- Wednesday, March 31, 2010 6:14 AM
- Written By: Andrew Simon
2009: 85-77, 3rd in AL West. Pythagorean record of 75-87.
Key Additions: SP Cliff Lee, 2B/3B Chone Figgins, OFs Milton Bradley and Eric Byrnes, 1B Casey Kotchman
Key Losses: 3B Adrian Beltre, 1B Russell Branyan, OF Endy Chavez, SP Carlos Silva
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 82-80, 3rd in AL West. CHONE – 78-84, 4th. CAIRO – 82.6-79.4, 1st.
Pitching: 2009 – 4.39 FIP (20th in MLB), 4.41 for starters, 4.35 for relievers
2010 – Assuming Lee's strained abdominal muscle doesn't turn into a long-term problem, the Mariners have perhaps the best one-two punch in the game, with him and Felix Hernandez. They eventually should get Erik Bedard back as well, but not until at least mid-season, and in the meantime, they are going to have to count on guys like Ian Snell and Ryan Rowland-Smith to hold things together.
Hitting: 2009 – .313 wOBA (26th in MLB)
2010 – Ichiro is Ichiro, and with him and Figgins, the M's can count on a potent top of the order. A healthy, happy and productive Milton Bradley would provide some much-needed oomph to a lineup that's a little short on firepower, but just ask the Cubs about the wisdom of relying on that.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of 85.5 (1st in MLB)
2010 – The Mariners are sort of the darlings of the advanced fielding metrics revolution, and for good reason. Franklin Gutierrez is the Albert Pujols of defensive center fielders, and again, Ichiro is Ichiro. Seattle also has an elite glove at shortstop with Jack Wilson. The decision to swap Figgins and Jose Lopez between second and third base was an interesting one, but it's hard to question an organization that seems to be ahead of the defensive curve.
Reasons to Watch
1. Ichiro: As Joe Posnanski points out in his blog, the word unique is probably overused when it comes to describing baseball players, who tend to fall into one category or another. But not Ichiro, so I don't think Posnanski is exaggerating when he claims: "I don’t think there has ever been a player in baseball history quite like Ichiro Suzuki." JoePo goes on to point out that counting his time in Japan, Ichiro has more hits entering his age 36 season than anyone else, including Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. And of course, he's done it differently than anyone else, with his infield-single generating run-toward-first-as-you-swing maneuver and his ability to seemingly drop the ball in the exact location the defense has left open. Let's all enjoy watching the guy, because chances are, there will never be another Ichiro.
2. Milton Bradley: Nobody is going to argue about Bradley's talent, and I would not dispute the notion that he got some unfair treatment from fans and even some members of the media last season. Still, when you're changing teams nearly every season, in large part because almost every one of your employers develops some sort of problem with you, chances are it says more about you than it does about other people. And yet Bradley refuses to accept this, seemingly clinging to an everyone's-out-to-get-me mentality. In the end, winning is the best source of chemistry, so how Bradley acts in the clubhouse is not as important as how he plays on the field. But if times get tough in Seattle this season, it's probably just a matter of time before there's another incident.
3. Ken Griffey Jr.: The Mariners might have been thinking more with their hearts than their heads when they brought Griffey back for his 22nd season, but even in this golden age of objective analysis, it's hard to blame them. The guy is a franchise icon, and although he's barely a shadow of his former self, he's still got that sweet swing, and he did manage to hit 19 home runs last season. Griffey, who figures to DH against right-handed pitching, likely will retire after this season, making "winning one for Griff" a big goal for Seattle. As a baseball fan, especially one who got into the game during Griffey's prime, it's hard to think of a nicer story than that.
Paint By Numbers: Franklin Gutierrez's UZR in center field last season was a stunning 29.1, which is more amazing considering he had played a total of 29 big league games at the position before 2009. Individual single-season fielding metrics are not terribly reliable, but a number about 11 points better than anyone else's is impossible to ignore, especially since Gutierrez put up a 21.3 UZR in 97 games in right field in 2008. ... Ichiro racked up 50 infield hits last season, 21 more than second-place Michael Bourn, and only six of those came on bunts. He has averaged about 42 infield hits per season since coming to America. ... Chone Figgins first received significant big league playing time in 2003 and posted a 7.4 percent walk rate. Since then, that rate has increased in every single season, culminating in last year's 13.9 percent and career-high .395 OBP.
Blog Jog: At Lookout Landing, Jeff Sullivan suggests some possible reasons why the Mariners waived free agent signee Ryan Garko, while Matthew discusses the relative merits of extra outfielders Eric Byrnes and Ryan Langerhans. ... Dave Cameron of U.S.S. Mariner looks at the bright side of Seattle's health woes, pointing out that April is as good a time as any to be hurting. And coming off a historically good defensive season, Cameron looks at a reasonable expectation for 2010. ... Meanwhile, Cameron explains Seattle's No. 6 finish in FanGraphs' organizational rankings.
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