Seattle Seahawks: Why They’re Poised to Get Back to the Super Bowl

Gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, whatever you want to call it… that one was tough. To come so close to repeating and get that close to scoring. This one will stay with Seattle, team and fans alike, for a long time.

Still, the Seahawks will be back strong for next season, and you can bet that coaches and players alike will be looking to make up for the Super Bowl loss with a ring next year. Here’s why they’re poised to get back to the Super Bowl-

1. Returning Talent

For the most part, the band will be back together next season. The Seahawks will see a small number of their core hit free agency, most notably Byron Maxwell and Jermaine Kearse (more on that later). Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, should he return, will be rejoined on offense by promising receiver Paul Richardson (once he returns from injury), the emerging Riccardo Lockette, Super Bowl breakout Chris Matthews and the vastly underrated Doug Baldwin. Kearse could return, while Luke Willson and Tony Moeaki provide a solid outlet for passes at the tight end position. Like Richardson, Zach Miller will also be coming back from injury.

Defensively, Seattle will welcome back a host of players from injured reserve. Brandon Mebane, one of the game’s best defensive tackles, will be healthy. Promising youngsters Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, Cassius Marsh and Kevin Pierre-Louis will return as well.

Other than the returning injured players, the majority of the starting defense is under contract with Maxwell, Malcolm Smith and Kevin Williams the only prominent free agents.

2. Few Free Agent Priorities

One of the main reasons the Hawks won their first Super Bowl was due to the additions of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, players they were able to poach from other teams in free agency. Last offseason, the team was limited in free agency and had to spend most of their offseason cash on retaining the likes of Bennett and Avril.

While Seattle will spend this offseason thanks to potential extensions for Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Bobby Wagner, the team won’t have as many key players hit free agency as last season when the team lost Golden Tate, Breno Giacomini, Paul McQuistan, Brandon Browner, Clinton McDonald and Walter Thurmond. The team also had to cut defensive lineman Red Bryant and Chris Clemons.

Things will be much different this time around. Notable Seahawks hitting free agency include Byron Maxwell, Jermaine Kearse, James Carpenter, Malcolm Smith and Kevin Williams.

Besides handing out potential extensions, the ‘Hawks should focus on bringing back Maxwell. Since last season he’s seamlessly stepped in the Legion of Boom’s starting contingent. The cornerback will be one of the most sought-after free agents should he hit the open market. The question becomes whether the Seahawks brass trusts Tharold Simon to take over for Maxwell, similar to the recent transition of Maxwell for Browner.

While Carpenter may be brought back, the team can withstand the potential losses of Smith and Williams. The respective emergences of Kevin Pierre-Louis as well as Jordan Hill (5.5 sacks in the last six regular season game) should more than make up for the respective Super Bowl MVP and former Viking if Smith and Williams aren’t retained.

3. Continued Youth Development

Seattle can afford to let Smith and Williams go thanks to the development and potential of the aforementioned duo of Pierre-Louis and Hill. These two are just two of the latest players undervalued in the draft that Seattle has developed into quality contributors or starters, joining the likes of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Wilson, Wagner, J.R. Sweezy, Kearse, Baldwin, Willson, K.J. Wright, Smith, Lockette, Jeremy Lane, Simon and Robert Turbin among others.

Quite frankly, Seattle is the best at finding and developing talent—few NFL teams come close.

The continued development of players like Chris Matthews, Sweezy, Simon, Hill, Pierre-Louis and Cassius Marsh will only improve the Seahawks’ depth and quality heading into next season.

In Conclusion

The Seahawks loss in the Super Bowl was incredibly tough, it may go down as one of the most gut-wrenching and painful losses in the history of the NFL, let alone American sports. Still, if there was ever a group to rebound from it, come back strong and make good, it would be the current group of Seahawks.

Remember, the last time Seattle was dealt a heartbreaking (albeit less painful) playoff loss it was Atlanta a few years ago. The Hawks responded with a ring the next year.

They’ll be back.

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

NBA Seattle: Los Angeles Clippers, The Emerald City’s Second NBA Team

Many times a fan will have a second team. Regardless of the sport or league, everyone has a backup squad. This team isn’t in the same universe as the person’s favorite team, but they keep a small level of interest in the second team—in other words, they care about that team just a smidgen more than the rest of the league and much less than their favorite team.

The Sonics will always be Seattle’s team, regardless if there is an incarnation of the green and gold in the Emerald City. However, the Los Angeles Clippers are quickly developing into Seattle’s second team. Or rather something closer to a “interim” team.

I basically bestowed the Heat with this title a few years ago. After all, Miami had beaten that team from that one Midwestern state (people from Washington State know which NBA stolen property team I’m referring to) in the NBA Finals. The Heat also employed former Sonics greats Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

The Clippers win the award for a few reasons. First off is the fact that they are simply fun to watch with highlight reel dunks and alley-oops a regular occurrence. The team also employs elite players in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

After that, theirs the fact that they are owned by a man with obvious Seattle connections, Steve Ballmer. In addition to Ballmer, Los Angeles employs two of the Emerald City’s finest in Spencer Hawes and Jamal Crawford. The Clippers also recently drafted former Husky C.J. Wilcox in the first round of the NBA draft.

Congrats Clippers. You’re unofficially Seattle’s second team until we get the Sonics back.

Washingtonians, who is your second NBA team, is it the Clippers or another team?

Kingdome Crossover/Flashback – Seattle Seahawks: Stats from the Opening Win Over Green Bay

Here are some of the stats of note from the last Seahawks/Packers meeting. Obviously some things have changed (cough…Percy Harvin…cough).

  • 34, 2.8.

These were Eddie Lacy’s rushing numbers on Thursday. He totaled 34 yards on 12 carries with 2.8 yards per carry. By comparison Marshawn Lynch had 110 yards on 20 carries and 5.5 yards a carry. Yeah… Beastmode still has it.

  • 100 yards from scrimmage racked up by Percy Harvin

Whenever Percy Harvin was on the field, Seattle seemed to go to him. They got the playmaker the ball in a variety of ways and it was a success. The former Viking didn’t score a touchdown, but you can bet he’ll get a boatload of scores if Pete Carroll continues to get him the ball this much.

  • Two

The numbers of times Russell Wilson has beat Aaron Rodgers.

  • Zero

The number of times Aaron Rodgers has beat Russell Wilson.

  • Zero

Also the number of times Aaron Rodgers threw towards the receiver Richard Sherman was covering on defense. Say what you will about Sherman and whether he’s the best corner in the game, but if he can force a team to sacrifice nearly a half of the field to avoid him, it only speaks to his talent and skill.

  • Two

Number of consecutive games (counting the Super Bowl) that the Seahawks have forced a safety.

  • 143

The difference in the team’s total yards. Seattle gained 398 yards while the Packers only managed 255.

  • 207 to 80.

Seattle’s rushing yards compared to Green Bay’s. A lot of this had to do with Eddie Lacy leaving the game with a concussion, but a lot of it had to do with Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks’ defense being so respectively dominant.

  • One

Sacks recorded against the Seahawks. If you can call it one. Russell Wilson lost zero yards on the play. And while he didn’t gain any either, it looked like more of a scramble and a duck out of bounds than an actual sack. This is a huge positive for a Seahawks offensive line going against Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers.

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

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Seattle Seahawks: 5 Important Stats from Panthers vs Cardinals

For the second straight season, the Seattle Seahawks enjoyed a bye to kick off the playoffs. The Hawks were able to sit in the comfort of their own homes and watch the competition slug it out.

Due to seeding, Seattle will host the Carolina Panthers with the winner advancing to the NFC Championship Game. Confidentially in 2014, the Seahawks also played an NFC South opponent (the New Orleans Saints) at home in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Here are five stats to keep in mind when the Panthers make their way to CenturyLink Field this weekend.

  1. 123—rushing yards by Panthers running back and Washington native Jonathan Stewart. Arizona struggled against the run heading into the game. Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore ran for 113 and 144 yards respectively against the Cardinals, but Stewart has been on somewhat of a tear as of late. The Hawks will have to be careful with Stewart.
  2. 198—passing yards by Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. If you take out a 39 yard screen pass to Fozzy Whittaker, the total drops to 159. Of the six QBs the Hawks have faced in the last six games, they’ve held five to under 200 yards passing. The only two to eclipse that mark, Shaun Hill and Ryan Lindley, didn’t have great games. Hill had 243 yards but also threw two picks. Lindley compiled 216 yards and had only one interception, but completed a mere 18 of his 44 passes. Neither Hill nor Lindley threw a touchdown. In fact, the past six QBs the Hawks face threw a cumulative two touchdowns, both from Eagles signal-caller Mark Sanchez. The caveat is that Sanchez threw for only 96 yards. One of his touchdowns came on a drive that started at the Seahawks’ 14 yard line. The other drive started four yards away from midfield at the Philly 46.
  3. 39—most receiving yards by a Carolina receiver. Those 39 yards came on the Whittaker screen, which was the running back’s only catch. No other Panther had five catches, with Kelvin Benjamin coming the closest with four. Benjamin was the only Carolina pass catcher with more than 33 yards when the two teams met earlier in the season. He finished with 94 receiving yards, 51 of which came on one play.
  4. 35—rushing yards by QB Cam Newton. The Carolina signal caller ran for 35 after putting up yardage totals of 51, 63, 83 and 49 in recent weeks. He only had 24 yards on 12 carries against the Hawks earlier in the season, his second worst game in terms of average yards per carry.
  5. Nine—number of different receivers who caught passes against the Cardinals. The Hawks will have to watch out for Newton spreading the ball around in general, but these aren’t Tom Brady’s Patriots. Of the nine, only four caught more than one pass. Of the five with one catch, three (Brenton Bersin, Mike Tolbert and Stewart) combined for a cumulative four yards. Whittaker’s 39 receiving yards came off a screen pass (stop me if you’ve heard that before) and was predominantly thanks to the running back rather than Newton.

The Seahawks take on the Panthers on Saturday, the winner will advance to the NFC Championship Game.

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Seattle Seahawks: 5 Stats to Know from Win Over San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks: 5 Stats to Know from Win Over San Francisco 49ers

Seven

Seven—the number of incomplete passes by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson was 15 of 22 on his passes and is 32 of 44 in terms of passes completed and attempted over his past two games.

Two

Two—the number of interceptions thrown by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Niners QB has thrown eight interceptions against Seattle dating back to the beginning of last season. He’s only tossed two touchdowns during that span.

102

102—the number of receiving yards by Seahawks tight ends Tony Moeaki and Luke Willson. The duo combined for five catches.

28

28—the number of rushing yards by Niners running back Frank Gore. Gore has 42 yards on 21 carries in his last two games against the Seahawks.

Four

Four—the number of sacks by the Seahawks. Seattle’s pass rush continues to get back on track, and may well be back. Kaepernick was also hit five times.

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Seattle Seahawks: 5 Stats to Know from Sunday’s Win Over the Oakland Raiders

1. One

One. Number of interceptions by cornerback Richard Sherman, his first of the season—the former Stanford standout now has 21 for his career. One was also the number of field goals kicker Steven Hauschka missed. He was three of four on the day and has only two misses all year. Hauschka also had a fumble recovery on a kickoff.

2. 143

Yards from scrimmage racked up by Marshawn Lynch. It was the most total yards by Beast Mode in a game this season. Lynch also tied a season-high with two rushing touchdowns.

3. 13

Tackles by linebacker K.J. Wright—more than three times more than the next highest tacklers.

4. 112

The yardage difference between the Raiders and Seahawks rushing yard totals. Seattle piled up 149 total rushing yards while Oakland was held to a measly 37. Maurice Jones-Drew was held  to nine total yards of offense while Darren McFadden only put up 67 yards on 17 touches.

5. 10

Total number of touches by Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. A good sign moving forward as both can be impact runners. This is likely what Seattle’s running game will look like if Marshawn Lynch leaves.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

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Kingdome Crossover- Seattle Seahawks: Statistical Similarities from Last Season Heading into Sunday’s Carolina Game

Heading into Sunday’s clash, the Seattle Seahawks sit at 3-3. .500. Even. It’s a cross roads of sorts for the defending Super Bowl champions. They’ll be hoping to start a successful run with a win in Carolina against the Panthers like they did to open last season.

One of the main reasons the Hawks’ are at .500 is a pass defense that hasn’t been as vaunted as last year’s group. Teams have been going after Richard Sherman in coverage, but another reason the pass defense may be doing worse statically is that the team hasn’t been able to pressure the quarterback as much as last season.

Speaking of last season, here is a look at some of the Seahawks statistics as a team last year and this year. We’ll start with the defensive side of the ball.

Defense

                                                                                2013                              2014

Yards per play allowed-                               4.4                                             5.2       

Passing Touchdowns allowed-                   16 (16 games)                                    12 (6 games)

Interceptions                                                     28                                                           2

Opposing QB Passer Rating                          63.4                                                103.9 

Rushing yards allowed per game               101.6                                                     85.5

Yards per rush attempt                                 3.9                                                          3.2

Offense

                                        2013                                                2014

Total Offense Ranking (League)                              9th                                                   6th   

Average yards gained per play                            5.6                                                          6

Rushing yards per attempt                                   4.3                                                          5.4

Percent of drives ending in a score                   40.7                                                        44.4

Rushing yards per game                          136.8                                                             153.3                                                        

With the exception of being more susceptible through the air (something that partly has to do with the pass rush) and uptick in rushing yards (likely due to Russell Wilson’s increased rushing yardage), Seattle’s stats aren’t that different from last year’s Super Bowl winning team. Now the team just has to win some games to get back to that peak.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

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Kingdome Crossover- Seattle Mariners: Washington Nationals Players Serve as Reminder to What Could Have Been

As the Seattle Mariners watch yet another playoffs from their respective couches, they find themselves wondering what could have been. Or rather, how close they could have been had they acquired or retained certain players.

Nowhere is this more relevant than in Washington, where the Nationals employ four former Mariners and two extremely important pieces of their team that were this close to becoming Mariners. Here’s a look at those players.

Anthony Rendon

Widely panned as the best hitter in his draft class, Rendon was taken sixth overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. The Mariners had the second overall pick that year. They took left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen, who has had his share of troubles thanks to a rash of injuries. Rendon, on the other hand, led the league in runs scored in 2014 (only his second season in the majors), hit 21 home runs, drove in 83 runs, swiped 17 bags and hit .287 with a .824 OPS.

Positional log jams aside, the Mariners are probably wishing they had Rendon’s bat in their lineup.

Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg is the one player on this list who Seattle didn’t have on their team, or could have drafted. Yet, he still represents one of the biggest, “what ifs?” in Mariners’ history.

Simply put, Seattle and Washington were both awful in 2008. Both had a legitimate shot at the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft – at the time, widely believed to be Strasburg. Seattle won four of its last six to finish 61-101 while Washington lost five of their last six to finish 59-102. The Mariners already have two of the best starters in the league in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, plus talented youngsters James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. If Strasburg drafted by the M’s and in that rotation, the Mariners’ playoff drought would be a thing of the past.

Doug Fister

The first of many former M’s on this list, Fister was traded from the Emerald City to Detroit along with David Pauley for Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells, Chance Ruffin and minor league prospect Francisco Martinez.

Since then, Fister went on to pitch fantastically in his 2 ½ years in Detroit, posting 32 wins—20 more than his total in 2 ½ years in Seattle— and turning in an ERA under four in every season. He also posted some absurd strikeout-to-walk ratios. Down the stretch in 2011 he struck out 57 batters while walking five over 70 innings.

The players Seattle got in return?

Wells would post decent power numbers in his brief time in Seattle before getting pushed out of a crowded outfield and finding himself with three different organizations not named the Seattle Mariners in 2013. He drove in a singular run in 53 games. Martinez was eventually traded back to Detroit for a PTBNL while Ruffin recently retired. Furbush was the only solid player Seattle got back. He’s provided a dependable reliever, but is buried in a deep bullpen.

Detroit would later send Fister to Washington, but the current Nationals pitcher is just another reminder of what could have been for Seattle.

Matt Thornton and Rafael Soriano

Seattle isn’t short on relievers at the moment, but Thornton and Soriano are two more examples of players who got away. Thornton, a former first round pick of the Mariners, was dealt to Chicago in 2006 for outfielder Joe Borchard. He went on to enjoy a long stint in the Windy City before moving to Boston midway through last season. He won a ring with the Red Sox and split 2014 with the Yankees and Nationals, posting a cumulative 1.75 ERA over 64 innings. For his career, Thornton has a 3.43 ERA in 670 appearances and an All-Star appearance to his name.

Soriano is the more sorely missed of the two. While Fernando Rodney has been superb as the M’s closer, and the has gotten by with a string of quality closers, Soriano has been superb in his career.

Upon leaving Seattle he moved to Atlanta, in a trade that will be addressed later, and in two years posted ERAs of 3.00 and 2.57 before taking over the closer’s role in 2009 and turning in a 2.97 ERA with 27 saves. He was traded to Tampa Bay and promptly led the league with 45 saves. He pitched to a tremendous 1.73 ERA and finished in the top 12 in Cy Young and MVP voting. After a year in Tampa he moved to the Yankees where he had a slight down year with a 4.12 ERA in 42 games before bouncing back to save 42 games and post a 2.26 ERA in 2012. He placed 20th in MVP voting that year. He then signed with Washington where he has accumulated 75 saves over the past two seasons with a collective 3.15 ERA.

Since leaving the Mariners, Soriano has appeared in 469 games, posted a 2.84 ERA and recorded 203 saves.

Now we get to the trade that was mentioned earlier.

The Mariners traded Soriano to the Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez.

Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who’s ERA over 20 starts and 98 innings was 7.16. You heard me correctly, 7.16! Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who let righties hit .340 off of him. Yes, that Horacio Ramirez who allowed lefties to hit .330 against him. Yes, that Horacio Ramirez.

The Mariners traded away a reliever who would become one of the game’s finest at his position for a back-of-the-rotation starter who posted an ERA over seven in nearly 100 innings.

Yikes.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Another Mariner traded away for relatively nothing, Cabrera was lost to Cleveland in “The Great Highway Robbery/Fleecing of 2006.” Cleveland traded Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez to Seattle in two different trades. Seattle gave up Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera respectively.

Cabrera would go on to establish himself as a premium two-way shortstop, culminating with a 2011 season in which he hit .273 with 25 home runs, 92 runs driven in, 17 stolen bases and a .792 OPS. Cabrera would make two All-Star appearances in Cleveland before moving to Washington at this past trade deadline. While he isn’t a threat to hit anywhere near 25 homers, he still provides pop and solid defense for a middle infielder.

In Conclusion

It’s easy to sit and think, “what if this?” or, “what if that?”, especially with the Mariners. But the reality is that Seattle has a history of letting players go too early, as well has just missing acquiring players who could turn into important cogs. Those players go on to become impact players elsewhere. There are quite a few former Mariners and almost-Mariners in various MLB cities playing vital roles to their teams. The Washington Nationals just happen to have more than most. For the Mariners, it’s a reminder of what could have been.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

You can see the piece in it’s entirety on Kingdome of Seattle Sports here.

Detroit Tigers: Could the Team Reacquire Doug Fister?

The Detroit Tigers will likely lose Max Scherzer to free agency. While the team will receive a draft pick as compensation for once after losing picks to sign various free agents in years past, Detroit will still have to replace one of its Cy Young winners.

I looked at some options the team has, internal and external, yesterday.

However, the best option may be somewhere in between the two. Granted the pitcher plays for another team, but he is a former Tiger. That pitcher would be Doug Fister.

Coming off a phenomenal season in the nation’s capital in which Fister posted a 16-6 record, a 2.41 ERA and a 98/24 strikeout to walk ratio in only 25 starts, the Nationals could look to move him. Not only could they capitalize on the superb numbers the former Tiger and Mariner posted, but they also have numerous players heading for free agency that would take prominence over Fister in terms of needing to be signed.

The good news for Detroit, as well as other teams in the market for a starter, is that Washington probably won’t re-sign Fister when his contract expires after next season. He’ll be close to 32 and likely commanding somewhere north of $10 million a year. That and the need to re-sign Jordan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond will push Fister out of D.C.

The other good news is that Fister is historically undervalued in trades. Detroit acquired him from Seattle for Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells and minor leaguer Francisco Martinez. In turn, Washington acquired him for Ian Krol, Robbie Ray and Steve Lombardozzi.

With the exception of Furbush and Krol’s April to June performances, none of those six made any serious contributions to a Major League team last season.

Re-acquiring Fister won’t be easy. Washington might actually do something crazy and ask for a return that befits a pitcher of Fister’s status. Should the Nationals go that route, it would make it difficult to accomplish.

The Tigers have an elite team, but not one with exceptional depth at any single position. By the same token, Washington doesn’t have too many glaring needs.

The Nationals may need a second baseman should Asdrubal Cabrera depart and therefore could be interested in Tigers’ prospect Devon Travis. The 23 year-old second baseman is Detroit’s fourth best prospect according to MLB.com and has a bright future, but is blocked in Detroit. Ian Kinsler will man second base for at least the next four years while shortstop will be Jose Iglesias’ job potentially for the next decade.

Even if Cabrera is retained, the Nationals will need a long-term solution. Acquiring Travis and keeping Cabrera would allow the former to develop while the letter holds the fort down as a stop-gap solution. The Tigers have recently shifted Travis to center field in an attempt to get him to the big leagues sooner and to avoid a log jam with the glut of middle infielders Detroit has, namely Kinsler, Iglesias, Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez and Andrew Romine. The center field experiment with Travis could end quickly if the team finds a more experienced center fielder who can make an immediate impact.

Regardless of how that situation would play out, Washington would likely need more than just one prospect to let Fister go. Detroit could offer one of their many young starting pitchers i.e. Kyle Lobstein, Robbie Ray, Kyle Ryan, Buck Farmer or Drew VerHagen, though I’m not sure how receptive Washington would be to that idea.  Ryan and VerHagen only have two Major League starts between them and of the remaining three, Lobstein was the only one to post passable numbers. One of the few young and expendable players left on the roster is Perez, a 23 year-old with the potential to be a solid two-way player. However, if Travis is included in the deal, it would seem overkill to ship out Perez as well. Unless, of course, Washington thinks he’s a suitable solution at second until Travis is ready should Cabrera leave.

The problem with any Tigers/Fister reunion is that Detroit doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. If Washington goes the historical route and seriously undervalues Fister in a trade, the Tigers are in business. If not… who really knows? Tigers’ General Manager Dave Dombrowski has pulled crazier stunts before.

 

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

 

Kingdome Crossover: Seattle Mariners: Signing Nelson Cruz Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Rumored Mariner signing Nelson Cruz would add a powerful bat to a lineup already bolstered by the arrivals of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart. What signing Cruz doesn’t do is guarantee success.

An offensive triumvirate of Cruz, Cano and Kyle Seager isn’t one to balk at, and is a wonderful foundation for the team moving forward, but in terms of success, it guarantees nothing.

In most divisions, like say the NL West, these kinds of additions (Cano, Cruz, Hart) would push a team towards the top of the table. Not so much with the Mariners in the AL West.

The rest of the division is stocked. The Mariners’ rise to “playoff-contender” status, if not the realm of respectability, has vaulted the division to a ridiculous level. On paper, the Angels, A’s and Rangers all have the talent to be playoff teams. Throw in Seattle, and you end up with a lot of unhappy teams come the postseason.

It wouldn’t be completely surprising to see, even with Cano and friends, the M’s finish in the same exact place in the standings as last year. They’re probably going to have an improved record, but as stated, the division is stacked.

If one thing is clear after watching postseason baseball, it’s that pitching is needed to contend. Teams like Detroit, Boston, St. Louis and Oakland found great success last year with tremendous staffs. And it wasn’t just those four teams; most playoff teams boasted strong pitching. Great pitching is nearly synonymous with a playoff squad now-a-days.

Which brings the topic of one-way conversation in the piece to the Mariners’ pitching.

The M’s will use some combination of Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Brandon Maurer and recent signing Scott Baker for the last three spots in the rotation. This is where question marks come into play. Moving into the future, both Walker and Paxton figure to be mainstays in the Seattle rotation thanks to their fantastic potential, but between them they have a grand total of 39 innings at the big league level. Whether they continue to show promise or hit a wall remains to be seen.

Ramirez and Maurer have both shown flashes of potential in the past, but the jury remains largely out on the pair. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Baker, given his experience and quality, leapfrog one or both of them to claim a rotation spot. The bottom line is that the Mariners’ rotation could show the promise and poise that Oakland’s young hurlers have shown, or they could continue to display the growing pains that have plagued the team.

If anything, a potential Cruz signing puts more pressure on the rotation to succeed. The one-time Brewer coupled with Cano, Hart and Logan Morrison would vastly improve a team that had issues scoring runs. The run output in Seattle should, at the very least, be slightly above average. The Mariners need their young pitchers to step up. If they can do this, Seattle will be in a position to contend. If not, well let’s just say get ready for all those low-scoring losses to turn into higher-scoring losses.

You can see the piece on Kingdome as well.