Monday, October 03, 2005

2005 Mariners Review
By Zach

So baseball season ended yesterday for the 24 teams not involved in the postseason. For some, it ended in heartbreak, falling just short of the playoffs (Indians, Phillies). For most of the rest, the calendar merely affirmed what the gut had been saying for days, weeks, and months. Certainly, the Seattle Mariners fit into that group. They finished 69-93, and were out of contention by May. With that in mind, I'll give my thoughts on the way the team played, and maybe offer a few suggestions for 2006 and beyond.

The Good:

Felix Hernandez: Anyone who's read this blog knows how I feel about the King. But after the first couple of weeks of the season, he really became the only Mariner I cared about beyond a morbid interest (can Richie Sexson reach an MLB record for strikeouts, can Adrian Beltre be forced to give back some of his salary, can another Mariner be busted for using steroids?). While his later starts didn't quite equal the brilliance of his first few, he showed that all of the hype surrounding him was justified, going 4-4 with a 2.67 ERA, 3.1 GB/FB, a 1.00 WHIP, 3.35 K/BB, 8.22 K/9, and 2.45 BB/9. Right there, he's one of the best pitchers in the AL, and if he can drop the walks and/or boost the strikeouts a bit, he's the best pitcher in the AL.

If you want, you can read all of my old Felix posts:

-The Joy of (pro)Spects
-The Coronation
-The God-King of Baseball

Richie Sexson: For all the talk that he was a big injury risk, that he was old, and that the back end of his contract was too pricy (all of which might well turn out to be true), he was the only threat in this Mariner lineup all season long. He hit .263/.369/.541, hit 39 HR, drove in 121 runs despite having no one on base in front of him and no protection behind him, and delivered more than his fair share of clutch hits, hitting .315/.427/.623 with RISP. He also played his typical great defense, and managed to play 156 games. Clearly, he was worth the money.

Raul Ibanez: He just continued to produce solid stats for little money, something I wish more Mariners were capable of. He hit .280/.355/.436, not great for a DH, but considering who the other guys who filled that role were, I'll take it. Hopefully, the team can either add a power hitter at DH or LF so Raul doesn't have to hit 3/4/5 in the lineup, but he was the team's only other consistant source of runs besides Sexson.

Eddie Guardado: Despite barely having a rotator cuff, he still managed to lock down 36 saves in 41 chances. While I expect him to be gone over the offseason, and while the team should have traded him when they had the chance, Eddie was one of the few stable pitchers in the bullpen. But the time to jettison him is now, considering the fact that he turned 35 yesterday and doesn't seem likely to get better. The Mariners can fill his role cheaply from within with either JJ Putz or Rafael Soriano.

Jamie Moyer (at Safeco Field): 10-0, 2.95 ERA, 1.18 WHIP. Unfortunately, he sucked on the road. Just a freakish example of the effects the Safe can have on the game, but sadly Moyer was the team's best pitcher who wasn't a 19-year-old phenom.

The Defense: Jeremy Reed played a Gold Glove centerfield, Yuniesky Betancourt looks like the second coming of Omar Vizquel, Sexson caught just about everything thrown his way, and Yorvit Torrealba looks like he can at least catch and call a game. While this team, like last year's, didn't hit or pitch very well, at least they caught the ball...which I suppose is some improvement.

The In-season Trades: Astoundingly, the Mariners managed to turn mediocre players like Randy Winn and Ron Villone into actual prosepcts. While it's yet to be seen if Jesse Foppert, Nate Mateo, Yorman Bazardo, or Yorvit Torrealba play large roles in the team down the road, the sheer fact that they might has to count as a plus for Bill Bavasi and his staff.

The Bad:

Ichiro Suzuki: Despite a late surge, he barely managed to get his batting average above .300. As the highest paid player on the team (and occupying a crucial corner outfield role), he only managed to hit .303/.350/.436. He did reach a career high in home runs, but didn't hit nearly enough to offset career lows in BA, OBP, hits, and doubles. Furthermore, he seems to have lost a step on the basepaths, and isn't legging out as many infield hits as he used to. Of course, that could be because he's turning 32 later this year. Defensively, he still has a great arm, and tracks balls well, but struggles to get to some balls in the gap.

Adrian Beltre: Ok, so we weren't expecting another 2004 season. Still, Beltre managed to miss even the lowest of expectations, hitting .255/.303/.413 at third base with just 19 home runs. He consistantly chased balls out of the zone, especially down and away, and seemingly could be counted on to strike out when relied upon most. His defense was decent, but he committed a number of stupid errors, and most of all seemed to be pressing the entire season. Yes, he had great expecations on him, but that's because of his previous season and the contract he signed. Lucky for him he played in Seattle, where they never seem to boo anyone. If he were here in New York, he'd have been burned in effigy several times already.

The Pitching Staff: Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro were head cases, Bobby Madritsch got hurt in his first start, Ryan Franklin did steroids and still sucked, Matt Thornton was on the team, as was Shigetoshi Hasegawa. It took them too long to install George Sherrill as the lefty out of the pen and they didn't call up Scott Atchison until September. Now, their pitching coach is resigning. Yeah, that's a bad season for you.

The Bench: One certain member of the bench is being withheld for a later section, but even the other guys on their managed to suck. Pokey Reese never played, Greg Dobbs and Dave Hansen, only around to hit, basically didn't, and Chris Snelling got hurt again.

The Ugly:

Scott Spiezio: In a season this bad, this distinction has to go to the man who managed to redefine sucking. I mean, I never thought the guy was very good, but .064/.137/.149? Wow. At least two of his three hits on the year went for extra bases. But actually, the ugly could best describe his tattoo of his new girlfriend, which just goes to show you that making $3.1 million dollars to sit on your ass doesn't make you a conneseuoir of fine art.

Moves for the offseason

Sign a pitcher or two: First on my list is Kevin Millwood. AJ Burnett is both too expensive and injury-prone for my tastes, and only two years younger than Millwood. Besides a disastrous stint in Philadelphia, he's been a very good pitcher over his career, and was stellar for the Tribe this year. I won't go into his stats too deep, but he had a sub-3.00 ERA and nearly a 3:1 K:BB ratio. With spacious Safeco Field and a good Mariner defense behind him, he could easily pitch to a 2.75 ERA.

Beyond that, I expect to see the Mariners go for another starter. The most intriguing option is Kevin Brown. I won't rehash the arguments made on USS Mariner, so read there.

Add a bat/bats: The Mariners desperately need another power hitter, preferably a lefty. They could add someone as an outfielder or DH. The guys I see them looking at are Mike Piazza (as a free agent), Jim Thome (via trade), or maybe even Ken Griffey (also via trade). Erubiel Durazo is an option if Bill Bavasi reads Moneyball during the offseason. There isn't much else out there. If the Brewers were for some reason to decline the option on Carlos Lee, that would be a great solution...but that's not happening.

Figure out the closer: While there will be a vast number of closers on the market: Trevor Hoffman, Ugueth Urbina, Billy Wagner, and Bob Wickman, they'd be better off declining their $6.25 million option on Eddie Guardado, and either keeping him as the closer if he picks up his $4.25 million option or going with JJ Putz or Rafael Soriano as closer if he doesn't.

Find a hitting/pitching coach: With both Don Baylor and Bryan Price gone, the Mariners need someone. I have no idea who they should get, but that's the least of my concerns.

The Mariners were bad this year. Not as bad as 2004, but plenty bad. They need to make a number of moves, and hope for some improvements by players, before they consider contending in 2006.


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