Seattle Mariners - Early Season Grades

The Seattle Mariners have had a roller coaster start to the 2009 season. Here’s their report card so far.

Overall Starting Pitching: B-

The M’s starting pitching has been pretty solid—aside from the consistently bad Carlos Silva.

King Felix is finally starting to realize his potential.

The finally healthy Erik Bedard is looking like the ace we overpaid for.

Jarrod Washburn has looked fantastic for a No. 4 starter. I don’t expect him to keep up these fantastic numbers (2.68 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .220 BAA), but his new sinker grip seems to be working well and I have high hopes for the rest of the season.

The other two pieces of the rotation are a bit of a mess right now, but the pieces should fall back into place when Ryan Rowland-Smith comes off of the DL

Hitting

RF – Ichiro Suzuki: B

Ichiro has looked pretty much like he always does. His current line is .315/.351/.407—typical for Ichiro. He hits for a high batting average but doesn’t draw a lot of walks because he’s a very aggressive hitter. He’s come through when we’ve needed him for the most part this season.

CF – Franklin Gutierrez: B

I love Franklin Gutierrez. He would  be an asset even if all he could do was play defense. But he adds something very important to this lineup: patience.

He is one of the few hitters on the Mariners who actually works the count. He has also had some timely hits this season, including a couple of big home runs to get us back into some games. His current line is .272/.362/.402. Not bad for a player picked up for defense.

LF – Endy Chavez: B+

Endy really stepped up for the Mariners when he was pushed into the leadoff spot in Ichiro’s absence. He was a big part of their hot start, but his numbers have decreased severely since Ichiro’s return.

Endy is still sporting a decent line at .279/.345/.327. His glove and speed are both huge boosts to our outfield, and he’s still a good option at LF against RHP.

1B – Russell Branyan: A-

Russell the Muscle is simply off to a fantastic start.

He’s one of those guys who’s never gotten a chance to be an everyday player. He’s already showing that he’s up to the challenge.

He leads the team with seven home runs, side by side with some other impressive numbers: 15 RBI, .289 BA, .577 SLG. Those numbers are nothing to scoff at, especially for a player we got at a relatively low price.

2B – Jose Lopez: C+

One thing Lopez is doing fairly well is get runs in. He’s leading the team with 19 RBI and is playing good defense at second base.

Unfortunately, that’s about all he’s doing well.

He’s already grounded into seven double plays and is showing a mediocre line at .256/.298/.372. He has also been a little bit too aggressive, swinging at the first pitch a lot and not taking nearly enough pitches.

SS – Yuniesky Betancourt: D

Yuni used to be a great defensive shortstop. Sadly that is no longer the case.

Not only has he already made four errors this season (most of them costly), but he has turned countless routine ground balls into singles due to poor positioning.

I’m not sure whom to blame for his positioning, but it’s hard to believe that no one has told him to move over by now.

As for his hitting, his numbers don’t look too bad (.265/.276/.345), but did you notice how small the difference is between batting average and his on-base percentage? That’s because he’s walked only twice.

Two walks in 117 plate appearances.

That’s just awful.

Someone needs to pound it into Yuni’s head that he needs to take pitches, or he needs some time on the bench, which I’ve been preaching for weeks.

3B – Adrian Beltre: D+

It’s hard to give Adrian a bad grade because of his phenomenal defense, but his lack of offensive production at the cleanup spot has really hurt this team.

He’s putting up a very pedestrian line of .234/.265/.328, and did not have a home run until two games ago. He also has four times as many strikeouts as walks (20-5).

Fortunately, he broke out a little bit in the Twins series last weekend after apparently having a meeting with the hitting coach. One can only hope that this is the beginning of a giant turnaround for Beltre.

I’m confident that it is.

C – Kenji Johjima: C-

Kenji just hasn’t looked right since 2007.

He put up terrible numbers in 2008 and is not off to a much better start in 2009.

One thing he has done fairly well is drive in runs when we’ve really needed him to. I guess you could say he’s been somewhat “clutch.” He currently has six RBI in only 13 games—not bad considering his numbers last year (39 RBI in 112 games).

He also has a slightly higher BA than in 2008, so perhaps all hope is not lost for our beloved Kenji. Joh’s current line is .250/.265/.333.

DH – Ken Griffey Jr: C

No, he hasn’t put up great numbers, but when he does hit he seems to rejuvenate this lackluster offense. I really can’t overstate how important that can be.

He has also accumulated an impressive 15 walks in only 93 plate appearances and has a decent OPS at .729.

He has only three home runs, but two of them have come at crucial points and sparked the slumbering Mariners offense. His current line is .218/.344/.385.

Summary

If my math is correct, this would put the Mariners at about a C+ so far.

Not bad, considering they were an undisputed F in 2008. But I’m not quite sure C+ play for the rest of the season will be good enough to win even the AL West.

Beltre and Lopez really need to heat up, and, of course, something needs to be done about Betancourt.

The return of Ryan Rowland-Smith should provide a small boost to this team, as will the returns of some of our key relievers (Chad Cordero, Cesar Jimenez, Sean Kelley).

All in all, its’ been a promising beginning to the 2009 campaign.

Here’s to a refreshingly average season!

 

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