Seattle Mariners 2008 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the Seattle Mariners.

If you’re ever in Seattle, restaurant you must eat at: Shiro’s Sushi

Diamond Hoggers’ Seattle Mariners Blog of Choice: U.S.S. Mariner

They’ve definitely got an intriguing lineup but not necessarily a powerhouse lineup. It’s the usual suspects, starting with the game’s finest leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki. The lineup is centered around ageless first baseman Richie Sexson who’s got to rebound from a collapse that saw him hit only .205 with 21 HR last season. Jose Lopez and Adrian (we don’t call him Andre) Beltre should be centerpieces in the lineup as well.

In right field will be Brad Wilkerson and at shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. Neither has emerged in their career as a premiere offensive threat, but they’re not bad players either. Betancourt did have 38 doubles last season so that could be an indication that his power numbers are to rise. In left field is the least talked about solid offensive player in the game possibly, Raul Ibanez. He had 21 HR, a sub-.300 average and 100+ RBI last season. Jose Vidro can still hit, he figures to do some designated hitter duties and the catcher is solid Kenji Johjima.

These guys won’t knock the fences down in any ballpark, but they should be able to give some headaches to teams with their power-speed mix and ability to drive the gaps.

Rating: 8.0

If they’re going to be a playoff team, this is where the questions need answered. If the 1 and 2 guys in this rotation pitch like I believe they’re capable, it is going to be game over on a lot of nights before things even get started. The #1 figures to be Erik Bedard, acquired for a plethora of peanuts in the offseason from Baltimore. The #2 is a guy who I think could be a Cy Young candidate Felix Hernandez. From there, it’s a couple so-so guys but these two are electric and young; and if they realize their potential there won’t be a tandem in the game that can dominate like they do at the top of a rotation. Of course, they could possibly be another year away from hitting their full stride as Major League players.

From there it will be Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, and Carlos Silva. They might have overpaid for Silva but I like both he and Batista very much; especially as 4 and 5 starters. Washburn might have reached the end of his rope.

The bullpen is comprised of a bunch of ‘who?’ for now, but that could change in a month’s time. It certainly did for their closer J.J. Putz, an All-Star who throws big time gas and is an imposing figure on the mound. He had 40 saves and a 1.38 ERA last season. That’s a hell of a season.

Sean Green, Eric O’Flaherty, and Brandon Morrow will see some significant innings out of the pen, but you probably don’t know much about them.

Rating: 8.2

John McLaren is the manager of this club and he took over after Mike Hargrove decided that he’d lost his passion for the game. Over 84 games, McLaren went 43-41 which is not bad. Still, can’t you see him having a year of cushion should they falter? It isn’t reasonable to expect too much out of McLaren in just his 2nd year of big league experience is it? If there’s one area about this team I’m not overly thrilled about, it’s their manager.

He’s a wild-card for now.

Rating: 7.4

This team is a pretty slick-fielding team all the way around. I like the way they catch and throw the baseball and I think they’ve got a real chance to be in a lot of ballgames just because their defense won’t hurt them. You won’t see that from many teams present day because around the league, teams are taught to live by the 3-run homerun. The Mariners manager is from the Piniella managerial tree, and these guys are going to play sound fundamental baseball.

They’ll be as much of a small ball team as any in the American League, and I think they have the personnel to make it work. Their ballpark has been complained about in the past by sluggers for being too much of a pitchers park. There’s no one on this roster now who will complain about it.

Rating: 8.6

Hey, I like these guys. Ichiro is something special to marvel at and we’ll never see it again. We all know my love for Andre Adrian Beltre. Felix Hernandez is on my fantasy team, hand-picked for perfection. These guys could be incredibly solid and I don’t think the AL West is all that great. It’s going to come down to the M’s and Angels, as it did so many years when Griffey manned the pasture for Seattle. This was my favorite team as a kid, along with every other midwestern kid who had reason to stay up late on school nights to see if #24 homered and if Seattle and Mike Blowers, Chris Bosio, and Edgar Martinez pulled it out.

Rating: 8.0