Team Preview: Seattle Mariners

The Mariners’ 2010 season was a colossal failure any way you care to measure it. The offense was both bad and unlucky. For reasons unknown to man and/or beast, manager Don Wakamatsu (before being fired) deployed Ken Griffey and Mike Sweeney with unnerving frequency — both of whom were part of an early season controversy involving the sleeping habits of the former. Milton Bradley had a bit of a Milton Bradley Situation. And somehow the Mariners lost three games behind God’s Most Blessed Angel, Cliff Lee.

Projected Starting Lineup
1 RF Ichiro Suzuki*
2 3B Chone Figgins**
3 LF Milton Bradley**
4 DH Jack Cust*
5 CF Franklin Gutierrez
6 C Miguel Olivo
7 1B Justin Smoak**
8 SS Jack Wilson
9 2B Brendan Ryan

To get a sense of how poor the offense was last year, consider this fact: in 2010, Mariner DHs slashed .194/.269/.340, a figure that compares a little too closely to the .143/.177/.176 triple-slash posted last year by National League pitchers. The team as a whole finised 30th in the majors with 138.4 weighted batting runs below average — a metric that adjusts for park. Basically, if Jason Kendall had started every game at every position, the Mariners would’ve been no worse off — from an offensive point of view, at least.

The 2011 season should see an improvement on the offensive side, if for no other reason than things are unlikely to get worse. Ichiro is — perhaps suprisingly at age 37 — still Ichiro!, and is likely to be good for four to five wins again.

After Ichiro, question marks abound. One is tempted to say that Chone Figgins is likely to rebound — and he is likely to rebound from a .259/.340/.306 88 wRC+. But he also (a) is entering his age-33 season and (b) possesses a walk-heavy offensive approach that’s unique for a player with so little power. A move back to third base — from second, where his one year UZR (which should, obviously, be taken with a grain of salt) was terrible — might help improve his offensive game, too.

As for middle infielders Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan? They’re plus defenders, is one thing you can certainly say about them, although they’re unlikely to post a league-average offensive numbers. The Miguel Olivo signing is a bit strange considering that his (i.e. Olivo’s) one asset (besides a strong defensive reputation) is power from the right side — something Safeco Field happens to deflate considerably. Franklin Gutierrez has shown past signs of offensive prowess in the past, but produces most of his value with his glove and long, long legs. Jack Cust will likely average more than four pitches per plate appearance. Whether he posts DH-worthy numbers is another question. Milton Bradley, it appears, will be playing baseball again. Expecting more than 100 games from him would be foolish, however.

Finally, there are some prospecty-types. Justin Smoak, the major piece coming to the Mariners in the Cliff Lee deal and he appears to have no competition at first base entering the season. He’ll have a long leash, given the fact that the Mariners are unlikely to contend. Dustin Ackley walked 26 times against only 11 strikeouts in the Arizona Fall League, and has shown flashes of power. Whether he can stick at second base is the question. Nick Franklin is very young (just 20 this season), but plays shortstop and showed power as a teenager in A ball.

Projected Starting Rotation
1 RHP Felix Hernandez
2 LHP Jason Vargas
3 RHP Doug Fister
4 LHP Luke French
5 LHP Erik Bedard

Projected Bullpen
CL David Aardsma
SU RHP Brandon League
SU RHP Chris Ray
SU RHP Dan Cortes
MID LHP Garrett Olson
MID RHP Jamey Wright
MID RHP Manny Delcarmen
LR LHP Aaron Laffey

“Felix Hernandez and pray for rain, and then pray for rain again, and then pray for two more days of rain” doesn’t flow off the tongue, but it might be an apt way of characterizing this rotation. The King, also winner of the 2010 Cy Young Award, is young, pretty, and can’t possibly be beat — at least no more often than the league’s best pitcher is beat.

Vargas and Fister actually both had decent 2010s, posting WARs north of 2.0. Vargas is the proverbial Crafty Lefty, throwing a fastball at around 87 mph, but mixing in a change that was good for 1.83 runs per 100 pitches in 2010. That helps neutralize righties and will also help him post an ERA somewhere around 4.00-4.25, probably. Fister is the less common Crafty Righty, also throwing an above-average change (1.69 run per 100 in 2010). If these guys were the four and five starters, that’d be ideal.

Luke French is youngish (25 this year), but has limited upside and features a profile much like Vargas and Fister’s, except somehow even less exciting. Bedard, I address below.

The bullpen has some pieces. Maybe. Closer Aardsma has been a nice scrap-heap find and has even odds of posting a K/9 rate of above 9.00. League has one of the league’s best pitches in a sort of split-change that he throws, but for some reason featured said pitch with less frequency in 2010 than in 2009 with the Jays. In lieu of that, he still throws an excellent sinker. Dan Cortes is not a former MTV personality, but rather a 24-year-old reliever with a ca. 97 mph fastball and decent secondary offerings.

Key Player
If healthy, Erik Bedard could help the Mariners in a couple way. As to the size of that “if,” it’s maybe less big than in previous years. He missed all of last year due to recovery from labrum surgery, but has thrown real actual innings this spring training already.

While Bedard could help the Mariners win games, his primary value will likely come at the trade deadline, where — if he’s pitched anything like Erik Bedard — he could be worth a prospect or two from a contending team.

After some 2010 preseason moves that made new GM Jack Zduriencik look like a genius, the actual product on the field made many in the Twitterverse chant #6org.

Luckily (?) for the 2011 edition of the team, expectations are quite low. A decent season from Erik Bedard could net even more prospects for the Mariners, as the team looks ahead to 2012 and ’13.

Thanks to MLB Depth Charts for excellent information.

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69 Responses to “Team Preview: Seattle Mariners”

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  1. Joe Mac says:

    I’ve often wondered, and don’t know if anyone has studied this. Which lineup would score more runs, 9 Ichiros or 9 Adam Dunnes?

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    • 81 says:

      I just “studied” this
      Ichiro career 119 wRC+
      Dunn career 132 wRC+

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      • don says:

        If the fielders were all Adam Dunns, how many inside the parkers would the Ichiros hit? I would watch this game, but not 162 times.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        don, the flip side of that game would be that the Ichiros in the field couldn’t do much to limit the Dunns’ offense. Hard to defend against walks and home runs.

        Also, because of pitches/PA, the Dunns would force the Ichiros’ pitchers to throw about 25 more pitches per game than vice versa.

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      • Llewdor says:

        But I bet Ichiro’s a better pitcher than Dunn is.

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      • bc says:

        Ichiro pitched in Japan, and was pitching in the bullpen for team Japan in the 09 WBC, but never got into a game. I think his ability to pitch gives the Ichiro clones a huge advantage over the Dunn-bots.

        On the other hand, if an Ichiro pitcher plunks a Dunn the bench clearing brawl is going to be a tad one-sided.

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      • rudey says:

        I have to diasgree. In a brawl the Ichiros could just run around the field and the Dunns would never catch them. Eventually the Dunns would collapse from exhaustion and the Ichiro’s could walk over and club them like Canadian seal hunters beating walruses.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        I wasn’t assuming that the Dunns and Ichiros would be pitching themselves. The original post only mentioned lineups.

        Team Ichiro definitely wins if they can’t use mercenary pitchers.

        Imagine Adam-Dunn-the-Pitcher trying to field Ichiro’s infield hits.

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      • Llewdor says:

        I would enjoy watching 23 consecutive bunt singles.

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    • Shattenjager says:

      Adam Dunn: 7.3 RC/G
      Ichiro Suzuki: 6.5 RC/G

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  2. Bill says:

    Figgins is 33, not 37.

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  3. Telo says:

    Felix Hernandez and pray for rain, and then pray for rain again, and then pray for two more days of rain””

    Hahaha. I dunno,I kind of like it…

    In unrelated news… when do the organizational rankings come out?

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    • Cloud Computer says:


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    • Seattleite says:

      Safeco has a roof… so even with Seattle’s rainy tendencies that’s just not going to work…

      Oh, and there’s Pineda, so with any luck there will only be three days of prayer.

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  4. Nate says:

    Personally, I give Pineda a better chance at making the starting rotation than you do. Mostly ’cause I’m a fanboy.

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  5. Jerry says:

    This column misses some very key points.

    First, you only briefly mention Ackley. But he will likely play at least a half season in Seattle, and possibly make the opening day roster. He improves the M’s offense pretty considerably.

    You also don’t even mention Michael Saunders, who will probably play more in LF than Bradley. Saunders is another young player who has offensive upside, and is a plus defender in LF. He could get 400+ PA’s, especially if Bradley takes himself out of the equation (which is a very likely scenario).

    Finally, I don’t understand how you could write a 2011 M’s team preview without mentioning Michael Pineda. He is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and is ML ready right now. He’s definitely one of the M’s top 5 starters, and the only reason he doesn’t make the roster will be to limit innings and his delay free agency. He’s just as much a key player as Bedard. Pineda could be a major contributor this year, and has legit #2 starter upside.

    I know that writing a preview for a young, rebuilding team like the M’s is more difficult, but I’m surprised you didn’t talk about these options in a little more depth. Think about how much different this lineup:

    C Olivo
    1B Smoak
    2B Ackley
    3B Figgins
    SS Ryan
    LF Saunders
    CF Gutierrez
    RF Ichiro
    DH Cust/Bradley

    …than the one you posted.

    Also, look at the rotation:

    Felix, Bedard, Pineda, Vargas, Fister

    This is very likely the team you’ll see in May or June. There are more question marks, but also much much more upside. I don’t know how you can write a preview of the M’s without mentioning that.

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    • johnnycuff says:

      rearranging bedard’s name in the ordering doesn’t make him any better or make his arm less likely to fall off. realistically, you’ve got to replace at least half of his innings with a replacement level pitcher or whoever is next up at AAA.

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    • jake says:

      “There are more question marks, but also much much more upside.”

      Yes! Call me crazy, but I’d rank ’em sixth.

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    • jacob says:

      pineda is starting the year in the minors for the same reason as ackley.

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    • Kenny says:

      There is 0 chance Ackley and Pineda make the opening day roster. The organization couldn’t possibly see enough reason to believe they can contend this year (whether they would admit that or not) and they wouldn’t want to jeopardize losing these two players a year earlier than they have to, while having a good excuse to keep both down. Ackley to work on his defense (which he does need to do) and Pineda to work on his off-speed stuff. They’ll be up in 2 months, but no reason for him to speculate on anything other than the opening day roster.

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      • Bobby Ayala says:

        I respectfully disagree. I think they will keep Ackley down, but I don’t think they will automatically keep Pineda down. Who knows if Pineda will still be pitching by the time he is a FA? And it’s not like he is a Boras client, so if he is still pitching, (and performing well) there is a chance the M’s could resign him.

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      • Choo says:

        The real Bobby Ayala doesn’t “respectfully disagree.” He punches you square in mouth, breaks his hand, goes on the DL, and then returns to blow leads on consecutive nights. And then he does it all over again.

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      • Llewdor says:

        It makes all kinds of business sense to keep Ackley down, but pitchers just aren’t durable enough to bank on a payoff 6 years away.

        That said, the Mariners aren’t contending now, so why should they care if they get 2 extra wins?

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      • Choo says:

        Unfortunately, a couple of extra wins early in the year is all it really takes to keep a team in AL West contention, and contenders sell tickets.

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  6. Bobby Ayala says:

    I think your prediction of the bullpen is way off. In this rebuilding year, I don’t think the M’s keep Olsen, Ray, and Laffey (all LHP) plus Wright, and Delcarmen. My guess is laffey makes it out of that LHP group and the other two are cut in favor of youngsters. Plus they are not going with an 8 man bullpen. Lueke and Pauley should be in there instead.

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  7. bookbook says:

    Sadly, the rain in Seattle falls mostly in the fall. OTOH, Felix could go every other day. He’s powerful.

    I think it will turn out that Saunders is not a major league caliber starting LF. The combination of his real holes, and the lack of adjustments to cover for them we’ve seen thus far, lead me to believe he’s not quite good enough.

    Moore may be a below average starter for a few years (kind of like Olivo).

    Ackley-Smoak-Pineda I’m willing to believe in, but that does leave the team a couple of pieces short of having a championship core, even in 2013 when these guys should be thriving. I guess it’s a good thing there ought to be some bucks available by then for a strategic FA acquisition or two.

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    • Choo says:

      Yeah, it’s too early to close the book Saunders, but the more I watch him play, the more I feel like I’m watching the sub-par sequel to Ryan Langerhans. The special effects might be better, but the weak story and various plot holes ultimately kill the ride.

      1.5 stars.

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    • Seattleite says:

      Unfortunately, it looks like the only other potentially impact piece that’s on the way by 2013 is Nick Franklin. These definitely aren’t the rays or royals that have prospects stacked-up in the high minors. Most of the M’s pieces are in the low minors and we’re not going to see them for a while. Fortunately they play in the AL West and could compete with a couple of well-placed acquisitions come 2013/14. Maybe even next year with some (big) surprises.

      Obviously, none of this is a given, and in all honesty, I’m not too optimistic for this core’s long-term success. Especially considering the fact that Ichiro will be pushing 40 by the time the kids are ready to play with the big boys. Pineda’s injury history also concerns me.

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      • MGP says:

        They have some guys in the upper levels that still have some big question marks, but could answer them in the next year and a half and be ready for the bigs. I’m thinking guys like Mauricio Robles and Johermyn Chavez (assuming he starts at AA). But really, you’re more right than not.

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        I’m not sure about that . . . Gerrit Cole looks like he might be arriving around 2013, too.

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  8. hatunike says:

    Unfortunately for the Mariners, don’t they have a retractable roof that covers them during the rain? Can they just opt not to use that if they are in a rough part of their rotation? lol

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  9. ThundaPC says:

    “And somehow the Mariners lost three games behind God’s Most Blessed Angel, Cliff Lee.”

    Well, the Rangers lost six games behind God’s Most Blessed (Pitcher) Cliff Lee. The Mariners Cy Young award winner had 12 losses. I’d say the Mariners supported Cliff Lee comparatively well during his time in Seattle.

    Meanwhile, I’d say the real Key Player is [b]Justin Smoak[/b]. Erik Bedard looks to be 100% injury-free so far but expectations are extraordinarily low (lots of reports that he was “ahead of schedule” last spring training; ultimately got only as far as making AAA rehab starts last year). Justin Smoak is the prize of the Cliff Lee trade and is set to be the 1B for the long haul. His development is important and could go a long way in helping this team’s offensive production.

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    • Hank says:

      Yup, I think Smoak is the key (in terms finding things out for the long term). They have some guys on the way, but does Smoak turn out to be the ‘prize’ in the Cliff Lee trade, or the “they could have had Montero instead of this guy?” cracker jack prize.

      It will be interesting to see if he’s a switch hitter or a left handed hitter masquerading as a pinch hitter.

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  10. Paul says:

    The Jason Kendall metric is classic.

    I think Pauley gets more starts this year than Bedard and French combined. And while nobody is shorting Pineda’s talent, the list of 22 year old phenoms who come up and don’t struggle initially (like he did in AAA) is short. Not to mention that some people think he’s a reliever long term.

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    • Seattleite says:

      Out of curiosity, who thinks he’s a reliever? I’m not questioning the validity of your claim, but am curious about who you’re talking about as I haven’t heard this viewpoint before.

      Obviously, there’s the chance that neither his change or slider develop any further, but even then, isn’t he a back-end starter with his control?

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      • Paul says:

        BA has mentioned it repeatedly in their write-ups on him for the past two years. Obviously that is very much a minority view at this point, but some scouts apparently are concerned about him being able to repeat his delivery as he’s apparently not a super-duper athlete, and he’s an enormous human being.

        I’ve never seen him, but I think he’s probably over-rated a bit in the short term. Would not surprise me to see him struggle initially like Tillman or Holland, then come out of nowhere and settle in as a good number two in a couple years.

        I don’t see a strong consensus that he’s an immediate impact number one starter, that’s all. There are so few of them, and there are more questions on him as far as I can recall than there were even on a guy like Jaime Garcia.

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      • JH says:

        A good number of people have reliever concerns about him. He holds his velocity late into games but his secondary pitches are wildly inconsistent and more important, lefties have been able to hit him pretty hard in the minors.

        Which, incidentally, is the reason I’m pretty skeptical of all the “he’s major-league ready right now and should be in the rotation” talk. Lefties OPS’d ~.750 off him for the year last year. If his change doesn’t improve major league hitters should hit him even harder. He’s got a very high ceiling but I really don’t think he’s very close to reaching it. Teams like Minnesota with four power lefty bats will eat him alive. Other teams with a handful of decent lefties who can hit righties will hurt him bigtime, too.

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  11. Dexter Bobo says:

    “A move back to third base — from second, where his one year UZR (which should, obviously, be taken with a grain of salt) — might help improve his offensive game, too.”

    I spent way too much time trying to make sense of this sentence. It’s like an M.C. Escher painting or a Mobius strip or something.

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  12. b_rider says:

    Please proofread more carefully.

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  13. CROTEAR says:

    Good move not letting Dave Cameron near the Mariners previews.

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  14. RPS says:

    Maybe not so good on the KendallScale, but this team will score very well on the Neifi!Metric (N!M).

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  15. Jason Kendall says:

    Rewind yourself.

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  16. Stephen says:

    No mention of the situation of an injured Olivo? No mention of Pineda, who will most likely be called up during the year if he doesn’t start the season with them?

    I’m not trying to be overly criticizing here, but these things don’t seem like they should be omitted from a season preview article.

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  17. maqman says:

    If Bedard does well I don’t see him being traded. GMZ values him more than potential trade partners will. Personally I think he could have a better year than Cliff Lee.

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    • Freddie says:


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      • #6org says:

        Is that you Dave Cameron?

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      • JH says:

        Dude, go back and look at USSM posts over the past month or two. Even with Bedard looking great in ST and throwing without pain, Dave’s still been saying we realistically can’t count on him for any guaranteed innings.

        Or you could continue to nip at Dave’s ankles. Your choice.

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  18. algionfriddo says:

    I live 3 hours away from SafeCo. There is ZERO chance I will spend even 1 dime to watch this collection of replacement level players. If Saunders and Ackley are in the lineup… maybe. But still unlikely.
    Can we get the Braves channel back on cable?

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  19. mikethomas22 says:

    Some of these points have been made by others, but I will post them anyway. Pineda will be given an opportunity to make the rotation out of spring training. I know hope isn’t something most M’s fans have a lot of, but Felix, Bedard, Pineda, Vargas, and Fister could actually be a very strong rotation. Aardsma is out for a while, and the bullpen is shaky, but League, Ray, Lueke, Cortes, Pauley, French, and somebody could be somewhere around average. With a strong defense, and a below average offense, but not the historically bad offense of last year, this team could actually win 80ish games.

    Hope springs eternal on opening day.

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  20. CircleChange11 says:

    This is the only place that I have read that thinks MP will start in the minors.

    Amazing that Ryan has gone from outstanding defensive SS to service time inhibitor.

    Does any team in the ALW feel really good about 2011? The teams that pitch, have hitting concerns. The teams that can hit have pitching concerns. Almost all teams are counting on young guys to contribute a bunch.

    Lots of eyes on Felix and his workload. If he were to miss time, during 2011 probably wouldn’t be the worst time for it.

    Has their ever been a 6’6+ pitcher that hasn’t had concerns about a repeatable delivery? There’s a reason why they’re called giraffes. Not the most fluid guys on the field.

    Better use MP while you can. So much can change in 4-6 years. It’s not like he won’t be throwing just as many pitches in AAA. IMO, the service time issue among MP, Ackley and guys like Moustakas are completely different because of the position they play. Pitch him.

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  21. Umh , c’était dr?le …, I ont été à la recherche de ces informations !

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  22. pft says:

    They will be improved at DH and Figgins should be better after moving back to 3B. If Milton Bradley can have a decent year they may compete for 13th best offense in the AL instead of staying at 14th. Pity the Mariner fans.

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    • Choo says:

      Bradley won’t last long. It will appear as if Wedge has completely repaired his rift with Bradley by starting him everyday in LF, but what Wedge is really trying to do is a) break Bradley’s body or b) break Bradley’s psyche as quickly as possible.

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  23. bookbook says:

    Bradley and Bedard and a newly-vegetarian Guti will bounce back substantially. Smoak is crazy underrated at this point.

    So the M’s win 84 games continuing their Saberhagen-like sine-wave pattern. 2012 is going to be ugly!

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