Note: I haven’t been commenting much on the Seattle Seahawks so far this season. With the year ending injuries to key defensive stars Cliff Avril, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, plus the problems with the offensive line and the running game, I have been, more or less, in “wait and see” mode as regards this […]Read the Rest →
In the classic Western “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” there is a great scene in which Butch and Sundance are fleeing from a posse that had the audacity to interrupt them as they were robbing a train. The famous robbers were used to the posses formed by the incompetent sheriffs of the local towns and to that point in their criminal careers had experienced no problem in eluding them. This time, however, things were different. Butch and Sundance used every trick they knew of to shake the posse; including taking a path that crossed over solid rock so as to leave no track, yet still the lawmen came on, following their every twist and turn. Surprised at the skill of this new posse and now becoming a little worried, Butch turns to Sundance and says, “Who are those guys?”
It’s a great scene; but more to the point of this article, Butch’s question to Sundance describes perfectly my response to what I am seeing from our beloved Seattle Mariners so far in this month of July. Do you realize that the M’s are 9 and 5 this month after playing several of the toughest teams in baseball? They swept a hot Angels team at Safeco in the last series before the All Star break and last night took the first game of this weekend’s series against Houston. During this July stretch the Mariners are leading Major League baseball in the statistical categories of “slugging percentage (SLG)” at .499, “on base plus slugging percentage (OPS)” at .853, home runs (23) and runs per game (almost 6). Do you realize the Mariners are now the number two team in Major League baseball (behind only the Baltimore Orioles) at hitting home runs? They have hit more home runs already this season than they did all of last year and have homered in a club record 23 straight games! Such rarified statistical air is usually reserved for teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, or Cardinals.
Can this be the same bunch that earlier this year was struggling to score any runs at all and that for the bulk of the season has been at or near the bottom at hitting with runners in scoring position?
Who are these guys we now have masquerading as Mariners?
Part of the answer is, of course, Raul Ibanez, who at age 41 is having a career year. He is leading the Mariners in home runs (24) and runs batted in (56) and will almost certainly break the record for most homers in a season by a player 41 years of age or older, currently held by the immortal Ted Williams. Veteran Kendrys Morales is also having a productive season. He is hitting at a .280 clip, has 14 home runs and 54 RBI (runs batted in). Third baseman Kyle Seager is following up his solid rookie season with an even better campaign this year. He leads the M’s in batting average (.292), hits (108) and is 2nd in on base percentage (.357). He hit his 16th homer last night and extended his current hitting streak to 15 games. He is one of 3 players in the American League to have 3 separate hit streaks of 10 games or better this season and he is playing a Gold Glove caliber third base.
As good as they have played, Ibanez, Morales and Seager have been with the M’s the whole season. This recent upsurge is coincident with the arrival to the Mariners of several of GM Jack Zduriencik’s highly touted youngsters. These include infielders Nick Franklin and Brad Miller as well as catcher Mike Zunino. All 3 of these players have had a significant impact thus far and exhibit a swagger that belies their short time in “the show”. In last night’s win Miller was 3 for 5 with 2 homers (his first in the Bigs) and 5 RBI! Franklin chipped in with 2 hits and Zunino walked 3 times and scored 3 runs. Miller and Franklin also combined on a highlight reel double play with shortstop Miller reaching a grounder behind second and scooping the ball to Franklin who barehanded it for the force out and then threw a strike to first to complete the double play. Since arriving to the Mariners both Franklin and Miller are hitting .270 and have impressed with their speed on the bases. Neither seems to be overawed by the situation they are in as rookies in the Majors.
Though he has yet to hit as well, the same can be said of Zunino. He has a great arm, great footwork and is clearly superior defensively to any catcher the M’s have had recently. With learning the pitching staff and calling the games he has had a fuller plate than the others but is handling it well. I think he eventually will hit as well and as I stated in an earlier blog I think Mike Zunino will be an All Star in a couple years.
Add to this mix a resurgent Justin Smoak. Smoak has long been steady at first base defensively but has been an enigma offensively. Now it looks like he has finally started to figure things out. He homered again last night, his 9th this year, and is hitting .271 for the season and (Gasp!) is leading the team in on base percentage at .372!
With all of the above factors coming together the M’s may just have a top flight offense in the making. Before too much longer it’s possible that no one will be looking at this bunch of Mariners and asking… “Who are those guys?”
Copyright © 2013
By Mark Arnold
All Rights Reserved