Jun 23, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (34) and second baseman Robinson Cano (22) walk back to the dugout after the seventh inning against the Boston Red Sox at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners: Awards For The First Half

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After Saturday’s game, the season is officially half over for the Seattle Mariners. After 81 games, the Mariners are 43-38, eight games better than their 35-46 mark last year. They were 12 games out of first at this point last season and 11.5 games behind the 2nd wild-card spot.

This year, things so far are completely different. The Mariners are 7.5 games back of the Oakland Athletics for first in the AL West, but they are currently the 2nd wild-card in the AL.

So let’s take a look at some of the key players that got the Mariners to this point.

Team MVP: Robinson Cano

Who else could it be? He may not have the power numbers people were hoping for so far this season (only 4 homers) but he is 5th in the AL in batting (.316), leads the team in walks (28), runs scored (39) and on-base percentage (.379).

He is second on the team in RBI (43) and doubles (17), both behind Kyle Seager who is tied for a close second with Felix Hernandez for this award.

But more importantly than the stats, Cano has brought the veteran leadership and stability the organization was hoping for when they signed him to the 10-year deal this past offseason.

He has helped some of the younger players develop some more plate discipline, he worked early with Justin Smoak on driving pitches to the opposite field and you are pretty much assured that any ball hit his way will be fielded cleanly, smoothly and with minimal effort.

If Seager continues his hot play, he could make a case for himself in this spot at the end of the year. But for now, the award goes to Cano.

Best Pitcher: Felix Hernandez

Felix is 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA. His ERA is 2nd in the AL behind Masahiro Tanaka. His nine wins is fourth behind Tanaka (11), Mark Buehrle and Rick Porcello (10). He goes for win #10 on Sunday.

The pitching has been the strength of this team, with eight different pitchers posting sub-3.00 ERA. The only pitcher on the active roster with an ERA over 4.00 is Brandon Maurer (7.08), who was just brought back up as a reliever and has looked good so far.

The rotation has been filled with great pitching performances, but the King has to be number one for the first half. He would have a few more wins if this team could consistently get him run support.

The Mariners have lost games in which he has started but got a no decision by the scores of: 3-2, 6-3, 5-4, 6-4 and 2-1. He also lost a game 1-0 and got a no decision in a 5-0 win.

The M’s are 11-6 in games he starts. He is the one true King in Seattle and he is currently on pace to win 20 games for the first time in his career.

Biggest Surprise/Breakout Player: Roenis Elias & James Jones

When the season started, you could have argued that the biggest surprise was that Abraham Almonte and Roenis Elias made the Opening Day roster. But at the halfway point of the season, Elias has proven – more often than not – that he belongs and James Jones has replaced Almonte in center and has won over the Mariner faithful.

Let’s start with Elias. He got a bit roughed up Saturday night to fall to 7-6 on the season with an ERA of 3.96. His 87 strikeouts to only 36 walks is impressive, especially for a rookie.

And on one wonderful night in particular, Elias accomplished what no other Mariners starter has done this season; a complete-game shutout. His three-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers on June 1 will go down as one of the top-10 pitching performances of the season.

As for Jones, we’ve talked about Vader quite a bit lately. His speed and excitement has helped charge this ballclub. He would get serious consideration for Rookie of The Year if Masahiro Tanaka hadn’t just come over this season. If Tanaka slips late in the season, watch for Jones to nab the award.

Biggest Disappointment: Choose your own adventure

Honestly, I would have to say the biggest disappointment for the Seattle Mariners would be Brad Miller (.210, 7 HR, 22 RBI) though he has picked it up lately, raising his average almost 60 points by hitting .312 in June. But you could pick Corey Hart (.207, 5 HR, 17 RBI, currently on DL) or Justin Smoak (.208, 7 HR, 29 RBI, also on DL) or Dustin Ackley (.218, 4 HR, 27 RBI).

So as we prepare to turn the calendar to July and begin the 2nd half of the season, the Mariners need only a 29-52 record the rest of the way to be one game better than last year. And if they are able to simply duplicate their first half record, they would finish with a record of 86-76 and should be right in the thick of the playoff discussion.

And that is probably the biggest surprise of the season so far.

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