M's are winning - with a whole new way

When the Mariners began the 2009 season, the marketing department chose the slogan “A new day, a new way” for the team.

Now, nearly 30 games into the season, the Mariners seem to be taking the phrase to heart. They're sitting in first place, winning games in which they looked dead in the water, and they're bunting...a lot. In fact, the Mariners are bunting more than any other team in the Major Leagues, and doing it safely.

Through 26 games, Seattle has attempted to bunt 24 times. Eleven of those attempts have gone as hits, which leads the Major Leagues (the next closest team is the Tigers, with nine). Three Mariners (Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez and Yuniesky Betancourt) are in the top-6 of most bunt hits. Those three each have three bunts for hits, which equals the total number the second place team, the Tigers, have.

Back on April 18, Dave Cameron of USSMariner.com (a great, great Web site that any baseball junkie should check out) figured out that the Mariners were on pace to lay down 191 bunts, with 133 of those being sacrifices. The average team, Cameron pointed out, laid down 34 sacrifice bunts last season. At their current pace, Cameron estimated, the Mariners would reach that point somewhere in May. Whether or not it all results in wins is another thing, but it is a “new way”, that's for sure.

There should have been a third facet to that slogan, and it should have been “with new faces.” Newcomers (and in Griffey's case, oldcomers) are all over this team. Gutierrez has not only shown to be the M's hitter with the best approach, but he's also a top-three defender in centerfield. Russell Branyan has been everything Seattle hoped for and more, hitting .321 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs. The speedy Chavez has helped the M's throw out the AL's best outfield defense. The bullpen, led by Shawn Kelley (who was injured in Tuesday's loss against Texas) and David Aardsma, have been pleasant surprises, and newcomer Jason Vargas looks solid.

It's a whole different ballgame from last year folks - one you should check out while the Mariners are still in first, because the Angels are getting healthy. For the first time since 2003, it looks the Mariners may actually be in a pennant race come September.