Seattle Mariners 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Seattle Mariners. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season.

If nothing else, you have to admire one thing about the Mariners, they try. Do they not? Adrian Beltre had a huge season before free agency out in Los Angeles–and they go and sign him to a big dollar deal. That didn’t work out for them. They bring back their favorite son, Ken Griffey Jr. He’s entirely terrible for much of a season, but the fans seemed to like it. So they bring him back. He ends up sleeping in their clubhouse and hitting under .200 until he retires before mid-season. They bring in Cliff Lee to form a rotation around King Felix that can pitch them back to the postseason, but they have to trade him before he leaves them high and dry. They brought in Chone Figgins off of an impressive season, and he’s a dud. Milton Bradley? Dud. Then there’s Ian Snell and Endy Chavez, but we already knew they were turds.

The Seattle Mariners honestly have two things going for them–one of them is Ichiro–who will be 37 years old this season. He could probably hit until he’s 45 or so, but they need to start thinking about life without the generational talent.

The other is a 25 year old flamethrower whose seasons in the sun are being wasted by a team that cannot produce runs. King Felix won the AL Cy Young last year (he had our vote) but went just 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA. He struck out 227 hitters, and we think he’s about to be the closest thing to late 90’s Pedro as we’ve seen in a long time. But he’s not going to win as much as late-90’s Pedro did because the Mariners don’t have the firepower in the lineup. They just don’t.

They won just 61 games last season and lost 101. Eric Wedge has been inserted as the new manager to try and turn this thing around. At this point, staying out of the cellar would be a good thing for the always rebuilding Mariners.

If the Seattle Mariners were a song, it would be a sad ballad

The centerpiece of the Cliff Lee trade to Texas last year was Justin Smoak. He’s been up and down in his short career at the Major League level. When he’s been bad, he’s been really bad. If you look at his minor league track record–a .404 career OBP–it would suggest that he can become a nice player at the next level. It hasn’t happened yet and if the song continues on the same as it has, it’s going to be one of more misfortune. We’re not overly optimistic about Smoak.

Chone Figgins has always been a really nice little player. He’s a career .287 and that’s even with last year’s brutal .259, a career worst. They go out, sign a guy who finished 10th in AL MVP voting the year before and he comes in and starts to play like a guy on the decline. You hope he rebounds, but it would be perfectly normal if the sun kept setting for Figgins wouldn’t it?

Don’t forget about the Erik Bedard saga, which is still ongoing.

The middle infield comprised of the Gary & Ace combo that is Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan. Jack freakin’ Wilson, folks. If that was your starting shortstop, you would want to eat a gun barrel. Trust me. Ryan is a scrappy player and everyone knows he’s just keeping the seat warm for Dustin Ackley, but that’s still at-bats you’re throwing away to a guy who can’t hit, and hasn’t ever consistently been able to hit.

Rain or shine, there will be Ichiro

For 11 years now, the Mariners have been able to count on one thing—Ichiro Suzuki producing at the top of the order. In 10 seasons in America, he has 10 Gold Gloves and 10 200-hit seasons. He’s a compelling storyline. There’s no more perfect fit for this player in all of baseball. In fact, there’s no other fit period. Ichiro should and will retire a Mariner and we hope he makes a run at 3,000 hits. He’s going to end up short in all likelihood, but stranger things have taken place. That said, he should still be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

A strength?

It should be one of the best defensive outfields in all of baseball. Franklin Gutierrez is statistically one of the best outfielders in the game, and he’s better than Ichiro over in right who has won a Gold Glove every season. Micheal Saunders is a question mark over in left field, but at 24 years of age he’ll get to balls that an aging Raul Ibanez wouldn’t.

Milton Bradley and Jack Cust on the same team?

Tell me that’s not a recipe for disaster. The gang’s all here, folks.

Bradley hit .205 in 73 games as a Mariner last year. Cust actually closed out his Oakland career with a career best .272 in limited duty. He hit a lot of home runs in Oakland. If you combine these two together they’ve played for pretty much every franchise in baseball. Bradley even has the defunct Expos on his resume. Find me another two active players on the same bench who have been on more combined teams.

The Final Verdict

These guys have been somewhat snakebitten. David Aardsma has been a really nice player for them emerging as a solid closer option for the few games that they have a late lead. He’s hurt.

I think their starting rotation is one of the worst in baseball. So bad that I won’t name names after King Felix. I think their lineup is so sub par after Ichiro that if I was an M’s fan I would purchase Extra Innings so I had something interesting to watch during the season.

Eric Wedge is about to get some more gray hair. They won’t lose 100 but they’ll be in the cellar again and drop over 90 games. Felix goes 16-4 and strikes out 230 more. Ichiro hits .325 in his sleep, collects 214 more hits and steals near 50 bags. If that’s not enough to interest you Seattle, at least you have the first Starbucks, the Space Needle and Pikes Place. Already seen all of that? Alright, you’re in for a long summer.