Seven wins in a row. The young guys playing well. The old guys playing well. Everything seems to be coming together for the Seattle Mariners, who are now only five games below .500 and are coming up on a seven game home stand.
There are a couple obvious storylines as to why the Mariners are succeeding, starting pitcher Felix Hernandez is probably the first half Cy Young, 41-year old Raul Ibanez is on pace for almost 40 homeruns, and third baseman Kyle Seager continues to prove the doubters wrong. These may be reasons for success, but they are not the reason that Mariners fans are optimistic than they have been in years. The true reason? The young guys.
Obviously Seager is still reasonably young, but he led the team in homeruns and RBIs last year so he doesn’t count. It is the newer guys. Second baseman Nick Franklin, shortstop Brad Miller, and as weird as it is to say, first baseman Justin Smoak, have brought a completely new energy to the Mariners. Brad Miller was just awarded the AL Player of the Week award, making him the first rookie since Griffey to win the award for the Mariners. Franklin is batting a respectable .269 and has showed more pop in 47 games than Dustin Ackley has in his career.
But Justin Smoak. My goodness. Justin Smoak. This guy has turned a corner. The light has been flicked on. After batting .217 last year and simply looking lost at the plate most of this year, he has become a professional hitter ever since he got back from injury. Since he came off the DL in mid-June, Smoak is batting over .300 and has an OBP of over .400. In his last 52 games Smoak has had eight homers and an OPS in the .900’s(!).
This is the type of production we expected from Smoak when the Mariners traded for him, and it seems to finally be materializing. The real question is whether this is just a hot streak, or something we can expect from here on out. I would lean towards the latter, and it is not just because I am optimistic, or because I predicted preseason that this would be his breakout year. Smoak’s at-bats have been sharper. His eye has been better. He has simply hit the ball a lot harder and a lot more often.
If Smoak, Miller, and Franklin can consistently produce, they combine with Seager to become one of the brightest young infields in the league. Add the always stellar Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and the young arms that haven’t even made it up yet like Taijuan Walker, and I don’t see any reason why this Mariners team can’t be really really good in a few years. Be sure to stay tuned.no comments