Ten Reasons Why the M’s Will NOT Win the West
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 21, 2006
Okay, from Mr. Optimistic to his pessimistic cousin, here are 10 reasons why the M's have very little chance, if any, to continue their winning ways and contend in the American League West.
But first, remember, there are more than 10 reason, at least detailed reasons, these just happen to be the on-field factors that stick out.
10. The M's are relying on far too many unproven offensive talents to score 5+ runs per game, which is what it's going to take to compete all season.
Jose Lopez is off to a fantastic start but one cannot expect Lopez to slug .475 for the season. If he does, great, and it's not impossible for him to do so by any means, but the club simply cannot lean on him that much.
How long can Yuniesky Betancourt hit nearly .300? Again, he may, but the club is winning right now, partly because there aren't any easy outs in the lineup. The smart money is that both Lopez and Betancourt hit slump, probably at the same time, for a decent stretch in the second half of the season. Pitchers will start to find some holes and force them both to adjust.
Kenji Johjima is already in a tailspin offensively… He'll come out of it and he's still an upgrade over 2005, but the club needs him to produce regularly if they are to stay in it.
Say what you will about Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson – they have to hit at some decent level for the M's to even play .400 ball after the break. But the kids have to continue to back them up, or the postseason is simply a dream – and that is asking an awful lot of a couple of rookies.
9. Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro just aren't good.
Meche has been very good at times and as bad as it gets in other starts. And Joel Pineiro is bad, even when he's good. Smoke and Mirrors will not get the M's pitching staff through even the weak AL West.
Meche has a chance, at least, to be league average, which is really all the M's can hope for, and all they need from him. But if Pineiro is going to be among the league's worst starting pitchers, the Mariners are going to be a starter short of contention.
Relying on the relief corps to pick up the slack 40 percent of the time is unacceptable and just won't do.
8. Lack of Trade Bait.
While the Oakland A's and Texas Rangers are out panning the league to acquire help at the trading deadline, the Seattle Mariners are stuck.
They have the payroll space to take on a contract, but is Howard Lincoln going to be willing to pay, in dollars, for what the club cannot supply in terms of minor league talent? I seriously doubt it.
Jason Schmidt is not coming here. Barry Zito is not coming here. Carl Crawford is not going to dress in navy blue anytime soon – at least not on ball field.
Even an arm like Odalis Perez is making too much cash for the Mariners to be willing to add him in July.
The offensive help is limited to Ken Griffey, Jr, whom the Reds probably won't be willing to simply "dump" this year, since they are within shouting distance of the postseason, and someone like Aubrey Huff or Reggie Sanders.
The A's may deal Barry Zito, weakening their starting rotation for the time being, but in the end, they are probably going to add immediate help that will continue into the next few seasons.
Adding a major-league ready bat and a young, mid-line starter for Zito is probably going to help the A's down the stretch, since their biggest weakness lies in their everyday lineup.
In the end, a mediocre farm system is going to haunt the Mariners to a significant degree once the deadline comes and goes. They'll be slurping their colas from the backseat.
7. Jamie Moyer, an ageless wonder, cannot be the ace of the staff.
He's pitched better than the other four starters all season long and his 3.53 ERA is impressive enough, but like the kids in the lineup – how long can he pitch at this level? He's much more likely to fall back down to earth somewhat, and land that ERA in the 4.00-4.3 range where it was a year ago.
Moyer's ERA may be an anomaly, anyways. Last season he posted a 4.28 mark while his rate stats stood at .283/.331/.441 with a 4.59 K/9 and a 1.96 K/BB.
This seasons he's marginally better – or the same – in all areas; .279/.321/.441, 4.78, 2.26.
There is some luck in Jamie's numbers this year, though expecting him to fall apart probably wouldn't be wise. I just expect him to finish somewhere near last season's numbers. Over 200 innings, a league average park-adjusted ERA, and leadership is what Moyer brings to this club.
They'll take it, and so will I, but he's not the staff ace that they need him to be in order to battle the A's and Rangers…
Which brings us to No. 6.
6. Felix Hernandez.
Hernandez is a reason to both believe the M's can win this division, and a reason to believe they can't. Until the past three weeks, the 20-year-old has been the model of inconsistencies, both within games and over the course of the first 10 weeks of the season.
If Hernandez finds a steady balance every five days, the M's have themselves a staff ace. A horse that can stop losing streaks and help the club avoid bad streaks to begin with.
But he's 20, in his first full year in the bigs and has yet to show he's capable of pushing through. I'm not picking on him, not at all, but unless Felix dupes his 2005 over the next six weeks, Seattle could easily find themselves 10 games back by the time July 31 rolls around.
Hernandez can pick up some of the slack that Meche and Pineiro are serving up, and then some. But the chances of "ace, Felix Hernandez" aren't very high, at least consistently.
5. The Bullpen is Very Shallow.
Like a kiddie pool in South Orange in July, the M's relief corps is extremely shallow. Closer J.J. Putz, right-hander Rafael Soriano and southpaw George Sherrill are steady, reliable relievers.
But Eddie Guardado, Jake Woods, Julio Mateo and Emiliano Fruto are not what you'd call a formidable group.
Woods and Guardado are out of their elements. Woods because he's a Triple-A pitcher and Guardado because he's got no stuff and being asked to be a lefty setup man – after spending the last four+ years as a closer.
Mateo isn't what he was, even last year, and certainly is nowhere near his 2003 form. Fruto just isn't ready to get it done consistently in the majors. He's got the stuff, but his command needs work.
Mateo has a chance to still be pretty useful, but it doesn't appear that he's going to be capable of covering 2+ innings per appearance like he did a year ago.
At some point, Soriano and Putz may tire out, setting the club up for disaster in August.
Relying on the other four arms scare the daylights out of me – and apparently Mike Hargrove, too, since he's gone to Mateo in shorter stints than he did a year ago, and isn't counting on him in tight situations.
If it comes down to the starting pitching and their struggles, the bullpen can't back them up, and that spells doom for a club that isn't likely to score a ton of runs down the stretch.
4. The M's don't have a K-Rod or a Miguel Cabrera in their farm system.
There won't be any late-season additions from within that have a chance to push the offense over the top or to shore up a weak spot in the rotation or bullpen.
Adam Jones isn't ready for the show just yet, Jeff Clement has a lotof work to do before showing he's ready to face major league arms, and Shin-soo Choo isn't an impact bat.
The one guy with a chance to help, albeit at much less than a Cabrera-like level , is Chris Snelling. Snelling, however, has his own issues, such as the surgically-repaired knee that kept him out until May.
Snelling can hit in the big leagues, there isn't a lot of doubt about that. If he can regain his timing and heal up that knee, he has a shot to replace Carl Everett in the lineup — but there isn't a lot of impact in that exchange, at least not enough to offset what the rest of the division is capable of getting done.
The only arm that makes any sense right now is Francisco Cruceta, though, like Fruto, he has command problems that pokes its head up a little more often
3. The Oakland Athletics.
One game could keep the M's from winning the division, and if that ever happened, you can put good cash on that one game being at the hands of the Oakland A's, aka, the daddies of the 2006 Seattle Mariners.
The M's have a history of struggling in Oakland, and have had trouble with certain pitchers, even inexplicably bad pitchers, which is the case with Joe Blanton this year.
The M's are 1-9 versus the A's and five games over .500 versus the rest of baseball, including a 7-0 mark against the National League.
If the Mariners want to stay in this thing, they have to play ball with the A's. They don't have to beat the A's more than the A's beat the M's, but a bare minimum of .500 versus them the rest of the way would play enormously in the club's chances of truly making a run this summer.
Fate rarely ever resides with the Seattle Mariners. Anytime something potentially positive can happen, something gets in the way, and often times it's the upper management.
We'll throw this one on fate, however, since the games are played on the field and things seem to work out far less for Seattle than any other club in baseball – even when they appear to make the right decisions on big-time players.
1. Billy Beane.
There will be a creative move made by the Oakland GM this season – maybe even two or three. The A's are already good enough to get hot – again – and run away with the West but imagine if they traded Barry Zito – and actually got better in the process.
Beane is as good a GM as there is in sports, and has the backing of the new ownership, even a bit more financially than was Steve Schott, the organization's previous majority share holder.
The M's have zero chance to keep up in that sense.