By Robert Wasserstein
The Mariners surpassed expectations last year with a 75 win season. It seems a little off to say that, but it’s true. They have a “nice” team. I don’t even know what I mean by that. There is a nice amount of depth. There’s a nice core there. They have a monarch as an ace (always helpful). Aside from the King of Seattle at the front of the rotation there are about as many question marks as a philosophy exam? (I imagine they have a lot of question marks?) There are some good pitchers in their bullpen and then are some really bad ones. The Mariners just appear to me as a normal maybe in two years team. They fall in the same category as the Royals, Padres, Pirates, and Orioles (I understand they made the playoffs. That was a statistical aberration. +7 Run Diffencial=82 wins.) There is a 50% that one of these teams make the playoffs.
When looking at the Mariners there is only one place to start. Safeco Field. It sucks. I’ve been to 15 MLB stadiums and it is easily my least favorite. Stop distracting me. Aside from the mediocrity of the moose mascot, the field is too big. The home/road splits are nauseating. The M’s had a .622 home OPS compared to a .703 away OPS. 56 homers home and 93 away. C’Mon! Do you people in Seattle realize why you have a baseball team? It’s cause Griffey was hitting 45 bombs a year. There is only one cliche in life that I will consistently use in any situation. Chicks dig the long ball. Of course the stadium isn’t changing anytime soon, and I can already feel that this is going to be a very frustrating article. (I have a lot of midterms this week).
Let's take a look at the lineup that won't be hitting any long ball in Seattle-
C- Jesus Montero
1B- Justin Smoak/Kendrys Morales
2B- Dustin Ackley
SS- Brendan Ryan/Robert Andino
3B- Kyle Seager
LF- Michael Morse
CF- Franklin Gutierrez
RF- Michael Saunders
DH- Kendrys Morales/Jason Bay/Raul Ibanez
Montero was one of the most disappointing players in baseball last year. After his month in the big leagues in New York when he batted .328, it seemed inevitable that Montero would break out as at least a top half MLB catcher. Well he didn't. He finished the season with stats that a top half Triple-A catcher could have put up. He had a -.2 WAR, was a liability behind the plate, and .684 OPS. He had 15 Homers in the abyss of Safeco. The is one strikingly bad statistic for Montero- His BB% was 5.2%. That is something I'd expect from the Miguel Cairo's of the world. Montero is supposed to be from the Piazza prototype of catcher. Big and scary. Get it together Montero. I want pitchers to be aiming at your head or politely tossing it at the ground. He won't be as bad this season. I'm looking for a .271 batting average, 21 HRs, an OPS of .750 and a 1.8 WAR.
From one Triple-A stud to the next. Justin Smoak beat out Montero for worse everyday player with a WAR of -0.3. Good job. I don't understand how he is still slotted to start the season at first. He's 25 and clearly isn't MLB ready. He had .654 OPS which would be passing on my Chem midterm but not for a 1st baseman who's really only average defensively. He had 19 Homers, and 51 RBIs. I don't like to look at RBIs as a stat that means much but 51 RBIs from a guy hitting 19 HRs doesn't even make sense to me. I'm actually not going to project Smoak because I think he doesn't deserve it. I will talk about our old friend Kendrys Morales. He makes me smile. He's better than Smoak defensively, and offensively. If he isn't starting for Mariners day one I'm going to have a BF. As the Angels primary DH last season he had 22 homers and a legitimate .787 OPS. After the freak Walk Off injury his trek to becoming an elite slugger stopped. He was my primary sleeper pick last year and will be yet again this year. I am looking at him to have a 28 Homer, 87 RBI, .282 AVG, and a .830 OPS.
Dustin Ackley is third out of three underachievers for the M's last year. He was above minor league replacement level though. He had a 1.5 WAR, which followed his 2.8 WAR in 90 games during 2011. His average dipped from .273 to .226. There was one reason for it. BABIP. His batting average on ball in play went from .339 to .265. With such polarized BABIPs my best guess had him falling somewhere around a .285 BABIP which would translate into a .250 average. He'll have a fair 12 homers with a fair 12 steals. He's good defensively and will score a nice amount of runs (89). We saw his floor last year. I guess that's a good thing.
I like this shortstop tandem way more than I should. The story of Brendan Ryan is simple. He hits at a minor league level but the guy is awesome defensively. Case and point, he had a .194 average with a 1.5 WAR. Andino will be played by Charlie Day (I expect all readers to be fluent in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). I'm of course referring to Andino being the Wild Card. Andino was horrible for the O's last year with a -.6 WAR. He hit .211, struck out too much. Despite that I will remember him as this man.
Tell me that doesn't make you smile. Of course, I am a Yankees fan who loves Red Sox pain. Let's just take a minute to remember that night in baseball. If you were watching baseball that night, you remember where you were. Back to the M's. I like Andino as the chili powder to Ryan's vanilla ice cream. Disgusting, yes. But it's a provocative idea.
At third is the lone over achiever on the M's- Kyle Seager. He had a 3.6 WAR last year with a .259 BA, 20 HRs, 13 Steals, and about average defense. If he's your best offensive player, you have a problem. There's a lot of good with Seager. He's 25 this year and looking like he could have a nice future in Seattle. His K/BB ratio is going in the right direction. He has good power and good speed. I think he'll get the average up to .275 this year, but suffer in the power department with 16 HRs. He'll have 16 steals so his stats are easy to remember. A 3.0 WAR when it's all said and done.
In left is a 31 year old who has had one GOOD year. I am referring to Michael Morse. He could easily be the M's best hitter this year, but won't be. He's less disciplined at the plate than whoever is kicked off the Biggest Loser week one. He walked 3.7% of the time. That's embarrassing. He struck out 22.7% of the time. If you are going to walk as seldom as that, you have to make contact. Friend of the show (I'd like to think) Vlad Guerrero had a career 8.1 BB% (not good), but he had a 10.9 K % (Really Good). Morse, stop swinging. It's actually amazing that he had .291 average last year. He can put up .300/30/100 numbers but as punishment for his lack of discipline I won't project that. I see a down year for Morse. He'll have a .271/22/80 season.
Gutierrez sadly has the stamp of injury proness. He's played in 130 games over 2 seasons now and was unproductive when he played in 2012. He went from one of the five best defensive players in the majors to a below average defender. He just lacked his speed. He'll come back this year and make it even harder to get extra bases in Safeco. Offensively, he's going to be a .250 hitter with 13 homers and 25 steals. I like this guy!
Ichiro Su...Michael Saunders will man right this season. The 26 year old was actually pretty good last year. He had 19 homers and 21 steals. He struck out too much and was BAD on defense. Still, he's the kind of guy who makes something happen. He had a .247 average last season, and I hope better discipline will lead to him becoming a .265 guy. I'm expecting 22 HRs and 25 Steals. I believe in Saunders.