Unlike some college sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. Clearly this is not a perfect method to predicting the AL West in 2013, and by season’s end the 1st and 2nd team selections will look different. But, it does provide a snapshot of how the division stacks up. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and projected impact/playing time. Some of the picks are obvious and others are less obvious, so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
A couple bullets:
It is hard to find much separation at the top between Oakland, Texas, and LAA. All 3 have playoff potential, but from this breakdown I would also suggest the Mariners are closer to the good teams in the division, rather than the bad (Houston).
Say what you want about Oakland’s 2012 season being an anomolye, but it’s hard to criticize the roster Billy Beane has been assembled this year. The A’s don’t have a lot of star power but they are solid at every position, and have a ton of depth, which will surely be an asset at some point.
The positions that were hardest to find a clear cut 1st and 2nd team selection were Catcher, DH, and the 2nd team OFs and Starting Ps. At catcher, Montero projects to have the most playing time and potential, so I gave him the honors. You could make a case for Jaso and Pierzynski too. The same is true between Kendrys Morales, Berkman, and Trumbo, but the numbers suggest Morales (when healthy) is the best option in the group. David Murphy is a nice player, as is Coco Crisp, Franklin Gutierrez, and Chris Young. Take your pick, I went with Murhpy. Starting pitching was a bit of a toss up to when you start picking the 8th-10th best in the AL West. I tried hard to justify an Astro but simply could not. Iwakuma was my 10th selection, but it could have easily gone to Derek Holland, Jason Vargas, or really any Oakland starter.
In order to visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks, I’ve awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a fancy bar graph.
One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.
This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2Year 3Year 4
Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.
2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm Summary:Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager. Grade: A+
2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix) Summary:Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5. Grade: B-
2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent Summary:Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick. Grade: B
2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record Summary:Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall. Grade: A
2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales. Grade: ???
I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated
“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”
Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.
If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?
Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.
Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.
Everything football and basketball related is too depressing to write about at the moment, so let’s talk Mariners. It’s been a long time since the Mariners were the least depressing of the Seattle sports teams. Helps that they haven’t played a game in two months.
So far, the off-season has been pretty uneventful. There have been few actual moves, and most of those have been to address roster issues and limits. That doesn’t mean they lack excitement, however, because Chone Figgins is gone! The team waived him, meaning they’ll eat the remaining $8 million or so on his contract and he’ll be free to play with anyone who will take him. They’ve tried to trade him literally for years and no one would bite, so this is the next best thing. They were going to have to pay him either way, but at least now they have the roster spot to (hopefully) bring in a better player. No offense to Figgins personally, but I’m so glad he’s gone, and he probably is too. He had no role on the team and was sucking the air out of the fanbase to some extent. Here’s to moving forward.
The only other move of note was a trade that sent OF Trayvon Robinson to Baltimore for infielder Robert Andino. Andino plays a solid shortstop along with pretty much every other position and will likely be the primary back-up infielder for Seattle next year. He doesn’t hit much, but that’s pretty standard for utility infielders. Some people are upset to see Trayvon go, but it’s one of those unavoidable moves I wrote about here. The Mariners were going to lose him if he didn’t make the team this spring, and that wasn’t likely to happen. It wouldn’t shock me if Robinson turns into a solid player three or four years down the road, but the Mariners can’t keep a below-average player on the roster that long, waiting for him to blossom. That’s just the way it goes. When there’s no guarantee he ever gets better, sometimes you have to move on. Continue reading →
The Mariners are in a weird spot right now. They’re inconsistent and pretty bad more often than not, but then they run off a hot streak every so often. They have mostly young talent with promise. The problem is that few of those guys are performing in a way that cements them as a future Mariner. Even fewer have the type of elite talent where they should be penciled into future line-ups regardless of current production. When you add in the minor leaguers, the roster is becoming a logjam of guys with unclear talent levels.
I’d expect we’ll start to see some changes, perhaps as soon as the trading deadline. It’s possible that any of the few veterans on the team might be traded, but what will be more interesting is if Jack Zduriencik packages a few guys to get more proven performers. This roster has too many unproven, promising players that need to be made into a cohesive, productive roster.
With all that in mind, this is a good time to look at the players that might figure into the Mariners’ plans over the next few years. I’m going to take this position-by-position and just run through some names, with my opinion of how I’d lay out the roster, if I have one.
Catcher is first up. A year or two ago, catcher was the most talent-starved position in the system. That’s been almost completely reversed now. In about a year, the Mariners have drafted about seven catchers with promise and traded for Jesus Montero and John Jaso. That’s a pretty good influx. Still, there’s no definite catcher for the future due to shortcomings for each of them. Here’s the rundown: Continue reading →
This won’t be a long post. At least, I don’t plan on writing for very long. We don’t usually do game recaps here at the Good Guys blog, usually we just focus on bigger ideas and lately we’ve been focusing on prospects. Tonight though is cause for a little something to be said.
If you haven’t heard, six Mariners pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter. Kevin Millwood started and was awesome but then he came out with a groin injury at the start of the 7th inning. It’s a shame he couldn’t keep going because, from what I saw (I did miss the first few innings), he had a real chance to do it all himself. But, fate had him coming out and, for some reason, that just seems fitting.
These Mariners are different then most teams we’ve seen before. In the last couple of years they’ve started with a mix of veterans and young players and went from there but this year they started with mostly young players. The young players have shown promise, but they’ve taken their lumps as well. They’ve taken more lumps than anything else. Over the course of the last road trip the team became exciting though. They struck for 21 runs. They kept games close, even when they lost. They came back and won. The Mariners were actually improving and getting better.
I remember around the third or fourth year of the Tyrone Willingham era in UW football. We’d go to the stadium every week and after giving him the benefit of the doubt for the first few years, it was easy to see that the coach wasn’t getting his team to improve each week. In fact, they were getting worse every week. This is exactly how the last few Mariner last few seasons have been. This is the first time we’ve seen real improvement. Sure, we’ve seen winning streaks but not definite improvement.
The Mariners will continue to take their lumps. They’re still young and will suffer a few more losing streaks throughout the season. Justin Smoak will go through a cold spell (in fact, he’s going through a mini one right now). Michael Saunders won’t continue to look like Josh Hamilton. Kevin Millwood won’t throw 6 innings of no-hit ball. But, I’m betting that the good times will start to outweigh the bad.
For a second tonight, I thought about the M’s making a run at the playoffs this year. It’s most likely not going to happen and that’s okay because I’m truly starting to believe in the future of this club. I have for a while now, but it seems that all of Seattle is starting to buy in. Tonight the Mariners, Tacoma (AAA), and Jackson (AA) gave up a total of 4 hits combined. It’s not just happening on the major league level right now, there’s encouraging signs everywhere. Are you starting to believe? This team is growing up in front of our eyes and tonight was another major step in the right direction. Go M’s!
Last time we met, Dan was talking about how the Mariners pulled off a minor miracle in Texas. Since then, nothing too exciting has happened. The club did what we expected (maybe even hoped for them to do). With that being said, I think we all have different feelings about the team right now. I’m encouraged because the team won the games they were supposed to and that’s with the bats not being close to where they’ll finish the season (although, how many times have we said that in the last few years). Dan is slightly happy with the team but can’t get over Miguel Olivo’s inept play. They’re the team Matthew thought they’d be but he’s still annoyed about seeing his 3rd abysmal home opener in a row. Joe? He’s trying to hunt down Chuck Armstrong and make him write a letter that says if Seattle doesn’t have an NBA team within a year that he has to sell the Mariners immediately.* So, with all of those different opinions in mind I’ll try to write a quick review of the Oakland series and a preview of the next one.
* I don’t actually know if that’s how any of them are feeling. It is a fairly educated guess except for the part about Joe. That’s what Joe wants to be doing, not what he is doing.
The Mariners took 2 of 3 from Oakland this weekend and won’t play them again until late June. Some people think that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing for entertainment reasons. For winning purposes, this is a terrible thing.
On Friday night the M’s lost to Oakland 4-0. I’ve heard the pre-game ceremonies were classy, as usual. The video of the boy stealing 2nd base and finding his dad home from Afghanistan is touching and extremely well done by the organization. Otherwise, it couldn’t have gone worse for the home team. This is three years in a row that Seattle has played a terrible game in their home opener. The stadium also had their debit/credit card system break down and could only accept cash for a large portion of the game. These things happen but it was an unfortunate night for it to happen. Otherwise, Felix looked pretty good. His groundball rates still aren’t where they usually are but they progressed as the game went on so lets hope that trend continues. I still think he’s perfectly fine. The offense disappeared so there’s nothing to recap there.
On Saturday nights game, it was the Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi show. Also, I guess it was the Michael Pineda show because without him the Mariners wouldn’t have those guys. Maybe anytime Jesus or Hector do anything good the Mariners should flash Pineda’s picture on the big screen with the word “THANKS” written across it. Or they could do that with the Yankee logo instead. That’d be cool. It could be done for all trades even. I’d laugh, along with 3 other people in the stadium. Anyway, Noesi pitched 8 shutout innings with 6 K’s. When he came over, it seemed like he’d be a fastball/slider guy but it’s easy to see his 2nd best pitch is his change-up. His fastball velocity is good and I think he’s going to be just fine after that rough, first outing in Texas. Jesus hit his first home run as a Mariner and added a double just for kicks. His home run was a shot to straight-away center showing off his power. The guy can hit and he’s only going to show off more power as the year goes on. He also looked good defensively behind the plate.
On Sunday, it was the Cliff Lee trade that paid off. Justin Smoak homered. Blake Beavan pitched pretty well. John Jaso sat on the bench (he’s a product of this Lee trade if you pay close attention. Josh Lueke for John Jaso!). Those were the storylines but Brendan Ryan homered and Ichiro doubled home the winning run. It’s good to see those guys do things.
So all in all, it was a successful weekend. These are the series that the Mariners have to win and they did. Sure, a sweep would be nice but we can’t really complain about a series win.
Some actual thoughts instead of a recap and a preview after the jump.
Last year the Mariners started 2-0. Then they lost 7 games in a row. In 2010, the Mariners won their first game and then lost 6 of their next 7. In 2008, Seattle won their first game and then lost 5 of their next 6. I’m going to stop there. The point is the Mariners have started every season since 2007 by jumping out to grab at least a share of the division lead and then promptly losing it.
Now, keep that in mind while you read the rest of this post so I don’t look like a fool once the Mariners go get swept by Texas.
The Seattle Mariners have scored 15 runs in the last 2 games. Yes, they won and that’s the most important thing but take a second to reflect on all of the times in the last 2 0r 3 years that this team has been on the verge of unwatchable because of the inept offense and that will make you appreciate these last 2 games even more. Everyone got a hit. Chone Figgins had 6 hits, and 2 of them were for extra bases. Michael Saunders hit a double and a home run. The bottom of the order was good. The top of the order was great. The middle was decent but it didn’t have to be anymore than that. This won’t continue but these 2 games showed us what the offense could be. Singles galore with a few extra base hits thrown in. If Montero and Smoak show off some of their upside this offense could be (dare I say it) good. Not great, or anywhere close to it, but good.
I’m going to go player-by-player in the lineup, tell you what I see and then jump to the bullet points.
Chone Figgins looked like a completely different hitter. He hasn’t swung with that much authority since his days with the Angels. Yes, the bunts were nice and well done but that’s not what had me excited. At times in the last 2 years I honestly couldn’t picture a hard hit ball coming off of Figgins bat. Chone hit 5 line drives in 2 games. Not soft liners either. He tucks his shoulder in, loads up and swings hard at hittable pitches. He was measly swinging through pitches right down the middle last year but the last 2 days there was no sign of that guy. I’m not saying this is a turning point or even close to it. It could just be apparition in the Figgins awful span as a Mariner. His last gasp of trying not to get cut. But, confidence is an impossible thing to gauge and this psychological move to lead-off (because surely you wouldn’t move him there for any other reason) may actually work.
I could write a whole post on Dustin Ackley’s swing alone. It’s a thing of beauty and sooner or later, all left-handed hitters will begin to take his approach to hitting. Instead, I’ll just leave it at this. Dustin Ackley is really good, and will probably be great before too long.
Ichiro is Ichiro. I was never too worried about him and I’m still not overly concerned. His line drive rate last year was a bit alarming and it seemed like he hardly ever hit the ball hard. But, for all the people who say that he’s selfish, Ichiro is one of the hardest workers in the majors and he’s not going to be held down like he was last year. It doesn’t matter what Jon Heyman, talk radio, and fans who don’t pay attention to actual baseball say, Ichiro is good and has been so valuable to this franchise. I don’t see that changing this year.
Justin Smoak is having a little trouble with the inside fastball. I’m fine with this. I know it sounds weird to say that it’s okay that the teams cleanup hitter is getting jammed by 90 mph fastballs because he’s behind them but stay with me. Smoak would get in trouble last year because he would pull off of pitches and be way out ahead. He wouldn’t make a commitment to hitting to left field and wouldn’t stay behind the ball. We all learn in little league that you need to hit the ball where it’s pitched and that’s what Justin Smoak is doing, or trying to do now. He’ll get around on the inside fastball soon, but I’m happy to see him hitting line drives to the left side of the field (which he’s done if you go back and look).
Jesus Montero is hitting the ball fairly hard but it seems like he may be out in front of the ball a little bit. I think he grounded out to the shortstop 4 times in the last 2 games which happens while trying to pull an outside pitch. Could he be a little anxious? I think it’s likely. His power is there, you can see it, but he just needs a few games to calm down and remember he’s going to be the next Edgar because he drives the ball to right center.
Kyle Seager is good too. He’s like Dustin Ackley in that he’s drilling line drives everywhere. He may not have the power Ackley has but he’s going to hit the ball and hit line drives.
Miguel Olivo is still Miguel Olivo but I’m okay with that. He’s valuable in his own right just not as valuable as some catchers. I like the guy as frustrating as he can be at times.
Michael Saunders is… Wait, that was Michael Saunders? He can’t hit home runs off of lefties. Tonight Saunders worked the count against good ol’ Jerry Blevins and then drilled a home run deep to right field. His swing is a little shorter and a little more compact but the key really is that he’s more aggressive when he’s in the right count. His double to center last night was a beauty and just another example of him taking advantage of a hittable pitch. Him being aggressive with hittable pitches is the biggest change I saw but I’m no scout.
Brendan Ryan had to use the uncomfortable hotel pillow last night and hurt his neck but before that he was tucking his front shoulder in and drilling the ball to left field. He was also swinging with authority and just looked good. If he can hit .280 or close to it and play 120-135 games he’s going to be a huge asset.
Munenori Kawasaki is kind of cool. Jeff Sullivan said he could be a bad version of Ichiro which is just fine. That’s valuable for a middle infielder. Plus, did you see how slick he is with the glove? He looks good and I think the M’s will try to find him more at-bats as the season goes on.A few bullet holes after the jump. Continue reading →
While Seattle is alternating between snow and sun, the Mariners are already a few weeks into spring training in Peoria, Arizona. Talking to people and reading different thoughts about this year’s team, it seems there are two predominant reactions. For those who are fans but don’t necessarily get deep into following the team, there’s a lack of knowledge and sometimes interest. And who can really blame them? If you don’t care that much about the offseason stuff, the onfield play has given no reason for hope. These people also tend to blame almost everything on Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln, but that’s a different issue.
The second reaction is that even the people who know this team well aren’t sure what to expect. Part of that is natural, as the Mariners have a lot of guys who could rebound significantly, as well as a plethora of young players who could improve dramatically. None of that is certain, though, so outside of Felix, this is a tough team to predict. I think another factor in the uncertainty is that this is a team unlike any Mariners fans have seen in some time. It’s legitimately build on solid young talent. There are some veterans, but they’re either young, like Felix, or will not likely be here long, like Ichiro and Miguel Olivo. The core of this team is young. The last time I remember that being the case is probably back in the early and mid 90’s. They’ve had quality prospects since then, although many haven’t panned out, but those kids were joining veteran-dominated teams.
Now the focus is squarely on the Ackleys and Smoaks and Monteros, and it’s a little hard to know what to expect. This year should start to indicate who will be part of the team longterm and who won’t cut it, but until then, there is plenty of room for knowledgeable fans to disagree on what to expect in 2012. Young teams are unpredictable, and most of us haven’t watched one on a daily basis in a long time.
Just for fun and as a general catchup for those who haven’t been paying a lot of attention to spring training, here’s a little fake Q & A post. If you have real questions, put them in the comments and we’ll give you any thoughts we have. People’s real questions would be more fun to answer than these ones I’m making up!
Any big stories so far?
The biggest has probably been Franklin Gutierrez. This was good at first, as he reported in great shape and seemingly fully recovered from his GI issues of last season. All anyone could talk about was how great he looked, and then he went and hit a homer off Felix in an early intrasquad game. Unfortunately, a couple of days later he tore a pectoral muscle, which sounds terrible, and he will be out at least 4 weeks before he does anything baseball related. Don’t expect him back before May. In fact, if you want to be safe, don’t expect him back at all. He should come back at some point, but given his recent struggles, it seems smarter to just keep the hopes as low as possible and then get excited if he suddenly does return and play well. Continue reading →