Monday, July 10, 2006


We've reached the All-Star break and the M's are pretty near where I expected, though I could not have predicted the route they have taken to get to 43 and 46, only 2.5 games out of first. Based on their 426 runs scored and 421 given up you would expect them to be 45 and 44, exactly a half game out. So they are absolutely in the thick of the race, though the question remains whether they are any good or not.

The June run was fueled largely by offense. They scored 152 runs in June, and currently rank 9th in the AL in runs scored. They had gotten to 8th but then they got done with the NL West. They are 9th in SLG but 12th in OBP, so I think they may be a little lucky on the offensive side.

The pitching has fallen to 8th in the league with 421 runs allowed. They are 9th in walkers per nine, but 5th in Ks per nine. Surprisingly for a team playing in the Safe, they are only 9th in homers allowed. Considering that they have a 7 man bullpen and a shaky rotation, it is astounding that the M's are tied for 2nd in the AL in innings from starters. I can't say this enough, Hargrove has no idea how to use his pen. None at all. He's turned every guy into a one inning or less pitcher.

So here we are. What could we do to improve this team in the short term?

I don't think the infield is going to change. Lopez, Yuni and Johjima are all playing great, and are 3-5 on the team in BP's VORP stat. Beltre and and Sexson are another matter. Beltre has been a replacement level 3b for the year and that factors in his monster June. Sexson has been terrible, his 16 homers are decent but not in the constext of the 260 outs he has made on the year. So you could improve the corners, but Bavasi is not going to do so, no way. It would take a lot of courage and a nice long term contract to cut bait on either of those two guys and I can't see it happening. You have to just hope that they play better.

Two of the outfield slots are set also as Ichiro and Raul are the teams two most productive offensive players. That leaves center, where Reed has been terrible and is now hurt, and DH, where Everett has just been terrible. I don't know that Choo is the answer in center, though he is unlikely to be worse than Reed. Snelling would make a nice platoon with Eddie Perez at DH, but if you want to really impact the offense you would pick up a slugging corner OF and move Ichiro into center. Shoot you could pick up two guys and push Raul to DH.

Carlos Lee is reportedly on the block in Milwaukee, though lots of clubs have their eyes on him. Torii Hunter is the other big name on a club that seems to be out of it. The Phillies can't get enough ABs for David Dellucci, though he needs a lefty platoon partner. He would be cheaper than the first two guys obviously. More guys might come available as we get closer to the deadline. Luis Gonzalez is rumored to be available in Arizona if you feel like gambling.

On the pitching side, we absolutely could use a starter to replace Jo-El. Big names include Greg Maddux, Brad Radke, Andy Pettite, and Kerry Wood if he could ever get healthy. I don't know if Billy Beane is going to trade Zito, and almost certainly he wouldn't trade him to the M's, but you never know. Jason Schmidt could be there if the Giants fall out of it and John Smoltz might be attainable as well. Lots of room to improve the starters here.

The Mariner could probably use another arm in the pen that Hargrove is willing to use. Mateo no longer seems like a guy you want out there in tough situations, so you are really down to Soriano and Putz with Sherrill to get one or two lefties a game. If Soriano's shoulder acts up again, the pen could become trouble. The other 3 random guys in the pen (Currently Woods, Fruto and AA lefty Mark Lowe) are just there to soak up innings. And not a lot of innings at that.

So those are the real options: A big stick to play OF or DH, a stud starter to pick up the rotation and maybe another setup guy in the pen. Tomorrow I'll address what the M's could do as sellers and talk about which one they should be.


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