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Monday, February 27, 2012

#25 - The Seattle Mariners

As Frankie has once again fallen asleep at the wheel, you all get to read about the Seattle Mariners one day before you were supposed to. Think of it like a sneak peak of that movie you saw that preview for and weren't really interested but, hey, two free passes came your way and you have nothing else to do Tuesday night and could "The Vow" really be that bad? (It is.) Are the Mariners that bad? Well, no, nothing is that bad, and the Mariners are going to be quite competitive in 2012.

2011, like the previous year, was not kind to the Mariners. They finished second worst in the AL at 67-95, and finished dead last in the majors with a .233 average. They also finished last in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Pitching was a little bit better. They finished 15th in the majors with a 3.90 ERA. Unfortunately, two of the big pieces of the rotation, Doug Fister and Miguel Pineda are now with the Tigers and Yankees, respectively. It's got to get better though, right? It's probably Jesus. And those piercing eyes...

The past couple years, the Mariners' offense has been meager at best. Last year it was downright abysmal. The players they signed who were supposed to produce just didn't. This year, the theme will be REBOUND. Ichiro Suzuki had hit .310 or better since 2001 when he came to the US. Last year, he only managed .272. At 38, the Mariners hope he can bounce back and hit third in the lineup. Chone Figgins, a highly prized free agent two years ago, struggled again with the bat in the Mariners lineup. He hit only .188 until going down with injury. Franklin Gutierrez, once looked to as a middle of the lineup threat, continued his downward spiral and hit only .224 while watching his slugging percentage fall 90 points from 2010. Free agent acquisition Miguel Olivo paced the team with 19 home runs, but only hit .224. These four players have to produce this year, or the lineup will whimper once more.

The other five spots in the lineup will be filled by young players with plenty of promise. Say what you will about the Mariners, but their recent trades have netted them a plethora of young talent. Dustin Ackley wowed in his debut last year. Justin Smoak showed last year some of why he was worth parting with Cliff Lee in 2010. Mike Carp hit 12 home runs in only 79 games. A full season could earn him a permanent spot in the middle of the order. And then we come to the aforementioned Jesus Montero.

Montero has been one of the hottest prospects in the majors, but has had the problem of playing behind Jorge Posada and Russell Martin. In 61 ABs with the Yankees last year, he hit 4 home runs and batted .328. If Montero becomes the next great power hitting catcher, Mariners' fans will forget that they had to give up Miguel Pineda to get him. If he doesn't, and Pineda continues to dominate the league like he did last year, there may be riots in Seattle.

The Mariners return only two pitchers with 10 or more wins for 2012. King Felix Hernandez (14-14, 3.47) and Jason Vargas (10-13, 4.25) will lead the staff. Projected third in the rotation will be the greedy beyond belief Hisashi Iwakuma. The star from Japan wouldn't sign with the A's even though they were willing to give him 19.1 million just to talk to him. Instead, he had an injury plagued season and signed a deal that could be worth up to 4.9 million. Take that. Jerk. Iwakuma could be a secret weapon, he was very dominant in the Japanese league, but as seen from other pitchers to make the transition to the US, results are very hit and miss. The fourth and fifth spots will be taken by the very promising Charlie Furbush (4-10, 5.68) and Blake Beavan (5-6, 4.27). If they struggle, Hector Noesi, also acquired in the Pineda trade, will be ready to jump in. The back end of the rotation will have to win more than last year if the Mariners want a chance at the west crown.

Presenting your 2011 Seattle Mariners:

C Jesus Montero
1B Justin Smoak
2B Dustin Ackley
SS Brendan Ryan
3B Chone Figgins
LF Mike Carp
CF Franklin Gutierrez
RF Ichiro Suzuki
DH Miguel Olivo
SP Felix Hernandez
SP Jason Vargas
SP Hisashi Iwakuma
SP Blake Beavan
SP Charlie Furbush
CL Brandon League

Best Case Scenario:
Unlike the California Golden Bear basketball team, the Mariners rebound from their lackluster 2011. Ichiro shows he's not yet over the hill, Figgins plays like he did in Anaheim, and Gutierrez looks more like the player the Mariners parted with JJ Putz for. The young talent sparkles. Smoak and Montero end up hitting fourth and fifth in the lineup and hit 25 home runs each. After a rough April, Iwakuma proves he was a bargain and becomes an instant sensation. As the summer progresses, Beavan and Furbush become a reliable back end of the rotation, and Seattle becomes a team that both the Angels and Rangers have to reckon with while chasing the west crown. Though the team isn't quite ready to contend with the likes of Hamilton or Pujols and falls short of the playoffs, their 85-77 record and favorable contract situations mean the Mariners will be a force in the AL in 2013.

Worst Case Scenario:
It's the perfect storm in Seattle. Every question mark at every position goes wrong for the Mariners. Ichiro looks like father time has finally caught up and announces in June that this will be his last season in the majors. Figgins looks like he may be the worst free agent signing of all time. Gutierrez continues to flounder like Channing Tatum trying to act. Montero is definitely not as advertised, and Pineda wins the Cy Young with the Yankees. Though Ackley, Smoak, and Carp perform adequately, it's not enough to offset the struggles of the rest of the lineup. Iwakuma is overmatched in the majors, and is placed on the 60-Day DL with a "sore arm" after just 7 starts in which he goes 0-5 with a 6.71 ERA. Though Hernandez and Vargas do their thing, there's no answer to be found at the back end of the rotation as Beavan and Furbush have trouble taking the next step. To try to get fans in the seats, the marketing department starts having coffee races in the spirit of the Sausage or President races. Tully's and Starbucks win every time, but after the mascots start having heart palpitations they have to pull the plug. It's not pretty in the northwest, and the Mariners find themselves in the cellar from pole to pole. Fan reactions to the season look something like this:

What Will Probably Happen
Well, I'm a homer, and think the A's will get third. But, the Mariners look to be in better shape than last year... so... 72-90, fourth in the AL West.

SONG! - Where Seattle may want to be midseason


  1. Why isn't Ichiro batting first this year?

  2. That's a damn good question. I think it's because of the youth of the other hitters. Ichiro has a good bat, and hitting him third should take the pressure off some of the youngsters who hope to find themselves there later in their careers.