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.
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 →
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.
Unlike NCAA 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. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and often I use the sabermetric WAR to break ties. Some of the picks are obvious (Pujols), and others are less obvious (DH), so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
A quick analysis shows that Texas is the class of the division, with more 1st team selections than the rest of the west combined. Anaheim has good 2nd tier depth, solid pitching, and balance. Texas and Anaheim each have 8 1st or 2nd team selections of the possible 10 positional categories, and of the 14 pitching spots, a whopping 11 are Rangers (6) and Angels (5). The M’s are a distant 3rd, but a ways ahead of the re-building A’s, who are loaded with average players but no star power whatsoever.
I wanted to take this chart one step further, and visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks. To do so, I’ve simply awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a bar graph.
This has been a weird offseason for Your Seattle Mariners, but it’s surprisingly almost over. Pitchers and catchers report to Arizona in a few weeks, with the season just over two months away. Actually, since the Mariners open the season in Japan, their season starts a couple of weeks early. Yes, the season opener will be at like 3:00 in the morning on the other side of the International Date Line. Plan your lives accordingly.
Anyway, if you haven’t been paying attention or haven’t stopped to think about what the team looks like, I’ll try to help you out with a little fake Q & A. I’m making up the questions and I probably won’t have any answers, so don’t expect too much, but this will still be a pretty good time.
Who’s new this year?
Well, Jesus Montero’s the big one. More on him in a minute. Then there’s John Jaso, the mediocre young catcher acquired from Tampa Bay, who could actually be a pretty big upgrade. Not a lot after that. There are a bunch of relievers who may or may not make the team. More importantly, the Japanese pipeline is back open, with Hisashi Iwakuma likely to join the rotation and Ichiro’s workout buddy Munenori Kawasaki vying for a backup infield spot. Iwakuma could be pretty good. Kawasaki is good with the glove but unlikely to hit, so that’s nothing new. They just signed Kevin Millwood for rotation depth as well. Continue reading →