Thursday, March 27, 2008

Know Thy Enemy: Seattle Mariners

"Know Thy Enemy: Seattle Mariners" is twelfth in a twenty-eight part series of season previews. Today Matthew Carruth is kind enough to share with us his thoughts on Seattle's 2008 season.

Erik Bedard
Felix Hernandez
Carlos Silva
Jarrod Washburn
Miguel Batista

The Mariners upgraded their rotation more than any other team in baseball this winter and it's an area they were in dire need to. Ditching the combined 6.85 runs allowed by Horacio Ramirez, Jeff Weaver, Cha Seung Baek and Ryan Feierabend over 367.7 innings with the projected totals for Silva and Bedard result in well over 100 less runs allowed. 100! All told, if Felix and Bedard remain relatively healthy atop, the rotation should be the Mariners biggest asset. Jarrod Washburn scares me, however, with his collapse potential.

J.J. Putz
Sean Green
Eric O'Flaherty

The rest of the pen is currently unknown, a choice of three to four people between Ryan Rowland-Smith, Arthur Rhodes, Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, R.A. Dickey and Cha Seung Baek. It doesn't really matter as all of these, chosen or not, will be riding the AAA-MLB express back and forth as they're mostly interchangable. Don't let that confuse you into thinking they're mediocre though, it's an above average unit overall with the potential to be one of the game's best although it is shaping up to be a step back from 2007.

C Kenji Johjima
1B Richie Sexson
2B Jose Lopez
SS Yuniesy Betancourt
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Raul Ibanez
CF Ichiro Suzuki
RF Brad Wilkerson
DH Jose Vidro

Many of the projection systems out there have the Mariners at or below .500 because of this right here. The projected runs scored for the Mariners usually hovers just over 700 runs. Given that Jose Guillen is the only loss and that the team couldn't possibly get less production from the right side of the infield in 2008 than they got in 2007, it seems unlikely for the team to collapse from 794 runs scored all the way down to 714 or so. This is the main contention between people that are bullish on Seattle's chances and those that are not.

The most important thing to know about the Mariners was that they were not an 88-win talented team in 2007. The second most important thing to know is that they were not a 79-win talented team either, as Pythag suggests they are. For as much good luck as they had with their run profile turning into extra wins, they also had some mitigating bad luck with their defense (and yes, you can have bad luck with your defense). All in all, Seattle was roughly an 83-win talented team in 2007. Is the 2008 team a better version? Tough to say. It's loads better in the rotation, but worse at the plate while the bullpen could go either way depending on the health of some key cogs. Overall, I would say they are better.

"So what," many people say, "if they're only a few games better than .500. The Angels won 94 games last year!" Well, that's the third most important thing to note about the Mariners. Their direct competition, the Angels, were not really a 94-win talented team in 2007, they weren't even the 90-win talented team Pythag pegged them for. Instead, according to BaseRuns and other peripheral-based measures of team quality, the 2007 Angels were actually somewhere around a 87-win talented team and to put it bluntly, they didn't get any better over the winter and now face 15-20* missing starts from their version of Bedard-Felix in Lackey-Escobar.

Matthew is a lifelong baseball, Seattle in particular, fan. His dad took him to his first big league game when he was 5 and by the time he was 6 he had the entire team's roster memorized and would score games at night listening to Dave Niehaus over the radio. By 8, he was playing fantasy baseball via snail mail with The Sporting News and compiling spreadsheets (no, really) to help determine how to maximize his player budget. He's since gone on to turn that drive into degrees in computer science and statistics and now regularly delves into baseball statistics. He helps write and edit for The Hardball Times and spends way too much time at Lookout Landing.

*This number is now significantly larger. Since the writing of this preview we have learned that Kelvim Escobar is likely to miss the entire 2008 season.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

If they can just learn to pitch around Vlad Guerrero when they play the Angels, they'll be alright.