5 keys to a post All-Star Mariners turnaround

Jae C. Hong / Associated Press

The Seattle Mariners enter the All-Star break as one of the biggest disappointments in the major leagues.

After entering the season with massive expectations, the Mariners have struggled en route to a 41-48 record. That puts Seattle 7.5 games back of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the AL West race and seven games out of a wild card spot, with nine teams to climb over.

That deficit isn’t impossible to make up and the Mariners are fortunate it’s not an even bigger hole, but there aren’t a lot of signs that the team is good enough to overcome it. Despite strong seasons from new acquisitions Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith,

Seattle’s offense has struggled to produce. Still, this team has more talent than its shown and might just be able to make some noise in the second half.

The Mariners will have to play perfect baseball and need a lot of luck, but a turnaround is possible if a few things go well.

Robinson Cano resurgence

To go along with Seattle being one of the most disappointing teams, Cano has arguably been the most disappointing individual player in the majors. If Seattle is going to play even .500 baseball over the rest of the season, Cano has to produce more like himself.

While it was expected that Cano’s power numbers might decline in Seattle, nobody could have expected the numbers Cano has put up so far in 2015. Hindered by a stomach parasite, Cano has a .251/.290/.370 line, a career-high strikeout rate and just 0.4 WAR.

There are some positive signs, as Cano has a 152 wRC+ in the first 12 games of July. Cano is also still among the league leaders in exit velocity, which should translate into better results at some point.

Cano’s second half will be critical for Seattle’s future as well as its present. If he’s this bad this soon into his contract, the Mariners will be in big trouble moving forward.

The bear is back

With three poor starts to begin the season followed by a lengthy injury, it looked Hisashi Iwakuma might be toast. A disastrous return start that included four home runs allowed last week against the Detroit Tigers didn’t do much to ease concerns.

Fortunately, Iwakuma showed that he still has some dominant potential left. Iwakuma tossed eight shutout innings against Los Angeles last Thursday, allowing just three hits.

That could give Seattle the 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation it envisioned before the season, plus young upside elsewhere. If Iwakuma gets a couple of more effective healthy starts in, he could also become a nice trade chip should the Mariners decide to sell.

Some sort of consistency

A seven-game losing streak near the beginning of June put the Mariners in a hole they haven’t been to able to recover from. Since then, Seattle has played around .500 ball and hasn’t been able to make up ground.

In July, the Mariners are 6-6 and have yet to win or lose consecutive games. Seattle has gone the most number of days of any team in the majors without losing three games in a row, but also has gone the longest without three consecutive games.

Obviously that needs to change if the Mariners are going to challenge for a playoff spot. Seattle needs an extended winning streak early in the second half.

Jesus Montero provides a spark

Nobody could have possibly predicted that Montero would contribute to the big leagues this season, but there’s potential for him to be a useful piece in the second half.

For all of Montero’s shortcomings, he’s hit lefties well in his major league career. Montero has a lifetime 129 wRC+ against left-handed pitching and was hitting very well at Triple-A before his call up on Thursday.

If Montero can become a suitable platoon partner for Logan Morrison or take some productive at-bats at DH, he will become a nice little upgrade for the offense in the second half.

Anything from Mike Zunino and Dustin Ackley

There was a lot of hope for Zunino and Ackley coming into the season. They have both struggled, causing the Mariners to go out and acquire Mark Trumbo and leave them searching for answers at catcher.

Zunino has been particularly concerning. This looked like a season Zunino could take a major leap forward after being rushed to the big leagues in 2013, but his numbers are worst just about across the board.

Ackley has at least been somewhat productive over the past 30 games, although he has had hot stretches in the past. The Mariners need at least some production from both to erase the black holes in their lineup.

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.


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