The Mariners are two weeks into their 2012 season. Below is a few of my early season thoughts on the team.
Starting Pitching: Besides Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, the starting rotation was a big question mark coming into the season. Hector Noesi came over from the Yankees in the Michael Pineda trade. He was a relief pitcher that the Mariners turned into a starting pitcher. He had a rough first outing down in Texas but came back with a solid performance and a win against the A's last weekend. Blake Beavan has also had two solid starts but took a 1-0 loss against the Rangers. To my surprise, Kevin Millwood became the M's fifth starter. He pitched six solid innings and held the Rangers to one run in his only start of the season so far. I can't say the M's rotation is anything that will scare another team but they are good enough to get the job done.
Bullpen: Brandon League is back as the closer and has looked strong in all six of his appearances. It is the middle relief that is shaky with Steve Delabar, Tom Wilhelmson and Lucas Luetge. They can't come in and give up a run, on a team that has to fight for every run they score. If the Mariners are out of contention by mid-season, they could use Brandon League as trade bait.
Mariners Offense: They still have no legitimate power-hitter in the line-up but do have a lot of young players that should only get better with more plate appearances. I don't think Miguel Olivo will make it through the season with the Mariners. He is off to a very slow start, with only 4 hits in 36 at bats and a .111 average and his defense is not good enough to keep him. Micheal Saunders is another weakness in the line-up, with 9 strikeouts in 10 games. He is driving me crazy with his golf swing at low pitches. When Jesus Montero is catching I don't understand why Manager Eric Wedge has Miguel Olivo as the DH. I would rather see more of John Jaso at DH.
Chrone Figgins: He is my pet peeve on the team. Yes, he is hitting better now that he is lead-off and he is even hustling out in left-field. Where the heck was this the last two seasons? It gives the appearance that he didn't get to hit lead off when he first came to the Mariners and pouted until he got his way. He also committed a major sin in my book. In the first game against Texas, the Mariners had batted around in the first inning and had Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish struggling to throw strikes. When Figgins came up for his second plate appearance of the inning, why did he swing at the first pitch? Figgins should have made him throw strikes, instead he swung at the first pitch for a ground out that ended the inning and let Darvish off the hook.
The Texas Rangers Series: This four game series was the first real test for the Mariners. With the Rangers big bat line-up, I was worried the Mariners were going to get shelled. They only won 1 game out of 4 but I still took some positives away from the series. The Rangers' bats only had one real big game and that was Noesi's first game as a starter. After giving up 11 runs in the first game, they held the Rangers to just 9 runs in the remaining 3 games. Including a tough 1-0 loss for the Mariners in game two. Another highlight was the Mariners come from behind win in game three when they scored three runs in the top of the ninth to win 4-3.
As of this posting the Mariners are sitting above .500 with a 6-5 record and in second place in their division. There is still 151 games left in the season, they will win a third, lose a third but it is what they do with the other third of their games that will make a difference if they make the playoffs or not.