I wanted to talk a little about what I’m happy about as a fan. No caveats – no “ignoring his contract…” – just what I see as the strong positives in the team this year.
Adrian Beltre: His .266/.327/.456 line was the best non-2004 year of his career (unless you want 2000, when he played many fewer games). On the road, he hit .283/.343/.462. This is the best offensive season from a 3B we’ve seen since Russ Davis’ monster 1997, and Beltre’s way better on defense.
Yuniesky Betancourt: watching his defense regularly, we get a little too used to it, but comparing him day to day to the other visiting shortstops, he’s as good any day as anyone else I saw play the Mariners this year.
Felix Hernandez: I wonder if having a non-Cy Young season might not be the best thing in the long term, offering some important lessons as he took his lumps. When Felix was using his breaking and off-speed pitches to get outs, he showed us what could be, and what we should look forward to.
Raul Ibanez: a great year for Raul. He didn’t wear out playing left, as I’d feared, but instead put up an excellent offensive season.
Kenji Johjima: transitions from Japanese baseball are always dicey, but Johjima came through. A .291/.333/.453 line from a catcher is a solid offensive contribution, plus he played solid defense and provided stability at a position that has just killed the team in recent years.
Adam Jones: less than a year after his conversion, he was flying around centerfield. His natural ability showed through the roughness. We saw some of his offensive potential, too, in the sheer jolt he put into balls when he made good contact. Jones should have a fine career.
Jose Lopez: in an up and down year we saw his offensive talent and over the course of the year he took a big step forward to being an important piece of the team for years to come.
JJ Putz: he really came forward this year, stepping up from being a hard-throwing reliever into a guy who could come in and get anyone out. Impressive outing after impressive outing.
Chris Snelling: As the High Epopt of the Cult of Doyle, what do you think I’m going to say? He came up, he hit the snot out of the ball. Even when he’s having his bad at-bats, he sees more pitches than most everyone else on the team, and displays a great eye for pitch location. And when he’s on, making contact consistently and swinging at the right pitches, he’s the best hitter on the team. Hopefully as he gets his swings and playing time in, we’ll see him have better and better at-bats, and be a contributor to the team. And his defense! And I told people he had an arm, but they’re still surprised!
Rafael Soriano: happy to see him back, and I admit I’m glad I wasn’t around to see him get drilled in the head. Soriano pitched through some minor injuries and was still the second-most effective reliever on the staff. I’m looking forward to seeing if he cracks the rotation next year.
Ichiro: I love watching Ichiro play. His defense in center is stellar. There’s no other hitter like him in baseball.
Bullpen: teams don’t have to spend a ton of money assembling their bullpens if they’re smart about it, and the M’s did a great job of this. They filled their roster with guys from the organization, finding roles they could pitch well in, and are in a position to have a cheap, effective bullpen for years to come, even if they end up trading some of their surplus away.
Farm system: the system’s in much better shape than it was, and it’s getting better. The drafts are better, they’re not punting picks for free agents, and the player development organization is doing a good job of finding minor leaguers who can help – this year it was in the bullpen.
That’s what occurs to me right off the bat. Are there positives I’m missing?