From my Mariners season preview yesterday…
Can the Mariners approach .500 in 2012, or will they continue to languish as a 70-win team?
The Mariners won 67 games in 2011, and honestly, they weren’t a very good team. Three offensive players were worth more than one win, and two were defensive specialists Brendan Ryan and Franklin Gutierrez. This season, the Mariners could have as many as five two win players, including Dustin Ackley (who amassed 2.7 fWAR in just 90 games), Mike Carp (who had a .792 OPS in just 79 games last year), Ichiro Suzuki (who had four hits in his first game this week and had never been less than a three win player until last year), Justin Smoak (who battled a myriad of injuries and personal issues last season, but is healthy and has a clear head this season), and stud hitting prospect Jesus Montero. That doesn’t even include Gutierrez and Ryan, who can provide a win or two each just based on their gloves.
Seattle had just a .640 OPS last season, and their entire offense was worth just 4.4 wins. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ackley was worth that on his own, and Montero could be in the neighborhood too. The offense will be much better this year, as last year’s disaster seemed like an aberration to me.
As for the pitching staff, it could be a struggle. The team’s Opening Day rotation this year is missing 8.1 wins from last year’s Opening Day rotation, as Michael Pineda, Doug Fister, and Erik Bedard are all gone. Felix Hernandez and his five win floor are still on the team, and Jason Vargas seems like he could be a three win guy after a 2.4 fWAR season last year. The newbies to the rotation are Blake Beavan (who struck out just 3.90 batters in 15 starts last year), veteran Kevin Millwood (who was impressive for the Rockies last season), and former Yankee Hector Noesi (who showed tremendous control in the minors). I don’t think the three new starters in Seattle’s rotation aren’t able to match what Pineda, Fister, and Bedard last year, and I’d set their ceiling at five wins between the three.
Seattle will be much better this season, especially on offense. I think .500 is out of range right now due to the strength of the Angels and Rangers in the AL West, but when their next wave of pitching talent is ready (possibly as early as this year’s All-Star Break), Seattle could make some noise in the division.