Mariners Difference Maker #1: Bryce Miller
Maybe you were expecting to see Julio or one of the pitchers on this list. It's a fair question, but good seasons by them instead of great ones will still make a strong positive impact. It's why I wanted to focus on Bryce Miller as the final, and arguably most important, entrant on this list.
We know that the Mariners have a dominant top-3 in their rotation. Depending on where you look, they have 3 of the top 8/9 in the American League Cy Young voting. I can't tell you the last time a team had that many in the top 10. It's why I think Bryce Miller could be so important to the Mariners this year as their number 4. (If you prefer Bryan Woo here, just swap the names in your head... I'm a Miller guy.)
Here's the thought process. If Miller can make that leap like we saw Gilbert and Kirby make, even at 85% of what they did, he becomes arguably the best #4 starter in baseball, and someone who would be a #2/#3 on plenty of teams. Having that as your #4 is wild. You dont have to worry about finding wins in the back half of your rotation or scoring a ton in those games to have a chance. If Miller, who averaged 5.24 IP per start, can throw 30 games with 5.5 IP per start?
Yeah, the Mariners would be in a fantastic spot.
With a WHIP just under 1.2 last season and a sub 4.00 FIP, Miller has great stuff. With a full offseason in the bigs under his belt and the tutelage and assistance of the best top 3 in baseball, Miller will have little to no pressure this year. If we do see Miller post a sub-4 ERA while throwing 165-175 IP, the Mariners record is going to instantly get better. Especially if that nasty Splitter performs like it looks in his offseason workout videos.
Those are the 5 Mariners that I think are going to have the biggest impact on the success or failure of the team this season. It's getting close, everyone, and we should be excited. Go Mariners!