Hooray! While Opening Day was the 31st, the Mariners start their season today with a three-game set in Oakland. They won’t be home until next Friday, when they host Cleveland and Toronto for three games each. While we won’t know how the team is shaping up until May or June, projections are for a .500 season. If this comes to pass, they won’t get into the playoffs, but it will be an improvement over last year’s 101-loss season. Of course, .500 still equates to around 80 losses. Hmmm, there’s always the MLS Portland Timbers.
Looking at the team for the start of the season:
The number-one pticher is 2010 AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez. If he pitches anything like last year, the M’s will be in games if they can just get men across the plate. He’s followed by Jason Vargas, who also brings solid pitching and hope to the mound. Doug Fister holds down the 3-spot, and after coming up in ’09 improved his SO and BB averages last season. Fun fact: when Fister is working fans will mount pictures of a clenched fist rather than K’s for each SO.
The rotation is rounded out by Eric Bedard, who missed all of last season due to injury and surgery, and Michael Pineda, who spent 2010 in the Mariner farm system and appears to be the type of pitcher who doesn’t overpower hitters so much as induce them to hit to his fielders. An out is an out, and it will be interesting to see how he does at the MLB level. The closer is David Aardsma, who had a great ’09 season and struggled last year, so he’s something of a question mark.
The defining characteristic of last year’s team was the lack of run production. The lowest, in fact, in the majors. While the starting eight position players have decent career averages, almost nobody hit for average last year. The one person whom I hope does not hit for average is newly-aquired Brendan Ryan from St. Louis, who has managed just .196 over five MLB seasons. As he is listed as the starting SS, I hope that he’s a great fielder. The M’s hired yet another hitting coach this year; I suggest the lineup read Ted Williams’ book. The DH is journeyman Jack Cust, late of the Oakland A’s. His numbers are solid, but not spectacular.
An area of concern last season. The left side of the infield was a virtual hole, with 2/3 of the team’s total errors coming from the 2B, SS, and 3B positions. While getting rid of Lopez, the team retained Chone Figgens and Jack Wilson, moving Wilson from SS to 2B. Let us hope that much time was spent on fielding fundamentals during spring training.
Another area of concern last year. For some inexplicable reason, veteran players made some horrible base running decisions. And it wasn’t a rare occurence, it happened with some regularity. You’d look at what was happening and wonder “WTH are they thinking?” Another thing for the coaches to concentrate on.
The Mariners hired former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge to skipper the team this season. He has a demonstrated ability to manage teams for success, and was named AL Manager of the Year in 2007 after guiding Cleveland to a 96 – 66 record and winning the AL Central title.
The broadcast team has been shaken up with the death last year of charter Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus. He will be missed.
It’s a new season, and hope springs eternal. Play ball!
April Fools Day
Those wacky folks at Google are continuing their April Fools Day traditions, as this new app demonstrates.