Wednesday, March 22

Seattle Mariners: Hail to the King

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Starting Pitching:

So I'll go ahead and blow through the top 4 starters real fast, since all the interest here lies with King Felix. Jamie Moyer is still around, still a junkballer, and one of these days, he's going to get real old real fast. Until that point, however, he'll have a spot in a rotation - since, after all, he's a left-hander who can get the ball over the plate. He's actually not that spectacular in terms of sheer numbers, but right now Seattle's pitching depth is such that they need warm bodies out there, and he satisfies that requirement. Not a true ace, though.

Joel Pineiro and Jarrod Washburn are the 2-3 guys (and the only other rotation guys whos first name begins with J), and while Pineiro isn't that great - honestly, I'm not sure why he's the #2 - Washburn is pretty good, although he was injured for a time last year. My best guess is they're putting him at a 3 to protect his arm / body. As for Gil Meche, he had an awesome season back in 2000, then fell off the face of the planet for a couple of years. After he came back to the majors, he hasn't been the same pitcher. Right now, the staff is decent, but not spectacular; it's mainly filled with a 2 and some middle-back of the rotation types. They could use some depth.

*phew* Glad we got that out of our system. Anyway, on to Felix Hernandez. If you haven't heard of King Felix, here's the lowdown on him. He strikes out a ton of batters (to the tune of about 8 K/9, which is more or less obscene for a starter). He's got a good defense behind him - more on that later. He doesn't walk a whole lot of batters (about 3.3 K/BB) - which, granted, given that ratio, means he's still walking about 2 a game, which isn't earth-shattering amazing. Still, that ratio's fantastic. So is his groundball-flyball ratio (3.3 GB/FB). What does all this mean? Practically, he's got a pretty good shot of striking you out, and if/when you do hit it, it's probably going to be on the ground, where one of Seattle's excellent defenders will get it. In other words - wow. The only thing preventing him from being the Seattle ace right now is that he's 19. Anyone remember Gooden back in '84? We might get the answer to what Gooden might've become now.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Jamie Moyer
2nd: Joel Pineiro
3rd: Jarrod Washburn
4th: Gil Meche
5th: Felix Hernandez

More information:
Felix Hernandez

Closer / Bullpen:

Eddie Guardado's back again as closer after yet another season with some random injuries and a whole heck of a lot of trade talk. If and/or when that happens, either Rafael Soriano or J.J. Putz will take over closer duties. Soriano is supposed to have the inside track on that, but a rough offseason and some velocity issues in winter league could put the Mariners a little gunshy on him. Putz isn't too bad.

As for the rest of the bullpen, it's certainly passable, and probably a little above average given the dreck in a lot of other bullpens. Julio Mateo is the workhorse.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Eddie Guardado
8th: J.J. Putz
7th: Julio Mateo
Sit. Right: Rafael Soriano
Sit. Lefty: George Sherrill
Mop-up: Jesse Foppert?

More information:
Rafael Soriano


Seattle's All-Japan connection continues. In addition to Ichiro, they also brought over Kenji Johjima, who was quite the power hitter over in Japan. However, as we've seen with Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, and a few other people, Japanese power hitters take a hit over here with either the increased pitching influence or some other factors I don't know. Just my guess, though.

DINOMITE! Carl Everett is the DH. Not a whole lot else to report here, other than he's a fucking nutcase that can swing a bat. And not Randall Simon nuts, either. He's also a backup for some of the outfield spots.

As for the corner spots, Richie Sexson somehow managed to not have a bad power season in Safeco, which is impressive given how the park historically affects hitters. Heck, he hit 21 of his 39 HR at home. His corner opposite is Adrian Beltre, who's an interesting character. He had a career season with the Dodgers back in 2004, parlayed that into a big contract with Seattle, then promptly sucked last year. Granted, by sucked, I mean returned to his 2003/2002 numbers. There's always been a lot of hype around him - was 2005 an aberration, or he is just not harnessing his talent?

The middle infield spots are the oddest to predict. Jose Lopez and Willie Bloomquist are in the running for the second-base spot, and Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Morse, and Bloomquist are in the shortstop competition. What a mess. Betancourt and Lopez have the most upside, especially defensively (and remember the Felix corollary here), so expect them to start.

Projected Infield:
C: Kenji Johjima
1B: Richie Sexson
2B: Jose Lopez
SS: Yuniesky Betancourt
3B: Adrian Beltre
DH: Carl Everett

More information:
Kenji Johjima
Jose Lopez
Yuniesky Betancourt
Adrian Beltre


Raul Ibanez is nothing if not fairly consistent; he's had fairly predictable speed and power over the last 4 years, so it'll make some sense to expect a decline due to age, but any kind of serious decline might just be a little bit nuts at this point. Jeremy Reed is in center, and he's supposed to turn out pretty good. However, he hasn't quite lived up to potential yet, although last season was predominantly filled with growing pains. It's up to the reader to determine if last season was a fluke or a sign of things to come.

Oh yeah - Ichiro's all world in right. Next.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Ichiro Suzuki
CF: Jeremy Reed
LF: Raul Ibanez

More information:
Ichiro Suzuki
Jeremy Reed
Raul Ibanez

Extra Stuff:

For now, this is still Ichiro's team. By the end of the year, it'll be Ichiro's and Felix's team. Look for the team to tailor itself around both of them in the next couple of years.

That being said, the AL West is pretty tough; the Mariners will probably struggle in a division which has at least two teams with better staffs (Oakland, Anaheim), two teams with better bullpens (Oakland, Anaheim), and two teams with better offenses (Texas, Oakland).