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Mariners, with revamped roster, have already matched win total from disastrous 2010 season
The Mariners have won eight games in a row and hope to keep the recent hot play going on a trip to Chicago and Minnesota.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mariners @ White Sox, 5:10 p.m.
One of the most successful homestands in franchise history did more for the Mariners than merely rekindle fan interest.
The Mariners used the occasion to record their 61st win of the season with nearly six weeks still to play. Two years ago, during arguably the most disastrous season in franchise history, it took the entire 162 games for the Mariners to reach the same win total.
That disparity alone shows the Mariners do indeed appear on their way to distancing themselves from Major League Baseball's worst teams. And one look at the roster from 2010 shows how much the current team has been transformed from the one that told fans to "Believe Big" only to crash under the weight of its own hype.
Of the players who appeared in a uniform for the Mariners at the start of the 2010 season, only five — Felix Hernandez, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Vargas, Chone Figgins and Shawn Kelley — played for Seattle this year and are still in the organization. During that 2010 season, the Mariners added three players — Mike Carp, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak — to their major-league ranks who are also still here. That means only eight of the 47 players who wore a uniform at any point in 2010 are still on the team. Only four — Hernandez, Vargas, Saunders and Figgins — were on the active roster exactly two years ago, on Aug. 24.
That ongoing turnover during a teardown and rebuild process finally appears to have stabilized into a team seemingly headed upward.
What we'll learn more about in the 5 ½ weeks ahead is how significant an improvement the team has made. Namely, whether it's ready to take a contending step forward, or merely just be better than some of the historically bad seasons that came before.
"It's just part of the process," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "It's like I've been saying all along. It's not just one thing that happens in one day. It's everything that happens every day. We're just further down the road.
"We'll have some bumps in the road ahead of us. And hopefully we'll continue to handle those better. You don't get too high, you don't get too low. But you recognize where you are and you keep moving forward."
The bumps will inevitably come in September, when the Mariners get back to playing a steady stream of winning clubs. As good as the Mariners have looked at times in winning eight in a row and 15 of 16 at home, the question of the quality of their opponents will linger until Seattle sustains this level of play against tougher opposition.
For now, though, all the winning has taken away some of the stress the club felt in getting off to the league's worst record in the first half.
"We're having fun, that's a big part of this," third baseman Kyle Seager said. "We're loose, we have a real fun locker room, we're enjoying each other. When you're enjoying each other, you're going to play better. When you're goofing around you're going to be a little bit looser.
"Any time you're not stressing and not tight, you're going to play the best you can."
The trick will be to see how this team reacts if the winning stops.
In posting a 25-13 record since the All-Star break, the Mariners were just 7-11 against winning Rangers, Yankees, Orioles, Angels and Rays teams, while going a jaw-dropping 18-2 against the floundering Royals, Blue Jays, Twins and Indians. Those four teams had combined for a .437 winning percentage at the start of play Thursday.
More importantly, the Royals, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians have combined for just a .366 winning percentage since the break. So, while it's true that all American League teams play games against those struggling squads, few will benefit like the Mariners in getting as many matchups bunched so closely together at a time those losing squads are falling apart.
While all the wins count, misunderstanding how they were accumulated can be dangerous for a team.
The Mariners' 7-11 record against the better squads since the break amounts to a .389 winning percentage — which is lower than the .414 mark posted by the team in the first half of the schedule. Working in Seattle's favor, that first half was front-loaded with difficult travel and more games against winning teams than any other club in baseball.
In other words, gauging exactly where this team is won't be as easy as looking at its won-lost record. The quality of play by the Mariners, both individually and as a team, will have to be closely scrutinized so that the squad knows where the biggest holes are.
If the team overestimates its performance and doesn't do enough to improve, those raised expectations of the fan base can quickly turn to anger if the Mariners lose 85 or 90 games next season.
This is still a team that had Justin Smoak in Class AAA two weeks ago. A team with Dustin Ackley hitting .228, Jesus Montero struggling against right-handed pitching and Michael Saunders in a second-half tailspin before the Twins and Indians came to town.
Then again, the Mariners are finally hitting for some power at Safeco Field — a seasonlong obstacle. They are also winning at an abnormally high rate, regardless of the opponent and playing the more relaxed style Wedge said at the break he wanted.
"I think that's the biggest part of it all is the no-stress factor," Ackley said. "Nobody's pressing, everybody's out there having fun. We've started winning ballgames and started sustaining it a bit. That's what's going on."
|Mariners' roster turnover|
|Just four players on the Mariners' current active roster — Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Michael Saunders and Chone Figgins — were on the 25-man roster exactly two years ago:|
|Position||Aug. 24, 2010||Aug. 24, 2012|
|C||Adam Moore||John Jaso|
|1B||Casey Kotchman||Justin Smoak|
|2B||Chone Figgins||Dustin Ackley|
|3B||Jose Lopez||Kyle Seager|
|SS||Josh Wilson||Brendan Ryan|
|LF||Michael Saunders||Trayvon Robinson|
|CF||Franklin Gutierrez*||Michael Saunders|
|DH||Russell Branyan||Jesus Montero|
|Bench||Ryan Langerhans||Casper Wells|
|Bench||Josh Bard||Miguel Olivo|
|Bench||Chris Woodward||Munenori Kawasaki|
|Bench||Matt Tuiasosopo||Chone Figgins|
|SP||Felix Hernandez||Felix Hernandez|
|SP||Jason Vargas||Jason Vargas|
|SP||Doug Fister||Kevin Millwood|
|SP||Luke French||Blake Beavan|
|SP||David Pauley||Hisashi Iwakuma|
|CL||David Aardsma||Tom Wilhelmsen|
|RP||Brandon League||Carter Capps|
|RP||Garrett Olson||Charlie Furbush|
|RP||Chris Seddon||Josh Kinney|
|RP||Brian Sweeney||Lucas Luetge|
|RP||Sean White||Oliver Perez|
|RP||Jamey Wright||Stephen Pryor|
|*Franklin Gutierrez is still with Mariners, on the disabled list.|