Three reasons the Mariners will win this season, and three reasons they won’t win.

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Starting pitching depth

When Hisashi Iwakuma returned to the Mariners after agreeing to a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and then failing his physical, it gave them six pitchers with big-league experience vying for five rotation spots. Most teams yearn for that “problem.” Nathan Karns won the No. 5 starter’s spot over James Paxton, who will begin the season with Class AAA Tacoma. The starting depth is key, because teams don’t go through the entire season with just five pitchers. Whether it’s injury or poor performance, the need to call on your minor-league system is almost guaranteed.

Middle of the order

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On most days, the Mariners will roll out a middle of the lineup that features Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Adam Lind. Cano and Cruz have a career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) greater than .800, and Seager is at .762. Lind has a career .797 OPS but it has been at least .820 the past three seasons. When Cano broke out of his early slump last season, the Mariners offense became much more productive, averaging 4.65 runs per game from July 1. After dealing with stomach issues and a double hernia in 2015, Cano is healthy and moving well.

Controlling the zone

Yes, “Control the Zone” has become a favorite saying from the new Mariners regime. The concept is simple — work the count, get on base and don’t strike out. It’s not exactly Mensa-level enlightenment. But the Mariners under previous general manager Jack Zduriencik were not good at those aspects. New GM Jerry Dipoto found players that get on base more and strike out less: Lind, Nori Aoki and Chris Iannetta to go with holdovers Seager, Cano, Cruz, Franklin Gutierrez, Ketel Marte and Seth Smith, all of whom fit the philosophy.


Bullpen blowup

Last season was a prime example of how a bad bullpen can torpedo a season. The Mariners’ bullpen, which was supposed to be a strength, was a tire fire of failure. Dipoto revamped the relief corps in the offseason, but injuries to Ryan Cook, Evan Scribner and Charlie Furbush have thinned the group. Scribner and Furbush aren’t expected back until at least May. Dipoto worked a trade with the Padres to add right-handed reliever Nick Vincent. But he might need to add more. On paper, the bullpen appears to be the team’s biggest weakness.


Any season can be sidetracked or sunk by injuries. It’s a part of baseball. But are the Mariners more susceptible to this? There are a few players with a history of health issues. The most notable is Iwakuma. Soon to be 35, he has logged 2,1942 / 3 career innings in the major leagues and Japan. He spent significant time on the disabled list each of the past two seasons. Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez is playing with an arthritic condition that can take him out of the lineup at any moment. And Cano battled through a stomach ailment and a double hernia that limited his production in 2015.


Cruz is 35, Iwakuma turns 35 on April 12, and Nori Aoki is 34. Cano, Gutierrez, Seth Smith and Dae-Ho Lee are 33, and Chris Iannetta turns 33 on April 8. Lind is 32. So age-related regression could be a factor. But regression isn’t just based on age. It can stem from failure to adjust. Outfielder Leonys Martin’s numbers have declined as teams have figured out his free-swinging ways. Shortstop Ketel Marte had a solid rookie showing, but he has yet to play a full season.