Sunday, January 08, 2006

New Beginnings

It's a new year, and thus, having passed the expiration date of most New Year's Resolutions, we can safely begin to ask questions about how the offseason has gone, what the future holds for the Mariners, and just how cranky we at Tatonka are likely to be in 2006.

That is, we ask the musical question, "DOES hope spring eternal?"

This is likely to be a series, since I can't tackle all of this question today. Therefore, we begin today with some reflections on Bill Bavasi's job this winter. Sure, there's still plenty of offseason left (hey, Jeff Weaver's still available), but Bavasi has also more or less announced that the M's are done spending money this year.

Let's review exactly what's happened thus far:

Catcher: subtract starter Yorvit Torrealba, add starter Kenji Johjima
Left Field: move de facto starter Mike Morse to bench, add DH Raul Ibanez
Designated Hitter: Carl Everett takes Ibanez's spot at DH
Bench: strengthened by additions of Morse, Matt Lawton, DFA of Greg Dobbs.
Starting Rotation: subtract Ryan Franklin, add Jarrod Washburn. Felix gets an entire season.
Bullpen: subtract Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Jeff Nelson, add healthy Rafael Soriano.

This set of changes, while not so momentous as last year (even if the price tag was in the same neighborhood), should have some net positive effect. How much? That is the question indeed.

I earlier speculated that the new-look 2006 Mariners could expect to win precisely 74 games. Let's take a guess at best-case and worst-case scenarios:

Richie gets hurt (again), making Lawton an everyday player and Ibanez an everyday firstbaseman. Meanwhile, Beltre does NOT rebound to anything better than last season. Felix struggles in his sophomore campaign, while the rest of the rotation plays about as we might expect them to. No everyday player really has a stellar season.

Result: we score about 700 runs on offense (just like 2005), and the pitching sucks to the tune of 850 runs allowed (just like 2005), giving us another miserable season (somewhere in the neighborhood of 65-97).

NO major injuries strike, and the pitchers especially come through to limit the runs allowed to our opponents. Felix wins his first Cy Young, Moyer only pitches at the Safe, Washburn doesn't suck as much as he could, and even Joel looks serviceable now that he's at the bottom of the rotation.

Result: we score closer to 800 than 700 runs, while we allow only about 775 runs to score. That's got the makings of an 81-81 campaign.

I'm afraid that the best case here is a pipe dream, a flight of fancy. In that rarified air, we could imagine a few extra wins here and there, but we can't really wish this team into being a contender.

The question is this: are we happy with a .500 season in 2006? What help is on the way that will allow us to turn the corner in 2007? More importantly, can we live with another season approaching 100 losses?



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