Wednesday, November 02, 2005

M's Season in Review, Part II

In Part One, we looked at the Outfield. Today, the Infield:

1B Richie Sexson 263/369/541 1/1 56.2
2b Bret Boone 231/299/385 4/2 4.4
SS Wilson Valdez 198/233/254 2/2 -7.8
SS Michael Morse 278/349/370 3/1 12.1
SS Yuniesky Betancourt 256/296/370 1/3 2.7
3B Adrian Beltre 255/303/413 3/1 15.1
C Miguel Olivo 151/172/276 1/1 -12.8

Year One of the Sexson contract worked out pretty well, eh? The shoulder held up for the whole season! Whoo-hoo! Say it with me. Big! Sexy! Richie is at an age where we might start to see some decline, even ignoring his injury history. But as long as he doesn't make a beeline for the cliff he should be productive for next year at least.

A lot of people have talked about the cliff with regards to Boonie, but its been a pretty steady decline to replacement level from his 2001 peak.

STAT 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
VORP 103.8 63.6 75.9 27.1 4.4
AVG .331 .278 .294 .251 .231
SLG .578 .462 .535 .423 .385

Not pretty at all. I know its complete crap to speculate about steroid use without proof, but with Bert, its hard not to. He did look noticably, ah, slimmer in recent years as his power dried up. On the other hand the decline looks a lot like Ryne Sandberg's from 30 to 34, so it could very well be just age. In any event, he'll be plying his replacement level skills elsewhere in 2006.

Coming into the year, the M's were loaded with minor league shortstops, all of whom were at least a year away. They signed Pokey Reese to a one year deal with a club option to cover for a while and planned to send incumbent Jose Lopez to Tacoma to play second and take over for Boone in 2006.

Problem: The Pokester hasn't played a full season since, well, actually Pokey has never played a full season. He ended up playing exactly zero games for the M's. Charitably we can presume that Lopez was plan "B" but he also got hurt right at the end of spring training and started the year on the DL.

Plan "C" involved scouring the waiver wires and coming up with Wilson Valdez. It wasn't a terrible gamble, but it worked out horribly. If the M's get replacement level performance out of shortstop this year, it'll be a significant improvement.

Morse hit credibly and played shortstop passably, though his Zone Rating of 769 and Range Factor of 4.22 would put him comfortably near the bottom of the league. His offense was also mostly singles driven as he showed little power. He is still young (23) and the Mariners seem determined to make a utility guy out of him by teaching him to play left. Other than base-stealing, he'd be huge upgrade over Bloomquist in the role.

Part of the reason the M's are moving Morse is the performance of Yuniesky Betancourt. He can't hit much (his slugging was driven by his 5 triples) but he can sure pick it at short. The M's were impressed enough to move both Morse and Adam Jones off of short, so the job is Betancourt's for a season or so. Asdrubal Cabrera and Tui are not far off though, so he'll have to hit at least a little bit to hold onto it going forward.

If the M's are going to contend in 2006, they'll need more from Adrian Beltre than 15 runs over replacement. That 2004 season really looks like a fluke at this point doesn't it? One of these things is not like the other...

STAT 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
VORP 18.5 26.4 17.7 89.1 15.1
AVG .265 .257 .240 .334 .255
SLG .411 .426 .424 .629 .413

The M's are praying for somewhere between the baseline and 2004. A VORP somwhere in the 30's would put him way below the A-Rod/Chavez stratosphere, but comfortably ahead of Mueller and Blalock. He is coming into his age 27 season, so I am cautiously optimistic.

As a Mariner, Miguel Olivo was the worst player in baseball. The absolute worst. He swung at everything, missed most of what he swung at and his defense was atrocious. I have no idea what to make of the fact he hit 304/339/487 for the Padres after being traded. No idea at all. What else? Willie got hurt, Rivera played over his head, Wiki was Wik-tacular and Pat Borders was real, real old. Yorvit Torrealba played okay after coming over from San Fran. He's keeping the job warm for #1 pick Jeff Clement.

I'll briefly mention the "bench" here as well. It was awful. Spiezio? Awful. Dobbs? Awful? Hansen? Awful Bloomquist? Awful. He had a nice two week run at second base, but handed the job by Grover, he failed, miserably. 257/289/333 people. He's a spectacular base runner, but a lousy hitter.

So what's 2006 going to look like? Beltre and Sexson for sure. Lopez and Betancourt look to have the inside tracks for 2nd and SS, respectively. Torrealba opens at catcher most likely. Assuming some bounceback from Beltre, this figures to be a much better unit. Just getting Valdez and Olivo out of the lineup will help immensely. If Yuniesky and Yorvit give you replacement level its an improvement, with the potential to play better. Lopez is in a similar boat, at replacement level he's no worse than Boone, with a lot of "upside potential" as Hubie Brown (via Bill Simmons) would say.

On the other hand, 3 positions at replacement level doesn't exactly make you start printing playoff tickets, although it worked for Houston. Up the middle, the M's are going to be cheap with potential. It might allow them to spend on a true Big Bat for LF/DH or a front line starter, but if any of Reed, Betancourt, Lopez or Torrealba struggle, the M's are going to need to an upgrade, either internal or from the outside, and quick!

Up Next, the Rotation.


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