ANAHEIM, CA – SEPTEMBER 26: Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners stands in the dugout after finishing the sixth inning and coming out of the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 26, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

End of season post-mortem: 2016 Seattle Mariners

Despite some rough times this year, the Mariners made it until the very end before being eliminated with just one game left to play. Seattle came into August 2nd with a .500 record at 52-52 and won 34 of their next 57 to move from six games back in the Wild Card to just two, but ultimately, it was too little, too late.

Things certainly weren’t all bad for Seattle as they at least surpassed the popular preseason division pick Houston. The trio of Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Robinson Cano was as good as any offensive group put together by the M’s in the last 15 years. On the mound, it wasn’t quite the performance they are used to from King Felix, but in all the rotation and bullpen played admirably. In the end, they were doomed by their frequent cold spells as they lost four or more in a row six times including six of their first eight to start the season and their poor play within the division, as 23 of their 75 losses came against Texas and Houston.

Preseason Prediction: The Mariners are an improved club from 2015, and there’s reason to believe they won’t be as bad in 2016. Their offense looks capable, their rotation very good and the bullpen could be a plus. With that said, Seattle has a rookie manager and a ton of new players, which means finding an early groove may prove difficult. This isn’t likely a playoff team, but the Mariners should find themselves hovering around .500. (Liam McGuire, March 2nd)

Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager of the Mariners

SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 30: Robinson Cano #22 of the Seattle Mariners and Kyle Seager #15 of the Seattle Mariners celebrate a solo home run by Cano off of starting pitcher Raul Alcantara #50 of the Oakland Athletics during the third inning of a game at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. It was Cano’s second home run of the game. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

What Went Right: As mentioned, the Mariners fielded an impressive offense and, unlike some recent seasons, it wasn’t dependent on one or two players. Cano and Cruz each knocked in 100 with Seager right behind with 99. All three had at least 30 home runs. with Cruz topping out at 43, and eight hitters had at least 14. While they didn’t run much as a team, Leonys Martin stole 24 bases to six caught and scored 72 times. Nori Aoki was a fine addition through free agency and Mike Zunino hit quite well, especially given his struggles in the majors in recent seasons. They also got the kind of production out of Dae-Ho Lee that the Twins were hoping to get out of their much bigger signing, Byung-Ho Kim.

All in all, they had a pretty scary lineup that allowed them to finish third in the AL in runs scored and fifth in OPS.

What Went Wrong: Not to put the blame on someone else, but the Rangers went 36-11 in one run games with an overall run differential of +10, compared to the Mariners run differential of +62. You hate to say a team won because they were lucky, but there is little reason to state that the Rangers are a better overall team than the Mariners beyond their actual win/loss record.

If there was a real weak spot for the M’s, it was in the back of their rotation, where eight starts went to Wade LeBlanc, who finished with a 4.50 ERA, and 15 to Nate Karns, who held a 5.15 mark. Of course, most teams have troubles finding enough starting pitching depth to make it through the whole season, and the fact that they got 111 starts out of Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, and Ariel Miranda was definitely a positive for this club.

Most Surprising Player: Paxton came into this season never pitching more than 75 innings in a year, never walking less than 2.5 per nine or struck out more than 8 per nine. This year, he surpassed all those numbers and more with an FIP of 2.80 and 117 strikeouts in 121 innings. With all the big name pitchers on the staff, it was Paxton who lead in fWAR, HR/9, BB/9, and was second in ERA to Hernandez. To make things even better, Paxton is under team control through 2020 and will just be entering into his first year of arbitration next season.

Wade Miley of the Mariners

SEATTLE, WA – JUNE 29: Starting pitcher Wade Miley #20 reacts as he walks off the field during the fourth inning of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Safeco Field on June 29, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Most Disappointing Player: The Mariners picked up Wade Miley last Winter from Boston for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias, and while the cost in players wasn’t all that much (Smith missed all but 4.1 innings between AAA and MLB this year after having Tommy John in May, and Elias held a 12.91 ERA in 7.2 MLB innings), the cost of actually playing Miley was. With a 4.98 ERA, he was easily the worst among Seattle’s regular starters and the best thing he brought the team was Miranda, who came over in a trade from Baltimore at the trade deadline.

The Future: Seattle has few exiting big name free agents and they may be happy to see a few of them go. Drew Storen was paid more than $8 million this year and pitched only 18 innings out of the bullpen this year after being picked up at the deadline in a deal for Joaquin Benoit. Hernandez and Cano are owed quite a large fortune (Cano through 2023, Felix through 2019), but the rest of the team is still pretty cheap and the Mariners should be able to add to their already formidable roster. They may look to add another outfielder to replace Franklin Gutierrez, Adam Lind (free agents), and possibly Nori Aoki ($6 million option), and perhaps also some starting rotation depth (because there never is enough pitching), but at this moment, the Mariners should be considered the favorite in the AL West in 2017.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.