Mariners have strong season despite continued playoff drought
Nate Pearsall, Staff Writer
The 2018 Mariners season has ended, and the M’s found themselves eight games back from the Oakland Athletics for the final spot in the American League post-season. The Mariners won 89 games, something most fans would normally consider a great season. However, the American League had three teams record over 100 wins, and the last wild card team, Oakland, won 97.
Seattle was out to a commanding lead in the first half of the season. On June 16, the Mariners found themselves up 11 games on the A’s, and 20 games over the .500 mark with a 45-25 record. From June 16 to Sept. 24, the Mariners were 85-71 while the A’s cruised to a 95-62 record.
In that span, the A’s made a historical run, going 61-26, while the Mariners went 40-47.
Mitch Haniger has been the most valuable Mariner in years. He has cemented his role in this lineup. While his defense may seem slightly suspect with his off and on route running, he makes up for it with his arm. Haniger ended the year with 12 outfield assists, tied for first with Andrew Benintendi of Boston and Billy Hamilton of Cincinnati.
Among all this outfield praise, Haniger also took control at the top of the Mariners lineup, hitting .285 with 26 home runs, 93 runs batted in, 90 runs scored and 38 doubles, becoming the first Mariners outfielder since Ken Griffey Jr. to record more than 25 home runs, over 90 RBI’s and greater than 30 doubles in one season.
A lot of this production was found in the leadoff spot for the M’s, a change that occurred on Aug. 9. Entering a series against Houston, the defending World Series Champions, the Mariners sent Haniger to the top of the lineup and dropped former lead off Dee Gordon to the nine hole of the lineup. While at the time, it may have been a move to get Gordon straightened out and back into his old role quickly, Haniger stepped in and showed the M’s that this move was permanent.
Haniger, from Aug. 9 to the end of the season, hit .329 with 7 home runs, 21 RBI’s and 37 runs scored. Alongside Haniger, Edwin Diaz shined as bright as any, closer in the game in the last decade. Diaz, in only his second year, became the talk of the league when he stated his goal for the season: 50 saves. Any baseball fan knows 40 saves is a big feat, but 50? Diaz did not shy away from the scrutiny. With 12 games remaining in the season, he found himself seven saves away from breaking the regular season record. While he would not end up breaking this, nor reaching 60 saves, he still had the second-best season ever with 57.
The Mariners have some depth, but they also have some positions with little to no talent or potential, so the moves to come this offseason should be one to watch for when they enter the MLB Winter Meetings in December. Until then, stay positive, root for the Seahawks, Sounders and Storm, and look forward to opening night in March 2019.