Finish: 88-74, 2nd in the AL West, two games behind the Los Angeles Angels
Batting Average – Ichiro Suzuki, .351
Home Runs – Adrian Beltre, 26
Runs Batted In – Raul Ibanez, 105
Runs Scored – Ichiro Suzuki, 111
Stolen Bases – Ichiro Suzuki, 37
Wins – Miguel Batista, 15
Strikeouts – Felix Hernandez, 165
Innings Pitched – Jerrod Washburn, 193.2
Earned Run Average – Felix Hernandez, 3.92
Saves – J.J. Putz, 40
The Mariners don’t have a real big bopper in the middle of their lineup, but the very top of it is as good as it gets. Ichiro Suzuki, now moved from right field to center, had another great year very similar to his MVP season in 2001. He had 238 hits for a .351 batting average (.396 OBP), 37 steals with a success rate of 82.2% and he scored 111 runs while reeling in his seventh gold glove in a row.
Team Cy Young
King Felix Hernandez has not yet become the omnipotent monarch the Mariners envision him to be, although he did lead the starters in ERA and SO and IP/G. The real Mariners Cy Young however was closer J.J. Putz, who nailed down 40 of 42 saves and won 6 games, too. 82 strike outs in 71.2 innings are pretty good, but you get a better idea of how dominant Putz was if you look at his 0.70 WHIP and the .153/.202/.252 (.452 OPS!) batting line he held opposing batters to. Absolutely ridiculous numbers!
What Went Right
The Mariners were only two games behind the Angels as late as Aug. 26 and even after they were unceremonally swept by LA, they were still tied for the wild card. All this without any notable offense and a pitching staff that had three solid, if unspectacular, starters (sorry Felix), J.J. Putz and nothing else. The Mariners outperformed their expected record by nine wins, so they obviously managed to get the most out of what they had.
What Went Wrong
Ichiro is a great player, but if he is among the OPS leaders on your team, you know you have a problem. Nobody on the team slugged over .500 and first baseman Richie Sexson managed only a meager .694 OPS, mostly thanks to a Mendoza like .205 batting average. Then again, the M’s scored 794 runs (7th in AL), but they allowed 813 (10th), so it seems like pitching was the bigger problem. Hernandez (14-7, 3.92 ERA), Batista (15-11, 4.31) and Washburn (10-15, 4.32) were average or better, but Seattle lacked a real ace and they had to endure 56 starts from Jeff Weaver (7-13, 6.20), Horaicio Ramirez (8-7, 7.16), and Ryan Feierabend (1-6, 10.27). The bullpen, praised highly at the start of the season, came down to earth in the second part and posted a good, but not spectacular 3.95 ERA. Overall, the Mariners were just a through and through mediocre team.
Up and Coming Player
With Jose Guillen gone, it looks like 22-year-old Adam Jones will get a full time job next season in the outfield. He hit .314/.382/.586 in 101 games in Class AAA and a respectable .246/.300/.400 in 65 at-bats in the majors. Although he is still very young, he might very well be the best hitter on the team in 2008 (stress on the might).
What the Team Should Do in the Offseason
Good Question. The team overachieved last season and now they might be thinking they are contenders. Luckily, there aren’t many free agents available who can be signed to stupid contracts. Seattle definitely could use some help in the rotation and they are looking to get that from Japan – probably a good choice if you consider what is available on the FA market here. However, it is unlikely that they can outperform their expected record again and really challenge the Angels, so they should build for the future, hand out a couple of one- or two- year contracts to veterans to plug a few holes short term, who, if they do well, might even fetch something useful later on the trade market.