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Sleepless in Seattle

   by ASA - 03/31/2010

The Mariners have generated a lot of buzz this off-season with a couple of big moves but overall this team does not look greatly improved from 2009, and that was a year of great overachievement. Seattle was out-scored by 52 runs last season but still managed to finish eight games above .500 with an 85-77 record. In 2008 this team won just 61 games and this team is likely destined to fall somewhere between those two years.

While there is expected to be a slight decline from the Angels in the AL West with a couple of key players leaving, Los Angeles still has to be considered the team to beat and the starting rotation and lineup do not appear to have taken major steps back. Texas was also an 87-win team last season and the Rangers lineup looks loaded and the pitching staff was remarkably solid last season. Oakland also should be a tougher out in the division this season as the A’s have quality pitching and some upside with a couple of key additions. Wins in this division will be difficult and Seattle’s big spending may not pay off.

Felix Hernandez has ace stuff and delivered a great year in 2009 but his estimated ERA was actually nearly a full point higher than his 2.49 season mark, meaning he likely caught some good fortune last season. Cliff Lee was thoroughly impressive in Philadelphia but moving back to the AL could hurt his numbers and he has a checkered past of injuries which may be surfacing already this spring. Ryan Rowland-Smith showed some promise last season but he has never pitched more than 118 innings in a season and he will be counted on as the #3 starter on this team. Banking on Ian Snell to be a productive member of the rotation has not worked for the Pirates the last two seasons and his numbers were not promising enough in limited action with the Mariners to expect a big change. 6’8” Doug Fister is the most likely candidate for the #5 spot in the rotation but he has struggled this spring. Snell’s 6.92 ERA this spring is actually the lowest of the four starters projected to line up after Hernandez. David Aardsma had a career year as closer last season but he has had a very up-and-down career and could fall off this year.

There is some talent in the lineup but the addition of Chone Figgins is not likely to pay off unless the bats behind him in the lineup can provide power. Franklin Gutierrez had decent numbers last season but he struck out nearly three times as often as he walked and 18 home runs and 70 RBI is not enough from the #3 spot, especially with Ichiro at the top of the order getting on base frequently. Milton Bradley’s struggles have been well documented and he is a huge gamble on many fronts. It is hard to criticize Ken Griffey Jr. as he approaches the end of his hall of fame career but his recent numbers have not justified the amount of at-bats he will likely get this season. This is a good defensive team that should be competitive but expecting the Mariners to leap the Angels and the Rangers in this division is unrealistic. The pitching depth is simply not there and the run-production will not come close to those teams.


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