Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If the team doesn't mix, you must fix.

By. Insider Steve

It's official; the 2011 Seattle Mariners have fallen off the face of the earth.

As painful as that was to admit, it is the ugly truth. In all of my years watching baseball, I have never witnessed such an epic mid-season tail spin as the one the mariners currently find themselves in. As Ron Fairley would aptly put it; this one's for the ages. How does a team go from 2.5 games behind in the standings on July 5th to 11.5 games in a span of 13 days? It's a great question because most teams do not usually play themselves into that situation unless they are a bad team. It would have to take a total team effort to pull off a meltdown like this, and for the first time this season, the offense isn't the one to blame for the nose dive. For the first time all season the pitching has been equally as bad. The worst part for the Mariners is that it doesn't look like it will get any better anytime soon. If you happened to glance at the upcoming schedule, you will notice that it does not offer any breaks. Two more games in Toronto before moving onto Boston for three, and then finishing up with three in the Bronx against the Yankees. It is more than possible that before the Mariners finish this road trip their losing streak could reach 15 to 20 games, but before i completely scare you off, we should discuss what it's going to take to turn this thing around.

In Jack Zduriencik's defense, his model for building a team to fit the parameters of Safeco Field looked good on paper. If you gather a bunch of high on-base guys with a couple of speedy table setters, it could negate the effects of not having a traditional power guy(s) in the middle of your lineup. If you do your job correctly and assemble the right players, your lineup conceivably would hit right in the middle of the MLB average for OPS numbers. Somewhere between .700 and .728. Zduriencik'd plan hasn't exactly worked out the way he would've liked. During his tenure, his offenses have posted OPS numbers of .716, 637, and 614. That is a -102 points drop off. It goes well beyond just overall team OPS. One look at the positional OPS numbers and you will see a roster that not only hasn't hit up to league average, but is a roster in dire need of improvement. This isn't just idle talk. This a problem that if not fixed immediately, it could snowball and negatively effect the next five seasons.

Positional breakdown by OPS from 2009 through 2011:

  • C - 2009: .658, 2011: .628: -30

  • 1B - 2009: .867, 2011: .730: -137

  • 2B - 2009: .766, 2011: .792: +26

  • 3B - 2009: .683, 2011: .478: -205

  • SS - 2009: .621, 2011: .636: +15

  • LF - 2009: .669, 2011: .606: -63

  • CF - 2009: ..764, 2011: .450: -314

  • RF - 2009: .851, 2011: .617: -234

  • DH - 2009: .735. 2011: .670: -65

The majority that have watched the Mariners up close this season would say that the holes are at the LF, 3B, and DH positions. So if the holes are that glaring why not start there? It came as kind of a surprise to me, but the LF and DH positions have not been as bad offensively this season as the CF and RF positions, so this is where I would start looking for an upgrade. Do I think that Franklin Gutierrez needs to be DFA'd? No, but if a better option presents itself in center field, and that option does provide a consistent power source without giving up too much on defense, then the Mariners would be much better suited sliding Gutierrez over to left field for the 2012 season while Ichiro plays out the final year on his current deal. Speaking quickly on Ichiro, Let's hope that 2011 was indeed just a blip on his career radar. The Mariners can ill afford to have the same type of season bleed over into the 2012 season. Anything short of Ichiro retiring back to Japan in the off season, #51 will be back in the lead off spot in 2012.

Players the Mariners to consider in CF:

  • Matt Kemp -CF - .289/.344/.487/.831, 113 HR, 403 RBI

  • Jacoby Ellsbury -CF - .296/.350/.424/.774, 33 HR, 182 RBI

The best move the Mariners could make for themselves at this seasons July 31st non-waiver trading deadline is to rid the lineup/bench of Chone Figgins. Let's face it, Figgins has not worked out the way he was supposed to. If Jack Zduriencik can persuade a team to take on the final two years of Figgins' deal, then the Mariners will be deadline winners in my opinion. Again, with Ichiro around for one more season, the Mariners must address the third base position with a consistent power source in the lineup. The Mariners cannot continue signing the Jeff Cirillos, Scott Speizios, and Chone Figgins' of the world(.538 OPS, 21 HR, 168 RBI combined in 6 seasons as Mariners) and expect the fans to accept this as a form of improvement.

Players the Mariners to look at, at 3B:

  • Wilson Betemit -3B-.268/.335/.443/.778, 58 HR, 224 RBI

  • Mark Reynolds -3B-.240/.335/.484/.819, 142 HR, 397 RBI

The only thing that is certain in regards to the Mariners is the need for a legit big bat/power threat hitting in the middle of their order. Make no mistake, most teams that have built their lineups with "on-base" guys, have a power bat hitting in the middle. In most cases, all those teams are hitting inside the league average in OPS. It should be no secret to many that the Mariners will have the money this off season to make a big splash in free agency. You have no choice but to hit a home run in this scenario (no pun intended) and pay for Prince Fielder's services. There will be the negative backlash that comes with territory of signing a guy like Prince, but in this case you have to ignore the backlash and pay attention to what is important; (Prince's career numbers).281/.388/.538/.926, 214 HR, 609 RBI. Take one second for yourself to imagine what Prince Fielder would look like in the Mariners lineup.(I'm waiting) Now look at the lineup with the roster moves I have outlined.

  1. RF - Ichiro

  2. 2B - Ackley

  3. 1B - Fielder

  4. DH - Smoak

  5. CF - Kemp

  6. 3B - Betemit

  7. C - Olivo

  8. LF - Gutierrez

  9. SS - Ryan

That lineup might not be enough to win you a World Series title, but it will get you into the playoffs, and with our pitching depth, who knows what could happen from that point. Major roster moves have to be made and it has to involve players that will pay huge dividends. Prince will be considered major because of the financial aspects of any deal he will eventually sign and bcause of the lumber he brings to the lineup (duh). Matt Kemp will be a major trade because no one is expecting the Dodgers to part ways with their All-Star who is a vital piece of their future.

Short story long, if anything the last season and a half has shown us is that without power the Mariners will not be able to compete inside their own division. It has to improve dramatically because with every year that passes, Oakland, L.A. Angels, and Texas all improve all little more offensively and widden the gap even further. It's time for the Mariners to finally address their power issues and reinsert themselves back into the ranks of the American League. If they continue to act like a small market team, they will quickly find themselves as this centuries St. Louis Browns. If anyone remembers their baseball history, and that is not a good thing. Okay 2012 Seattle Mariners. Your now officially on the clock.

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