Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

AL West preview - Seattle Mariners hitting

Position Players:
Catcher - Miguel Olivo
Olivo becomes the next in a string of heir apparents to Dan Wilson's throne. As Wilson's bat continues to deteriorate, this has become more and more of a necessity. Olivo's defense appears to be improved this spring, but his bat (at least when I was watching) still looks to have several gaping holes, especially with the breaking ball down. He does have some pop, can expect 15-20 home runs, but will have a terrible average unless he learns how to pull up.

Colin: CAN NOT HIT THE SLIDER. Watch. Watch him continually swing and miss. However, he is still a better bat than Danny, who, while still popular (got the biggest cheer at one spring training I was at; that's right, bigger than Ichiro or Sexson) just can't hit the broad side of a barn. He does seem to be earning the respect of the pitching core, so that is a huge plus. Overall, I expect improvement from him, but he will not be an All-Star anytime soon.

1st Base - Richie Sexson
Here's another 2003-2004 question mark. In 2003 Richie was one of the most feared power hitters in the NL. In 2004 he had that season ending injury. Is he fully recovered? His average appeared to be back this spring, but he didn't hit for power at all. I would like to believe in 2003 Richie, which should be good for over 30 home runs and a reliable presence in the lineup. Also look for him to strike out many many times with the bases loaded, ala Mike Cameron. My prediction. Don't want to forget his solid infield defense, either. Little drop off from Olerud.

Colin: This is my most optimistic prediction. I really believe that Sexson will have a killer year offensively. He is sick and tired of people doubting him after his FIRST INJURY, and he has something to prove to the folks back home. Sure, the hometown hero did not work for a certain Jeff Cirillo, but Sexson is GINORMOUS! The funniest thing I saw this spring was him simply standing next to Bret Boone. Sure, he will strike out, but he will be fun to watch even while striking out, which is more than I could say watching the aforementioned Mike Cameron.

2nd Base - Bret Boone
No, Boone is not going to repeat 2001. We have steroid testing now. However, he can repeat 2003 and forget 2004. I believe Boone struggles when he feels that he has to carry a team, but excels in a supporting role. That's what I see in this lineup, pitchers have to fear Beltre and Sexson, just like they feared Edgar and Olerud in 2001. It would be nice to have him avoid 14 errors in the field, though.

Colin: He's done. 80 RBI's, up to 20 HR's, great defense, lousy clutch hitting. Chalk it up.

Shortstop - Pokey Reese
Pokey Reese will be fantastic in the field. That's about all you can say. Bring on Jose Lopez. Can he avoid the injuries? Can he not be a black hole in our lineup? I'm not optimistic.

Colin: Well, he's swell defensively. Cool. Offensively? He's offensive. Automatic out.

Third Base - Adrian Beltre
Still can't figure out why the Dodgers let this guy go... they overpaid for Darren Dreifort, for crying out loud. There are not many good third basemen in the league now, and the signing of Beltre was huge for Seattle. Look for him to continue on his breakout season last year, while also providing Gold Glove caliber defense. I love that his success was in Dodger Stadium, pitcher friendly, so we can count on it more. After Jeff Cirillo and Scott Speizio, this is beyond a breath of fresh air.

Colin: Just one of the best days of my life. We signed Adrian Beltre? What!! Unbelievable. I have heard nothing but good things about him, from his clubhouse presence to his workout regimen to his ability to do everything on both the offensive and defensive ends. My faith in the Mariners was renewed the day that they signed Beltre. I remember talking with Gavin at the end of last season, saying that we NEEDED to sign at least two of the top-tier free agents. Gavin agreed, but was adamant that we would only sign one. He picked Troy Glaus. I picked Carlos Delgado and Troy Glaus. So... at least I was right that we signed two.

Left Field - Randy Winn
Yes, I am one of the Winn-haters who would prefer Raul Ibanez here once Bucky Jacobsen is healthy. It's not that Winn is a bad player, I just think he's mediocre. He gets insanely hot for a few weeks out of the year, pads his stats, and convinces sabremetrics readers that he's a quality major league player. To me, he's an automatic weak ground ball to the second baseman every time up. On the plus side, with the emergence of Jeremy Reed, he will be batting in the seven spot, which is his most comfortable position. He will be much better defensively here than in center, at least. If we get a good deal, we should move him.

Colin: I also am not a Randy Winn fan. Do I have statistics to prove my feelings? No. Do I have a gut and eyes that watch Randy Winn hit? Yes.

Center Field - Jeremy Reed
Reed is an exciting addition to our club. His defense this spring was spectacular. He lacks the speed of Cameron or Griffey, but his instincts and willingness to give up the body make him at least a significant upgrade over Winn. His approach at the plate is impressive as well. I wish he would hit for a little more power, because our outfield is pretty darn weak otherwise. However, he is the best hitter in the 2 hold that we have had for a while, and gives Ichiro some needed protection. Look for him to spray base hits all around Safeco this season.

Colin: Besides Sexson and Beltre, this is the most exciting newcomer to Seattle. I loved watching him play this spring. Lots of energy, excellent mechanics at the plate, hits the ball to all sides of the field, and as Gavin says, he will be incredible in the 2 slot, forcing Hargrove into putting him there instead of Winn. I agree with the guys over at USSMariner that he will not be the second coming of Griffey, but he should have several solid years with maybe an All-Star appearance or two thrown in for good measure.

Right Field - Ichiro
What can I write that hasn't already been written? I was at the game last year when he broke the hits record, electric. Can he hit .400? Not unless he takes a few more walks. Can his defense get any better? No. Can he score a run a game? Absolutely, with this lineup behind him. Look for the best leadoff hitter in the game to become a force. Remember the Indians a few years ago, starting off with Lofton, Vizquel and Roberto Alomar? Pitchers always knew that if one of those guys got on base they would press the issue on the basepaths, and then they also had to concentrate on the sluggers coming up. This is what Ichiro and Reed can do.

Colin: Light shines down from heaven on this guy. Nothing more to say.

DH - Raul Ibanez
Hopefully this is platooned with Jacobsen. I like Ibanez quite a bit, thought he was our best hitter not named Ichiro last year. He is a lefty with power, which bodes well for Safeco. He has learned how to hit, and I look for him to be a solid addition to our lineup. Once Bucky comes back, this becomes yet another power spot in our lineup, especially against left handed pitching.

Colin: Left-handed power. He will provide that, and provide it well. I expect a great year from Ibanez. He wants to win here badly, and will do everything in his power to give a winning season to the fans in Seattle.

Bench - Dan Wilson, Scott Spiezio, Ramon Santiago, Greg Dobbs, Willie Bloomquist Worst bench around. Just awful. Seriously, outside maybe of Dan Wilson, is there someone here that you are interested in seeing in a game? Bring back Bucky, please. I strongly dislike what Bill Bavasi did here. I suppose you could add Abraham Nunez to this... yippee. If a starter goes down with an injury, we look to the minors for help.

Colin: This is just terrible. Wow. I mean.... seriously. Don't we have any major league talent to put on this bench? I can't even write about them, makes me too upset. My tummy hurts.

Hopefully at this time you see where the problem in predicting this team comes from. Even Spiezio had a great 2003 before his awful 2004. What does this mean? Well, I do think it means that simply adding wins to last year's total based on the additions of Sexson and Beltre is too simplistic. If half of these performers turn it around, we have a few more wins. If our defense is that improved, we have a few more wins. Frankly, if you take an unbiased look at this lineup, I think it's better than 2001. Don't think so? Let's take a look...

Catcher: Wilson vs Olivo - wash, with more power potential to Olivo
1st Base: Olerud vs Sexson - a healthy Sexson provides more pop, but Olerud was more consistent, edge goes to Olerud
2nd Base: Boone vs Boone - Boone was nuts in '01, edge to '01 Boone.
Shortstop: Guillen vs Reese - Edge to Guillen
3rd Base: Bell vs Beltre - Large edge to Beltre
Left Field: McLemore vs Winn - Actual edge to Winn here
Center: Cameron vs Reed - Cameron had more power, but Reed is more consistent, like Olerud, edge to Reed
Right Field: Ichiro vs Ichiro - I actually think '05 Ichiro has the potential to be better than '01 Ichiro... more walks, better on the basepaths.
DH: Edgar vs Ibanez/Jacobsen - Edge to Edgar
I count 5-4 in favor of '05 Mariners. The pitching is weaker... but not substantially so, especially if a few of those turnarounds occur. Definitely a better staff than 2003, and most definitely so if Felix Hernandez is called up. So yes, I'm optimistic about this year. I think the M's can compete and will be in the running for the division crown all year.

Colin: Wow, great analysis. However, I have to quibble with you on your prediction that our pitching is not substantially weaker than 2001. It will be. Our bullpen is completely unimpressive unless several people turn it back around. I can be optimistic about our lineup and even stretch to be optimistic about our rotation. But our bullpen has to prove itself to me. Will we be better than '04? Definitely. We have a much improved defensive squad, especially on the infield grass. We have a much improved lineup with power, speed, youth, and energy. We have a healthy rotation that awaits the arrival of King Felix. And, yes, we do have a better bullpen than last season provided that Guardado remains healthy and Mateo and Hasegawa turn it around. What does that mean? I predict around 85 wins, which means that with a little luck, we can stay in the race until September, and then it is anyone's game.

posted by colin_hesse @ 9:05 PM  0 comments

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