The Seattle Mariners are arguably the worst franchise in the history of major league baseball. Since joining the league in 1977 the team has never been to the World Series and has made the postseason just four times. They have not made the playoffs since 2001. However, the team is playing well thus far in 2016. Led by Robinson Cano they have won 16 of their past 21 games, which has launched them into first place.
Cano signed a 10 year, $240 million contract before the 2014 season to become the face of the Mariners along with Felix Hernandez. Cano played well through the first two years of the deal but wasn't hitting for power the way he was with the Yankees. Early on in 2016 that has changed as Cano leads the American League with 12 home runs and 33 RBI.
Cano is supplemented in the lineup by Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, who have six and seven home runs respectively. The offense is also receiving contributions from sophomore shortstop Ketel Marte, who is hitting .349 over his last 15 games.
The pitching has been anchored by Felix Hernandez, who has been the ace of this staff for nearly a decade now. The 30-year-old is up to usual stuff this year with a 2.27 ERA after seven starts. However, he is striking out just 6.8 batters per nine innings, which is well below his career average of 8.5/9. It is something to monitor.
King Felix is no longer the only weapon the rotation has. 23-year-old Taijuan Walker has made huge strides in his second full season. Through seven starts he has a 2.63 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 37.2 innings pitched. So far in 2016 he has lowered his walk rate to 1.4/9 from 2.1/9 a year ago.
It's a shame King Felix has still never pitched in the playoffs. Back in 2013 he signed a seven year contract to remain with Seattle because he wanted to win with the only franchise he has ever known. To do this the Mariners will have to continue taking advantage of their division, specifically the underperforming Astros and injury ridden Angels. This 21 games stretch could simply be a hot streak, or it could be the start of Seattle's first playoff push in 16 years.