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Success on the horizon for Mariners
Published 10/9/2012 6:00:00 AM
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Now that the 2012 Seattle Mariners season has ended, it’s about time to start looking back on their performance and forward to next season.

Let’s first thank the baseball gods for allowing the Mariners to avoid another 90-100 loss season. While a record of 75-87 isn’t great, it does show significant improvement as the team increased its win total by six or more wins in each of the last two seasons.

Next season could bring a breakthrough year with the continued improvement of the young players and pitching prospects. Most people would like to say this year’s successful moments resulted from pitching, but two other causes prove otherwise.

First, eight Mariners players finished the season with 10 or more home runs a feat that hasn’t happened since 1997 for the club. Kyle Seager also had the first 20-plus home run season by a Mariner since 2009.

Second, there’s the issue of the Hector Noesi experiment. The second-year pitcher had an embarrassing 2-12 record, along with a 5.82 ERA. For most of the first half of the season, the team inexplicably put up with him as a starter  a mistake Mariners fans can hope they don’t make next year.

Noesi aside, the Mariners pitching was phenomenal, highlighted by Felix Hernandez’s perfect game on Aug. 15. Statistics unfortunately will not show how affectively the pitching team actually performed.

For that reason, we must look forward to next year. The Mariners do not look like a playoff team yet, but they do look like a team that could finish over .500.

The offense will get a big boost with the Safeco Field fences moving in, and the young hitters will improve with added seasoning. Giving those guys stability in the lineup would likely bode well for the Mariners. The fences could also mean something you never hear of with the Mariners  a big name hitting free agent. Texas' slugger Josh Hamilton is available, why not take a shot?

One concern that plagued the offense this season was batting average. Those numbers have to go up otherwise home runs won’t matter as much.

If the pitching stays consistent, the Mariners could show promise. It seems like everyone was on target after the All-Star break, but the team needs to maintain that play over the course of an entire season. The team needs to resign Hisashi Iwakuma and start him right away next season because he was lights-out with an 8-4, 2.65 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 16 games as a starter. With young pitching prospects almost ready for the big leagues, the rotation could be stellar behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas.

Some of the Mariners prospects may make appearances next season. This might include the highly touted trio of pitching prospects from early last season and Mike Zunino, the Mariners first draft pick who tore up the minors in his first season.

Finally, one more boost for the Mariners is the addition of the Astros to the AL West division. Playing another 100-loss team has to mean a few more division wins, and that’s what Mariners fans should look for next season  more wins.

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