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!

Friday, March 31, 2006

2006 Seattle Mariners Preview: The "Hitting"

Sorry, couldn't help myself with the sarcasm. Basically, offense has been a sad sad part of the Seattle Mariners the last two years as we watched John Olerud, Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone fade in the sunset of their careers, and gave far too many at-bats to Miguel Olivo, Scott Speizio, and Wilson Valdez to have anything that could be called consistent.

There is some hope, friends. Some hope. Let's go through the starters.

C: Kenji Johjima ("Rookie" season)
Backup: Rene Rivera (48 ABs, .396 BA, .408 OBP, 3 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI)
Oddly enough, Kenji Johjima was our "star" signing this offseason. While he flashed some power over in Japan, he probably will become another Japanese slap hitter in the states, but a good one at that. His improvement over the Olivo/Pat Borders/Wiki Gonzalez black hole should in and of itself be worth a few wins.

At backup, I'm a bigger Rivera fan than most, basically because he's only 22 years old and showed some skills during his brief stint last season. Overall, this position has to be considered a major upgrade.

Colin: Yes, a major upgrade, mostly because of just HOW BAD the catcher's position was for us last year. Johjima should be a stabilizing force for our rotation, plus give us perhaps a better offensive threat then Dan Wilson. One more reason to actually be interested in the Mariners this year.

1B: Richie Sexson (.263 BA, .369 OBP, 36 2B, 39 HR, 121 RBI)
You cannot help but call that line an unequivocal success for the Mariners last year. Richie came back strong from his injury to be well worth the large contract he had signed the previous offseason. While he (at age 31) is going to start hitting the downside of his career, we should not expect a serious dropoff in power potential, especially if his spring training performance is any indication (which it shouldn't be, but heck we're optimists). If anything, we should expect a slight reduction in most numbers.

Colin: Sexson was amazing last summer, living up to all expectations. He is our best offensive player, and will carry us on his hot streaks, which are a sight to behold.

2B: Jose Lopez (.247 BA, .282 OBP, 19 2B, 2 HR, 25 RBI)
Yes, the numbers are not that great. Still, the power potential is there, and somtimes we forget that Lopez is only 22 and really got bounced around a ton last year as the horried Bloomquist experiment continued after Boone was DFA'd. While I don't see him as the second coming of Roberto Alomar, he should actually be seen as a decent upgrade over the trash previously mentioned. We should expect that OBP to creep to .320-.330 with a full season, and the 2B numbers translate out extremely well (possibly in the 40+ range). His defense has also improved now that he isn't being asked to do as much athletically and because he has Betancourt helping him cover the bag. Overall, we can all thank our local deity that this position was not filled by Fernando Vina.

Colin: It is past time for Lopez to be our starting second baseman. Past time.

SS: Yuniesky Betancourt (.256 BA, .296 OBP, 11 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB)
I added a few more stats to the speedster's portfolio. Obviously this isn't where Betancourt adds the most value. He is a human vacuum cleaner at short. I was watching the game last night and he made an unbelievable diving play to end the second (or third, I forget). He makes everything look smooth and he personally can save 15-20 runs per year. Now, will his offense translate into something decent as well? That's far more up in the air, and everything I've read from USS Mariner and friends has done nothing to convince me otherwise. He either could become Pokey Reese or Omar Vizquel. The optimist in me likes to think he could add 20 points to both his BA and OBP to take advantage of his speed. Again, he did provide some pop, with 11 2Bs and 5 3Bs in limited ABs. This is another exciting young player to watch this year.

Colin: I'll be honest. Betancourt is my second favorite thing about this upcoming year, because of his defense. The plays that guy made last season!

3B: Adrian Beltre (.255 BA, .303 OBP, 36 2Bs, 19 HRs, 87 RBI)
It's not every year that a player hits their worst PECOTA projection, but Beltre sure did come close in 2005. He simply looked lost against anything offspeed, which meant that he wasn't able to turn on the inside fastball, and basically that he sucked. Not exactly NL MVP type numbers all around. The prevailing notion around the game is that Beltre simply has to be better, because he cannot be worse. The WBC seemed to buttress that notion, but I'm not going to count on anything until the season starts. If he becomes 80% of the player he was, this could be another large offensive upgrade to the Mariners. If he continues to struggle, he will be the worst free agent signing of our lifetime. The stakes are high.

Colin: Beltre. Low and away, no hittee. Again, low and away, no hittee.

LF: Raul Ibanez (.280 BA, .355 OBP, 32 2Bs, 20 HRs, 89 RBI)
So where exactly did Bill Bavasi get off signing Ibanez to such a huge extension when his power peripherals are already going down substantially? Hmmm? Adrian Beltre in an awful year basically outslugged Ibanez, but because Raul walked more he was judged a much better offensive player. I smell something rotten here. Raul was underrated last year and is now officially overrated. Since his defense isn't all that great either we can expect to hear Chris Snelling rumors in full force come August.

Colin: Again, you don't see Ruskell making these kind of moves. Go Seahawks!

CF: Jeremy Reed (.254 BA, .322 OBP, 33 2Bs, 3 HRs, 45 RBI)
What an abysmal offensive performance by Reed last year. Whether it was his wrist or his head he took all those pundits predicting rookie of the year and stomped on their collective souls. While his defense was actually far better than anticipated, Adam Jones was moved to center basically to potentially replace Reed already. Jeremy has far too much talent to be this bad. It is apparent watching him hit that he has a good idea of the strike zone. He just has to find some power and consistency. Another large question mark for this Mariner squad.

RF: Ichiro Suzuki (.303 BA, .350 OBP, 21 2Bs, 12 3Bs, 15 HRs, 68 RBI)
Ichiro really wasn't an incredibly valuable player last year, and basically admitted he was bored with losing afterwards. He apparently is a player who needs a lot more to motivate him than hitting .400 (not seeing that story in spring training now, are we?). His RBI numbers have more to do with who was hitting 7-9 last year than Ichiro himself, who easily could have 80+ in a better environment. I did like to see the larger power numbers, although it came at the expense of quite a few slap hits. Ichiro popped up the ball more and slumped subsequantly, needing the last week of the season to solidify his .300 average. Of course he will continue to be a stallion defensively, but we need more from our superstar if we hope to surprise teams in the deep AL West.

DH: Carl Everett (.251 BA, .311 OBP, 17 2Bs, 23 HRs, 87 RBI)
That's pretty sad. He's already more valuable than Beltre last year and he sucks. There's nothing more to say about this. I'm not a fan. He's not any good. Come back Snelling.

Bench: Willie Bloomquist, Joe Borchard, Matt Lawton, Roberto Petagine
With Rivera we actually have a much better bench than previous years, especially if Hargrove actually utilizes them. Wee Willie is actually a terrific utility player, if he can accept the role. Lawton gives us the best fourth outfielder we've had in a while, and Borchard and Petagine are decent young bats. Overall, still mediocre, but FAR superior to the sinking feeling in the stomach when Spiezio or Dobbs approached for another wasted late inning at-bat.

Crushed Prediction: A much improved offensive squad with some exciting possibilities. The young players could all flame out, but at least will provide an interesting storyline to what will more than likely be another losing season.

Colin: Some possible excitement, some possible flameouts. Still, no Boone, no Olerud, no Winn, no Spaz, no Aurilia, no Cirillo, no Olivo, no Borders, no Valdez, no Dobbs. That is a good thing.

posted by Gavin @ 10:43 AM  1 comments


At 12:32 AM, Blogger nach said...

That list of "nos" is a breath of fresh air and clouds lifting... I still think there are more reasons to watch the Mariners now, than say, in 1988.


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