Friday, April 3, 2009

Lineup Against the Wall: Los Marineros de Seattle

Usually, when I hear "La Bamba," I don't think about Seattle baseball, but with regards to the club's 2008 campaign, I imagine a lot of MLBers took secret pride in thinking to themselves Yo no soy marinero. Seattle's American League-worst record last year -- they finished 61-101, with only Washington in the NL (59-102) doing worse -- was something of a feat in that division-winning Los Angeles, with their 100 wins created the biggest gap in record between first and last place in a division in all of baseball. Needless to say, the Mariners have their work cut out for them this year, and -- yep, you guessed it -- we'll examine what tools they'll use in an effort to improve in 2009, just after the jump.

When the Mariners take the field Monday in Minnesota, I hope for their sake that their skipper Don Wakamatsu has something up his sleeve when he pencils in the lineup, because from down here in my mom's basement, it doesn't look so hot:

1) RF Ichiro Suzuki 15-day DL with a bleeding ulcer. Ouch. Wladimir Balentien likely gets the nod in Suzuki's spot.
2) SS Yuniesky Betancourt
3) 3B Adrian Beltre
4) DH Ken Griffey, Jr.
5) 1B Russell Branyan
6) CF Franklin Gutierrez
7) LF Endy Chavez
8) 2B Jose Lopez
9) C Kenji Johjima

Now, maybe you swap Betancourt and Gutierrez, or perhaps you plug Lopez in higher up, say in Branyan's spot, but given that there's minimal speed on this team, especially with an injured Suzuki, and you never can tell how long Griff'll be healthy, there's automatically a trickier science involved when you attempt to get Mariners in scoring position, then actually advance them. Yes, you have a couple of bats that'll get you 20+ long balls, but the rest of the guys are sub-par at best. And then there's Johjima, who's just awful. So logic would suggest that you lean heavily on your pitching to keep you in games, which is fine, except when your starting rotation looks like this:

1) Felix Hernandez
2) Erik Bedard
3) Carlos Silva
4) Jarrod Washburn
5) Ryan Rowland-Smith

Now, the pro in that squad is that there's two lefties. The con is that they're all coming off of pretty rotten seasons. They had a combined 29 wins among the five. Combined. Their E.R.A. averaged out to 4.32, and not a one of them had a particularly staggering Ks-BBs ratio. Hernandez did fan 175 batters, but Bedard didn't even scrape the surface of what he accomplished in '07, and in all honesty, Ryan Rowland-Smith has just as good a shot as any of those cats at having the best year from the mound, and he's a bullpen promotee.

Speaking of the 'pen, I can think of two words to describe it: young and bad. So, if you can piecemeal some decent starts, and hope to God that your crappy middle relievers can keep you in the game, at least you have your closer. Unless his name is J.J. Putz, who's now cashing checks from the New York Mets. And in the vein of acquisitions, Seattles suits did very little. Yes, they got Griffey back, and true, Gutierrez and Branyan are new to town, but that ain't gonna get you any sympathy wins.

I'd like to say I see a silver lining in this Seattle club, but it ain't there. As a Royals fan, I never want to heap consecutive-100-loss-seasons on a team as a prediction, but I don't see any way around it for these guys. In fact, they might even lose more than last year.