys are experienced and successful relievers, and should figure things out quickly. About the homerun Delabar allowed, it looked like he hit his spot, but Gomes put a good swing on it. The other thing about the bullpen is that a bad month for most of the relievers would only mean a call up for someone like Chance Ruffin, Danny Hultzen, or Forrest Snow. That’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing.
The Carp injury is the last thing that worries me. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like it will sideline him for too long, but it is still a bummer, since now he will have to start his season a bit behind everyone else in terms of preparation. However, I like that Carp’s injury will allow for some opportunities for Figgins and Seager. Having Figgins in the outfield could increase his stock if he plays well, and Seager will have some time at third base for now. Hopefully that will allow him to jump right into the hot corner following a potential Figgins trade. If Figgins isn’t playing well and Seager is after a few weeks, I could see Wedge benching Chone by the time Carp gets off the disabled list. Regardless, this injury presents a couple of interested opportunities.
What I really hate about this Japan series is that it gives us a taste of baseball, and then yanks it away from us for another week. It’s absolutely brutal; I’m already going through baseball withdrawals. Perhaps another week of spring training is exactly what the Mariner bats need though.
Topics: Chance Ruffin, Chone Figgins, Danny Hultzen, Dustin Ackley, Felix Herandez, Forrest Snow, George Sherrill, Jason Vargas, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Mike Carp, Opening Day, Shawn Kelley, Steve Delabar