Strengths and Weaknesses

Dave · March 30, 2007 at 8:34 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Opening day is two days away. Huzzah! The M’s start at 0-0, just like everyone else. So, in that vein, lets take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the 2007 Seattle Mariners.


Felix Hernandez

The best arm of any starting pitcher in baseball along with an apparent dedication to hard work and improving his game. If there’s one thing to love about the M’s, its Felix. Not only is he a competitive advantage over every team in the division, he’s also 20 years old. All hail the king.

Infield Defense

Adrian Beltre and Yuniesky Betancourt are two of the best defenders at their positions in baseball. Jose Lopez is good enough to man second base. Richie Sexson’s glove is a problem, but if you’re going to have a bad defensive infielder, first base is the place to have one. This well above average collection of groundball vacuums should benefit the pitching staff, as well as those who just love to watch the leather being thrown around.

Line-Up Depth

The opening day line-up is going to have Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt batting 8th and 9th in some order. Both are projected to be nearly league average hitters, and they’re filling out the last two spots in the batting order. What the offense lacks in thump, it attempts to make up for in balance.

J.J. Putz

If his arm gets loose and he can unleash 98 MPH fastballs and 90 MPH splitters on the AL, he’s as good as it gets in the 9th inning. Closers are generally overrated, but when you have a relief ace as good as Putz, the hype is justified by the wins he adds.



The Mariners aren’t a team that can survive multiple injuries. There’s not a capable major league replacement in the organization for Johjima, Beltre, Betancourt, or Lopez. If any of those four get hurt, the downgrade is going to be significant and swift. The same goes for Felix and Putz, the two good power arms on the team, who would be replaced by the likes of Cha Baek or Jake Woods on the roster. If long term injuries strike any of these key players, the season’s over.

Middle Of The Order

You’d be hard pressed to find a worse 3-4-5 combination in baseball than Vidro-Ibanez-Sexson. Vidro’s a contact gap hitter who can’t run, while Ibanez is trying to sustain his late career surge at age 35, and Sexson’s hoping to overpower the decline that is chasing him around the field everyday. All three are flawed players with little upside and would be role players on any other team with hopes of contending. On the Mariners, they’re the run producers.

Non-Putz bulllpen

Last year, the Mariners had one of the very best bullpens in baseball. After giving away Rafael Soriano, throwing money away to try and rehab Chris Reitsma, and counting on Julio Mateo to serve a prominant role in the bullpen, the team is going to have to sweat its way through every 7th and 8th inning lead. The team’s best chance for bullpen success lands on the very inexperienced shoulders of Brandon Morrow. For the 2007 team’s sake, he better be ready.


In general, the field manager doesn’t make as much difference as fans believe. Mike Hargrove is not “in general”, however, and he’s easily one of the least qualified people to be running a team currently residing in a major league dugout. His teams have consistently underperformed under his watch, and his strategic decisions aren’t just poor, in many cases, they are indefensible. The front office hasn’t inspired much confidence in their roster construction, either, and the leadership has clearly taken a win-now approach that could jeopardize future talent in an effort to preserve jobs.

Overall Assessment

This is a flawed team that needs a lot of things to go right to contend for the division. There is talent all over the field, but every player comes with a substantial question about his ability to perform. The only sure thing on the roster is that Willie Bloomquist can’t hit. Everything else is questionable. Going into the season with so many variables leads to a lot of possible paths, from division champ all the way down to worst team in baseball. There’s no scenario you can imagine that isn’t at least somewhat plausible with this roster.

This team is, essentially, baseball’s version of the rusty trunk thats been stored in your grandparents home for 80 years. There’s a real chance that you could find several gold bars, one of the first photographs in american history, and the original copy of the declaration of independence. Or you might find a pair of false teeth, a hoard of rats, and a shirt containing remnants of the bubonic plague.

You won’t know until you open the trunk. We’ll find out on Monday.


76 Responses to “Strengths and Weaknesses”

  1. colm on March 30th, 2007 1:51 pm

    And I’m much more likely to go to six or so M’s games this year than I am to see Wednesday play.

  2. sevenfly on March 30th, 2007 2:24 pm

    The only sure thing on the roster is that Willie Bloomquist can’t hit.

    Ichiro’s production is a sure thing. Do you really think this is the year he doesn’t get 200 hits? Joh is a plus bat, and there isn’t any reason to think he won’t produce at the same level as last year. I know this community doesn’t like Sexson, but who would bet that he doesn’t drive in 100 runs?

    There ARE a lot of question marks, but it seems trendy in this blog to act like the sky is falling. Don’t get me wrong, 110 million should net a better team than this, but there are some reasons for hope. Don’t wreck my favorite time of year… when the M’s are tied for first and haven’t lost a single regular season game.

  3. David* on March 30th, 2007 2:37 pm


    Awesome commercials!


  4. Dan W on March 30th, 2007 2:40 pm

    I’ll be at the ballpark Monday afternoon to see Felix start a winning streak over the A’s and put the Mariners in 1st place in the AL West. It doesn’t get better than that. The offense will be much better, and the pitching not that much worse, overall. They’ve got a shot. Keep the faith.

  5. msb on March 30th, 2007 2:41 pm

    if you look at ads for other teams, the Mariner ads– even in an off year — look like works of art.

    ok, maybe not the Home Shopping Network series.

  6. Beniitec on March 30th, 2007 2:41 pm

    Well said #52. This is our o-n-l-y time of the year to have faith and hope in the Mariners it seems. So hey, let us savor it for a few days. Willie can hit. He can hit a golf ball too, I saw it on tv! And he’s H-O-T right now. Give the guy a break.

  7. eponymous coward on March 30th, 2007 3:03 pm

    It’s not all doom and gloom, but folks, you can’t be encouraged when management makes so many questionable and risky moves.

    I think this is probably a .500-ish club, but

    Oh, and for “weaknesses”: a lineup without anything really resembling a patient hitter. (No, Ichiro doesn’t count.) They’ll score some runs when they are hot, but like last year, there will be some nights where they are ice cold. I won’t be surprised to see the M’s lead the league in getting shut out again, while still having a decent offense.

  8. gwangung on March 30th, 2007 3:26 pm

    Oh, and for “weaknesses”: a lineup without anything really resembling a patient hitter. (No, Ichiro doesn’t count.) They’ll score some runs when they are hot, but like last year, there will be some nights where they are ice cold. I won’t be surprised to see the M’s lead the league in getting shut out again, while still having a decent offense.

    Good point. I don’t think we’ll see any changes to this pattern in 2007.

    (Was there a study that dealt with this? Patient clubs being more consistent? Or am I misremembering….)

  9. QuoVadis on March 30th, 2007 4:06 pm

    Coming in late. Can’t log in at work. Thinking about quitting my job but the money’s too good.

    I think it’s premature to list Felix under “Strength”. He reminds me a lot of Freddy in that he has lots of potential but lacks focus and consistency. I just think it’s too early. He hasn’t proven himself yet and his last spring training “tune up” didn’t sound very good.

  10. Mike G. on March 30th, 2007 4:16 pm

    I believe the Mariner’s are capable of winning more than the 73 games they’re projected to. I’m curious what PECOTA had them at last year and if they over performed that projection.

  11. Mike G. on March 30th, 2007 4:40 pm

    Soooo The M’s performed one win better than their projection last year. Hope springs eternal!

  12. Dave Clapper on March 30th, 2007 4:40 pm

    60: You don’t have to look any futher than the comments in the PECOTA thread just down the page:

    The PECOTA projection for the 2006 Mariners was 77 and 85. Actual performance was 78 and 84.

  13. Boss! Boss! LaHair! LaHair! on March 30th, 2007 4:49 pm

    I believe the Mariner’s are capable of winning more than the 73 games they’re projected to.

    I believe I’m capable of hooking up with my hot co-worker, but that ain’t gonna happen.

  14. Steve T on March 30th, 2007 4:52 pm

    Performance in a single game, especially a spring training game, doesn’t tell you anything about Felix or anyone else. As for comparing him to Freddy Garcia, Felix is 20. When Freddy was 20, he was pitching in A ball. I hope you understand the difference in levels, and the rarity and difficulty of pitching at this level at such a young age. Felix is special. Freddy was never close to special in that way.

  15. metz123 on March 30th, 2007 5:09 pm

    ya know I hate to say this but this roster reminds me a lot of the 1995 team, especially in the pitching department. Take a look at the stats compiled by the 95 starters…

    Bosio 10-8 4.92 ERA
    Belcher 10-12 4.52 ERA
    Torres 3-8 6.00 ERA
    Benes 7-2 5.86 ERA


    Randy 18-2 2.48 ERA

    They had one outstanding pitcher (think Felix) that carried the rest of the starting staff. They had 2 good relievers (Charlton & Nelson). On offense they had a year for the ages by Edgar and good years by Bone and Tino.

    It just goes to show that lightening can strike and 1 or 2 great years can carry an otherwise mediocre club to a winning season.

  16. terry on March 30th, 2007 6:30 pm

    But here’s what I did find at THT:

    2004: 21.1% line drives, 43.4% ground balls, N/A on IF/F

    2005: 20.8% line drives, 45.6% ground balls, 8.6% IF/F

    2006: 19.3% line drives, 42.1% GBs, 10.5% IF/F

    Dave, do you read that to be statistically significant?

    Do you?

    Here’s something a little more divergent:

    2004: 35.0% FB%; 144 FB; 11.1% FB/HR;
    2005: 34.2% FB%; 177 FB; 11.3% FB/HR;
    2006: 38.6% FB%; 200 FB; 16.5% FB/HR;

    The biggest difference between ’06 and before: in ’06, a greater percentage of his flyballs went yard and happily, he also hit more flyballs…

  17. terry on March 30th, 2007 6:56 pm

    Basically his LD dropped a little and his GB dropped a little…. little losses there translated into a decent increase in flyballs. As it happened he turned more flyballs into HRs as well.

    That 16.5% really jumps out and makes you wonder if Ibanez can repeat that…

  18. B_Con on March 30th, 2007 7:05 pm

    “Factually, we’re a better team,” Bavasi said, “and if you do the quantitative analysis with statistics, we improved the most in our division. Unfortunately, we had the farthest to go.”

    Is this a statement of fact? Just curious if anyone knows the concensus of “the quantative analysis with statistics”.

  19. terry on March 30th, 2007 7:15 pm

    To me, the biggest problem with the Ms last year was that their holes were blackholes (i.e. they were killed by their weak links really being truly, truly awful).

    They fixed that by making their holes closer to the league average.. I suppose that’s an improvement. Dave pretty much nails it IMHO…now you cross your fingers…

  20. Eastside Crank on March 30th, 2007 7:18 pm

    I really disagree about the relative defensive merits of 1st basemen. A poor fielding 1st baseman (Sexson) drags down the whole infield and a good fielding one (Olerud) raises the level of play of the infield. You do not want your infielders having to think about the throw to 1st and whether or not it is going to be caught. Olerud could save any throw coming his way which meant that the throws could be spontaneous and Boone could roll around on the ground, throw the ball in the dirt, and it would still be scooped up for an out. I almost could stand for called 3rd strikes if Sexson were an above average fielder.

  21. Thom Jimsen on March 30th, 2007 7:27 pm

    I see the A’s picked up Todd Walker. Still the shrewdest Dumpster-divers on the block.

  22. David J. Corcoran I on March 30th, 2007 7:32 pm

    68: Quantative Analysis of Statistics could be anything. They could have been using the Veteran-Grittiness-ometer and used that as their judge. That’s just rhetoric.

  23. scraps on March 30th, 2007 8:39 pm

    If first basemen have a substantial effect on the infoelders they play with, that effect should be measurable.

    [Ibanez] could run up near-MVP numbers again

    Ibanez has never put up near-MVP numbers. Last year was his best year, and he finished 21st in the MVP voting — and he didn’t deserve to finish higher. He was 26th in Value Over Replacement Player, and that doesn’t even take his subpar defense into account.

  24. Eastside Crank on March 30th, 2007 8:57 pm

    I grew up watching the Dodgers when they had one gold glove 1st baseman after another. Garvey made Russel, Cey, Lopes, and Sax look like all-stars (maybe not Sax). If he could reach a throw he would catch it. I wish the Mariners would get a competent 1st baseman so the comparison could be made. Olerud was as good as any I have seen and it is disappointing that they do not have a good defensive backup.

  25. Eastside Crank on March 30th, 2007 9:05 pm

    The lack of pitching will do in the Mariners by the all-star break. The starters will struggle to give 5 good innings and the bullpen has been neglected. I do like the depth of the lineup when the Mariners are at bat for the first time in a few years. Scoring runs will still be a struggle with so many station to station runners.

  26. Paul B on March 31st, 2007 5:43 am

    if you sign a half dozen aging veterans each of whom have histories of injury, or are coming off serious injuries, what would you logically expect to happen?

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