Monday, April 03, 2006

Is third within reach? A short preview.

Its Opening Day! Jason and Baseball Prospectus (twice!) both predict the M's for 4th. I'll go ahead and predict them for .500 and third place.

Although I think that this offseason was a bad one, I think that the previous off-season got a bad rap last year. I still think that with Beltre and Big Sexxxy as the core of your offense, it's not that hard to build a decent one.

I certainly think that they will be better than last year offensively. Catcher, Shortstop and Second Base were all giant sinkholes of offensive production. Vast sucking wounds that even if you repaired with replacement level you'd be ahead. Johjima should be above average, Lopez near league average and Betancourt somewhere between replacement-level and league average. Sounds a whole lot better than Olivo/Gonzalez/Borders, Boone/Bloomquist and Wilson Valdez, right?

Reed should improve, Beltre should improve, Ichiro could play better. The only returnees who might fall-off are Sexson and Ibanez. The only position you downgraded in the offseason is from Winn to Everett. 6 likely up, 3 possibly down. Offense should definitely be better.

As bad as the rotation is, can it be any worse than last year? A full year of Felix is a huge upgrade over the Aaron Sele Experience! I don't like the Washburn signing, but 200 innings of slightly above average pitching is a damn sight better than watching Franklin get hammered every fifth day.

I have no hope that Piniero and Meche are likely to "step it up," I think that they are what they are. But if one of them can pitch a little better than last year that would be a plus. If one of them then pitches worse than last year, then someone from Tacoma's rotation (Nageotte, Foppert, Livingston, Cruceta, Baek) oughta be able to step in a give you replacement level. Can Old Man Moyer do his thing for another year? This might be the one guy that blows up, but maybe he's got 6 more months of fooling guys with his 80 mph gas. I don't like this rotation, but it is no worse than last year.

The pen, a strength last year, is just as good this year. Guardado in the ninth, Putz and Sherill to go Lefty/Righty, Soriano for multiple inning stints when we're up, that's real good. Mateo pitches the middle innings and Harris and Woods are left for mop-up/scraps work. That's a good pen, even if Eddie's Miracle Groin gives out.

Maybe Opening Day has blinded me, but I see the M's scoring close to 750 runs, and giving up about the same, so near .500, behind Oakland and....yes, Texas. I think the Angels are about to pull a 2004 Mariners on us, i.e. get old in a hurry. They've got enough in the minors that they should be back soon, but not this year.

Of course, I could be wrong, I still have a hat to eat....


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