Monday, April 02, 2007

The Optimist Preview of the 2007 Mariners

I get a lot of "Wow. You are really down on the M's this year." Yes I am. So in honor of Opening Day, I submit to you a season preview written as if I weren't.

The Offense:
The Mariners were 13th in the AL last year with 756 Runs scored, ahead of only Tampa Bay. They've got to better this year right?
Carl Everett was the second worst DH in the AL last year, only Rondell White was worse. This preview is not optimistic enough to endorse the Vidro trade, but he still should be better than Jurassic Carl. Everett hit just .227, had enough walks to push his OBP to .297 and slugged a pathetic .360. Baseball Prospectus forecasts Vidro at 266/330/368, which would certainly be a step up. If he could approach his career averages of 301/363/459 that would be a big upgrade.

What the M's got out of Reed/Bloomquist/Jones in the center was not a whole lot either. Among CF who got 200 PA, only the White Sox Brian Anderson was worse in the AL than Reed. So again, its not a stretch to think Jose Guillen is a big upgrade. BP is not real high on Guillen, projecting a 260/310/431 line, but even that would be an improvement over Reed and company. Assuming that he channels his rage against the Angels for good, he has a lot of upside.

There is room for optimism on the returners also, Betancourt and Lopez are young and could be reasonably expected to improve. Beltre had flashes last year of MVP Beltre and if we got just a little more of that guy and a little less of "Swinging at balls in the dirt" Beltre, that would help. Ibanez just had his best season ever at 34, why not have an even better one at 35? MVP Ichiro could come back also. Not all of these things are going to happen, but if enough of them did, the M's could have a pretty solid offense.

Ichiro takes his Gold Glove to center, where he can have more of an impact. If Guillen's arm is fine, then at least he and Raul can throw. If our eyes are better than most advanced statistics on Yuni, then I'd stack our left side against anybody. The M's certainly seem to think so, as they went all groundball this year on their pitching acquisitions. If Lopez' ankle is fine, and Sexson manages not to kill us at first (optimist view of Sexson's defense: He's tall!), the defense is pretty sound. Sorry, outside of Ichiro, Yuni and Beltre, I can't really be that optimistic about the D.

Most of the room for optimism is carried by the strong right arm of Young Felix Hernandez (1$, Ron Fairly). The King could absolutely throw up some Cy Young numbers this year, say 200 innings, 210 strikeouts, 2.80 ERA. That would be sweet. As for the rest of the rotation, well, if Felix wins the Cy Young, and two of the Four HomerMen pitch say league average or a little better and the other two are somewhere between replacement level and league average, that could be a damn fine rotation.

Optimist view: JJ is not hurt and continues to dominate. Morrow takes to the big leagues like a duck to water and dominates. Arthur Lee Rhodes finds a little Sodo Mojo and pitches like 2001 Arthur Lee. Sherrill finds his groove and continues to dominate lefties. Lowe comes back healthy at the All Star break and thats all we really need because the rotation has 3 guys over 200 innings!

The improved offense really takes off, the non-Felix rotation doesn't kill us and the kid dominates every 5th day. The Angels and A's scuffle and Texas hangs with us through July, but fade in the heat of a Texas summer. Guillen keeps his head straight, but plays like every team is the Angels. Ichiro signs a contract extension before the trade deadline and the M's flip Adam Jones and Morrow to the Cubbies for Zambrano. World Series here we come!



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