Monday, March 19, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Seattle Mariners

picture via - Yahoo! Sports

30 in 30 – Seattle Mariners - 2012 team preview

Key Additions: Jesus Montero (C), Kevin Millwood (SP), Hong-Chih Kuo (RP), George Sherill (RP)

Subtractions: Micheal Pineda (Yankees), David Aardsma (Yankees), Adam Kennedy (Dodgers), Chris Ray (Cleveland), Jamey Wright (Dodgers)

2011 Record: 67-95

2011 Highlights: It’s pretty sad when your leading offensive player ends the season with less RBI’s than your team has wins for the season. Miguel Olivo (C), finished with 62 RBI’s and Seattle had 67 wins. Ichiro did have 40 stolen bases, and 184 hits.  Dustin Ackley also put in a pretty good rookie season – averaging a 39-6-36-6 season in only 90 games.  Brandon League had 37 saves.  Jason Vargas had three complete game shutouts, which surprised me (before July too).  Felix Hernandez had 222 strikeouts. 

Offseason Moves: The Mariners either REALLY like Jesus Montero, or did not like their starting catcher who led the team in RBI’s.  They traded their best asset, their blue-chip prospect pitcher – Micheal Pineda to the New York Yankees for Montero.  Pineda won 9 games and had 173 strikeouts in 171 innings with an ERA at 3.74.  Those are some really good stats for a steady number 3-4 veteran pitcher, but for a rookie on a bad team those are some good stats.  Jesus Montero, should be a good player in his own right, but he came at a steep price when it costs you your blue-chip prospect pitcher.  Good luck Kevin Millwood replacing those numbers.

2011 Rewind – Seattle had won 61 games in 2010, so winning 6 more is progress.  But, they end up losing Micheal Pineda and Doug Fister, who was 3-12 on Seattle, (who then got traded to Detroit and went on to a 8-1 record with a 1.79 ERA for the Tigers, including two playoff wins).  Surprisingly, the Mariners played 2 games under .500 ball at home in 2011.  They won 6 out of 10 games against those same Tigers.  They were also 9-9 in interleague play.

2012 Outlook – Clearly the Seattle Mariners are in a rebuild.  Over the past 10 seasons, the Mariners have 4 winnings years.  Ichiro Suzuki will turn 39 this year.  He is coming off a season where he hit under .300 for the first time in his career (and hit 100 points lower than his remarkable 2004 season .272 vs .372).  Utility man Chone Figgins turned 34 this year as well. 

The Mariners will begin 2012 in Japan on March 28 and 29th against Oakland.  Then they play more spring training games against the Padres, Royals, & Rockies on the 31st through the 4th of April.  Then play in Oakland again on April 6th and 7th.   So their spring training is shortened and they are fast tracking their two veteran starters – Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas – who are 29 and 26, by the way.   Felix and Vargas will pitch twice against Oakland before most pitchers will pitch once to start the season – bad for Oakland, good for fantasy baseball owners of Felix and Vargas.  There are 5 pitchers fighting for the 3 remaining spots in the rotation.  Alex Liddi is fighting for 3rd base job (he is batting .435 through 16 spring training games), and every other position is attested for. 

Question Marks: How concerned should Seattle be that Ichiro has been regressing each year in his runs, since 2007, and batted less than .300 for first time and is 38?  How about their infield - who are Alex Liddi, Brendan Ryan, and Justin Smoak?   How will being in Japan, then Arizona, then Oakland, Texas, and home to Seattle over a 20 day period affect their season? 

During May they also play 6 games at home over a 20 day spot as well, how will travel like that early in the season carry forward?   As of March 17th, Felix Hernandez has pitched his final spring training game.  He will pitch on March 28th in Tokyo and again a week later on April 6th, how will going 10 and 7 days between starts affect Felix for 2012? 

Besides Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, their rotation is a little iffy.  Kevin Millwood will more than likely fly over to Japan (he can opt out of his contract if he's not on the plane – which is interesting).  Their other two pitchers will be Hisashi Iwakuma and Blake Beavan – with a number of starting prospects in the minors.  At least the Mariners bullpen is experienced and steady.  Brandon League could close around 40 again and have Kuo, Sherrill and Camp all have closed as well. 

Projected Lineup – Here’s how I would fill out the Mariners batting order;
  1. Chone Figgins (3B)
  2. Dustin Ackley (2B)
  3. Ichiro Suzuki (RF)
  4. Justin Smoak (1B)
  5. Jesus Montero (DH)
  6. Mike Carp (LF)
  7. Miguel Olivo (C)
  8. Franklin Guiterrez (CF)
  9. Brendan Ryan (SS)
The Seattle Mariners are really trying to produce more offense and are going to have to lean on their pitching prospects to step up.  There are some nice pieces there for the Mariners to hang their hats on.  Ackley looks like a sure fire 2B of the future.  Smoak and Carp could also pan out to be great prospects as well.  Felix Hernandez already has a CY Young award and could win a few more over the next 10 years.  They are a nice young team, who will need to replace one of the greatest right fielders of the 2000’s, and someone who goes by one name only – Ichiro. 

At BlueJaysPlus, we see the Mariners continuing to rise in the win column.  They went from 61 to 67 and should creep in around the 70 win mark in 2012.  Unfortunately they play in what will be a tough division in the AL West – but will benefit from the Astros coming to town in 2013.  They are one of 4 teams to have not made the playoffs over the past 10 years, but could (as long as their prospects develop) in 2-4 years. 

The Final Count: 74-88 – 3rd in AL West

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