The Seattle Mariners had their postseason hopes go up in smoke on the final day of the season in 2021 when a late rally fell short. Missing the playoffs isn’t unusual in the Pacific Northwest, as Seattle last made the playoffs when it won its last American League West Division Crown in 2001.
However, the Mariners severely outpaced expectations last season and are hoping whenever the labor situation resolves, Seattle will be able to make the moves to return to the postseason in 2022.
Seattle Mariners Last Season Performance
Preseason projections before the 2021 season had Seattle winning between 68 and 71 games. The Mariners caught everyone off guard by surging to a 90-72 record — the team’s best mark since 2003 — despite having a run differential of -51. While nothing will leap out off the stat sheet from the last campaign, no one can ever accuse Seattle of being boring.
Keeping fans on the edge of their seats was a staple of the 2021 Mariners. Seattle went 33-19 in one-run games. The 33 victories they collected were the most in the majors. The Mariners also won 42 games in comeback fashion, which was their highest mark since they won 45 of those games in 2007.
Third baseman Kyle Seager made a case for Major League Baseball player’s not falling apart after hitting 30 years old. Seager, who is 33, set a new career-best total in home runs with 35 and RBIs with 101. Having power in the lineup wasn’t limited to the pop in Seager’s bet.
Right fielder Mitch Haniger smashed a team-high 39 home runs and drove in 100 runs. Haniger also smacked 23 doubles and drew 54 walks. First baseman Ty France hit a team-high 32 doubles while also contributing 18 home runs and driving in 73 runs.
Chris Flexen led Seattle’s rotation by collecting a 14-6 record and compiling a 3.61 ERA. Marco Gonzalez and Paul Sewald also won 10 games apiece for the Mariners. In the bullpen, Seattle went with a closer-by-committee approach. Drew Steckenrider led the team with 14 saves, while Sewald had 11 and Kendall Graveman closed out 10 games.
Seattle finished with winning records in every month except for May and October but would ultimately finish two games behind the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for the final Wild Card spots. The Mariners were also five games behind the Houston Astros for the division crown.
Seattle Mariners Off-Season Changes
Seattle has unbridled enthusiasm when it comes to being able to kick down the door to the postseason. However, like the rest of MLB, it has been halted by the looming threat of a work stoppage.
While the owners have locked out the players during a fight over the CBA, Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto made some moves during the offseason to start building on their foundation.
The Mariners invested in part of their future by signing pitcher Andres Munoz to a four-year, $7.5 million extension. Munoz, who is 23, appeared in one game for the Mariners last season and had made 23 career appearances in the big leagues. The right-handed Mexico pitcher has a 1-1 career mark with a 3.80 ERA.
Seattle is hoping to see 21-year-old, 6-foot-3 outfielder Julio Rodriguez come up to the MLB and make contributions this season. Rodriguez, who is the No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, hit .362 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs at AA Arkansas last season.
Seattle Mariners Key Additions
Signing Robbie Ray signaled to fans and neutral observers the Mariners plan to be contenders in 2022. Seattle convinced the reigning American League Cy Young winter to ditch Toronto, which finished a game ahead of the Mariners in the Wild Card race and joined Seattle on a five-year, $115 million contract. Ray, a 29-year-old lefty, found himself in the Great North last season, finishing with a 13-7 record and 2.84 ERA.
Ray, who also struck out a league-high 248 batters, had shown flashes of potential in the past. In 2017, Ray finished seventh in the NL Cy Young voting with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ray will help strengthen the top of Seattle’s rotation.
Second baseman Adam Frazier appeared to be on his way to a batting title with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. However, after Frazier was dealt to San Diego in midseason, he struggled down the stretch. Frazier finished the year with a .305 average but only hit .267 for the contending Padres.
Seattle acquired Frazier in a trade for lefty pitcher Ray Kerr and outfielder Corey Rosier. The Mariners are hoping Frazier can regain his form from when he was with the Pirates.
While Frazier doesn’t have much pop in his bat — his career-best is 10 home runs — he is effective at getting on base. Frazier finished with a .388 on-base percentage last season.
Frazier has a strong glove and can play multiple positions in the field. While Frazier has seen a lot of time at second base, he is also capable of playing in the outfield.
Seattle will need to see if the first half of the season was a flash in the pan for Frazier or if he can be an everyday starter on a team that plans to contend for a title.
Seattle Mariners Key Subtractions
Seager finishing with career-best numbers in home runs and RBIs wasn’t enough for Seattle to pick up the $20 million player option. Seager wasn’t able to find other suitors either and ended up announcing his retirement. Over an 11-year career all spent with Seattle, Seager made one All-Star team in 2014, hit 242 home runs, and drove in 807 runs.
Seattle saw several pitchers leave via free agency. Yusei Kikuchi declined a player option after finishing fourth on the team with seven wins and compiling a 4.41 ERA. At times, the hard-throwing lefty struggled with his control and gave up the second-most home runs on the team with 27.
The Mariners also will have to figure out if they want to pursue pitchers Tyler Anderson, Sean Doolittle, Hector Santiago, and Joe Smith after teams are allowed to make personnel moves again.
Seattle lost starting pitcher James Paxton to Boston. Paxton didn’t see much time with the Mariners last season. He threw 1 ⅓ innings, suffering an injury that required Tommy John surgery. The Red Sox swept him away with a one-year, $10 million contract offer. Another pitcher, Ljay Newsome, was claimed by the St. Louis Cardinals.
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Seattle Mariners Head Coach Analysis
Sean Servais has brought a long period of stability to the bench in Seattle. The Mariners’ boss showed his mettle from his first season in 2016 when he led Seattle to an 86-76 record. Under his stewardship, Servais has led the Mainers to a 438-432 record with three winning seasons.
As a player, Servais had an 11-year career behind the plate as a catcher with the Astros, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Colorado Rockies. Servais was only on one team that made the playoffs when Servais made a trip with the 1998 Cubs. Servais finished with a .245 batting average in his career, hitting 63 home runs and driving in 319 runs.
Servais is second all-time in managerial wins, sitting only behind Lou Pinella, who won 840 during a tenure that stretched from 1993 to 2002. In 2021, Servais was runner-up for American League manager of the year, losing out to Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash. But Servais showed in 2021 his acumen for doing things differently.
Ditching the traditional bullpen ideals, Servais was tasked with managing a bullpen full of lesser-known players and without a traditional closer at the backend.
While Seattle wasn’t able to make the playoffs, Servais and company were able to rally to their best record in 18 years despite falling to 21-26 on May 23, 2021, following a series where they were swept by the Padres and outscored 31-7.
Seattle, under his tenure, has been a fundamentally sound bunch. The Mariners usually play clean baseball under his management and rally around each other.
Seattle Mariners Injured Players at the beginning of the season
Kyle Lewis was impressive when he saw his first extended playing time in MLB. The 26-year-old centerfielder captured the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year award, hitting .262 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Lewis, however, had bad luck as a sophomore, tearing his meniscus and being limited to 36 games.
During Lewis’ time in the lineup, he saw his average fall to .246 last season. Lewis may still be working back from his injury whenever the 2022 season gets rolling.
First baseman Evan White, who was Seattle’s first-round pick in 2017, won a Gold Glove during the 2020 season. However, 2021 wasn’t kind to White, who hit .144 and struck out in 29.8 percent of his at-bats.
White didn’t get much of a chance to try and fix his early slide. A hip injury would require surgery and keep him out for the rest of the year. Pitchers Justin Dunn, Nick Margevicius, and Ken Giles were all-listed day-to-day on Dec. 3. Another starting pitcher, Isaiah Campbell, was listed as day-to-day on Dec. 7.
Seattle Mariners Prediction for 2022 Season
Leave it up to a labor dispute to ruin the excitement of a perpetually struggling franchise starting to turn the corner. While Seattle hasn’t quite reached the level of the 1994 Montreal Expos, who had the best record in baseball when the season was shut down to a player’s strike, there is a sense this could be the Mariners team that finally breaks its postseason drought.
There are signs last season was a mirage. Offensively, Seattle didn’t rank near the top of the league in many categories. The Mariners weren’t a team chock full of power, nor did Seattle have a rotation filled with stars. Seattle also had a lot of luck last season.
Winning one-run games is a difficult tight rope for teams to walk. Servais did a masterful job of managing a bullpen without defined roles last season, but will all those players still be able to maintain that consistency for a second straight season? One thing that is known is these Mariners are eager to win, and management is backing them.
Making a big splash signing like Ray shows the league the Mariners are serious about winning. Should Seattle find a few players in its minor league system that can be major contributors, the Mariners could push for the playoffs. However, Seattle is likely still a year away.
Expect the Mariners to regress a little bit this season and have a hard time keeping up with Oakland and Houston, these will be reflected in the MBL Odds. The ceiling for this group will be a Wild Card bid. But with the way this franchise’s luck has run, Seattle wouldn’t turn its nose up at heading back to the playoffs under any circumstances. Check out their MLB Lines for the season.