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Mariners Recap: April

Kenji JohjimaWell, the Mariners certainly can say they've never had an April quite like this one. They had more weather-delayed games in the month than in any other season in their history, and as a result it still feels like the team is yet to settle into a regular-season groove yet. Look no further than Horacio Ramirez, who was the last player on an opening day squad to appear in a game - and he started the year as the M's fourth starter, ahead of Jeff Weaver. Despite the wackiness, the M's did play some games, and to see how they did I'm going to debut my re-worked ratings formula. You faithful readers may remember a 5-point scale I came up with at the start of the year, but now I've redone it to be a 0-100 scale, and it assigns ratings just like grades (or video game rankings of players, whichever you prefer). First off, let's look at the team's hitting and pitching as a whole:


HITTING
Seattle Mariners: 70 (C-)
A.L. Average: 71 (C-)


PITCHING
Seattle Mariners: 80 (B-)
A.L. Average: 80 (B-)


As the season goes on, the A.L. hitting and pitching averages should both end up hovering around 75, but this proves the old theory that hitting does heat up with the weather. Considering the Mariners are pretty much dead-on the average for both hitting and pitching, you would expect them to have a record around .500, and low and behold, their record is exactly .500 at 10-10!


Now, let's take a closer look at individual players to see if the Mariners can keep up their current pace, or if they are likely to improve/get worse:


LINEUP
  1. Ichiro, 80 (B-) - Last year he was an 85, so Ichiro may heat up a little bit. However, given his age, he may start to slip just a little bit, which means he may also maintain his current pace.
  2. Adrian Beltre, 63 (D) - There's no doubt that Beltre is going to get better. Last year he was a 74, and given that he should be just entering his prime, as well as his history of slow starts as a Mariner, there's no reason to believe he won't improve dramatically. It wouldn't surprise me if he has a monster May.
  3. Jose Vidro, 79 (C+) - I still don't think Vidro should be batting third, but so far he has been a bit of a pleasant surprise. He rated a 73 last year, and he has been declining for a couple years now, so the odds are he will fade significantly. However, it's possible that completely focusing on hitting as the DH has allowed him to have a miniature resurgence. I certainly don't expect Vidro to get any better than he's been, but there's a chance that he could maintain his current pace.
  4. Raul Ibanez, 64 (D) - Like Beltre, there's no doubt Ibanez is going to get better. He got off to a very sluggish start, and already has shown signs of turning the corner. I doubt he'll be as good as he was last year (which netted him an 81 rating), but I expect him to climb into the C-grade range, if not a little better. He's another candidate to bust out in May.
  5. Richie Sexson, 59 (F) - Well, he got his first single of the year on Sunday, so there's a start! Sexson's power is there, but absolutely nothing else is (hence the awful rating). It's likely that Richie's best days are behind him, but even with that being said he should improve some (he was a 75 only a year ago). How much he improves, I don't know. I thought he was a safe bet to duplicate last year's numbers, if not improve on them slightly, but now I'm not so sure.
  6. Jose Guillen, 64 (D) - Guillen's career rating is a 70, but given his age and recent injury history, I think what we've seen in April is pretty much what we are going to get.
  7. Kenji Johjima, 90 (A-) - Why is this guy batting seventh?! He's off to a fantastic start! Kenji is the brightest spot on the Mariners so far, and though he's likely to cool down some, I don't think he'll cool down that much. He rated a 78 last year, but in Japan he put up elite offensive numbers. Given that this is his second year in the majors, and he doesn't have to deal with all the major adjustments of coming over to the majors this year, it's very reasonable to think he will hit better this year. When the year is said and done, Kenji may end up being the M's best offensive player.
  8. Yuniesky Betancourt, 63 (D) - Betancourt got off to a slow start last year too, but gradually heated up and ended up with a rating of 72. He has flashed more power this year, and I think the average will come around. I expect Betancourt to heat up with the weather.
  9. Jose Lopez, 80 (B-) - Why is this guy batting ninth?! Sometimes Dudley drives me insane. Lopez is another bright spot on the M's this year, just like he was in 2006. What's better is that I think he can keep up his current pace for the entire year. He was a 72 last year, but he's still young and improving, and he showed the ability to hit like this in the minors.
STARTING PITCHING
  1. Felix Hernandez, 107 (A+) - Yes, Felix has been so good to start this season that he goes beyond what's considered "perfect" in my rating system. It's unfair to expect Felix to be better than perfect for the entire year, so he's going to regress a little. However, judging from his hot start, his age, his minor league career, and his 2006 season, Felix is destined for huge things this year. An All-Star appearance and Cy Young award are not out of the question.
  2. Jarrod Washburn, 90 (A-) - Since when was Washburn this good? He won't stay this good, because his current rating is definitely skewed by the game of his life that he just pitched against the A's. In fact, I expect him to regress quite a bit, given his rating last year was a 75.
  3. Miguel Batista, 66 (D) - Batista has been a bit of a disappointment so far, and it's hard to say if things will get any better. He's getting old, and the hitters are going to start to heat up around the league. I don't think he'll get any worse, but I'm sorry to say that there's no guarantee he will get any better.
  4. Horacio Ramirez, 62 (D-) - Ho-Ram has been just as disappointing as Miguel, but I've got more hope for this guy. First off, he's younger, which helps. However, he also got impacted more than any other M's pitcher by all the rain and snow outs, so I think he will improve as he gets a chance to pitch on a regular basis. For his career he's a 71, and I think he will approach that rating by season's end.
  5. Jeff Weaver, 21 (F) - He's bound to get better just by dumb luck, but that doesn't mean he should stay in the rotation. He earned a 63 rating last year, but he looks washed up to me. I don't see him getting a rating any better than an F.
  6. Cha Seung Baek, 70 (C-) - Granted, Baek's only had two starts, but early returns say he could be a decent starting option (certainly a better one than Weaver at this point). There's reason to believe he can keep up the solid work, because his rating last year was a 71 (that's including major league and adjusted AAA numbers).
BULLPEN (Actual Grade/Adjusted Bullpen Grade, because my system rates an average reliever as a 65)
  • Sean White, 63 (D/C) - White's adjusted AA numbers last year suggested he would be a 52 in the majors. So, expect him to get worse. Right now, what's keeping his rating this high is the fact that he hasn't given up a home run.
  • Julio Mateo, 67 (D/C) - I thought he might rebound this year, and to a certain extent he has. He is a 66 for his career, so this is about what to expect.
  • George Sherrill, 84 (B/A) - George is off to a fast start, and though I like him, expect him to cool off some. He was a 77 last year.
  • Brandon Morrow, 78 (C+/B+) - I'm starting to believe that this kid is ready for the majors. His walk rate is high, but in his last couple outings his command has been much better. It looks like Morrow is settling in and may start to put up dominating numbers. Given Weaver's struggles, I'm tempted to put him in the fifth spot of the rotation and see what happens. The M's may just catch lightning in a bottle, and if they don't, there's no way Morrow will be any worse than Weaver.
  • Chris Reitsma, 51 (F/D-) - For his career he's a 67, and that's where I think his rating will end up. It was around there until his recent bad outing. Despite the low rating right now, I'm not too concerned about Reitsma.
  • J.J. Putz, 72 (C-/B-) - Putz was awesome last year (a 90 rating), but I expected him to regress some. However, he's going to get better than he's been so far for multiple reasons. First, he's a month removed from his spring training arm problems. Also, he got very little work in the past month due to the weather, as well as a paucity of save situations.

Looking at the team as a whole, the best way to sum up April is to say that they weathered the storm (rather literally). As the season unfolds, the offense will get better. However, everyone's offense is going to heat up, so I see the M's lineup being middle of the pack all year. The pitching is a different story though. Despite slow starts from Batista, Ramirez, and Putz, a disastrous beginning for Jeff Weaver, and an injury to Felix Hernandez (not to mention all the snow/rain outs that messed with everyone's rhythm), the staff was just fine. Considering all that went wrong (and only Jarrod Washburn getting off to a truly hot start that he won't duplicate), I think it's safe to assume that the pitching will improve, or at least not trail off with the rest of the league as the hitters find their timing. So, with one month in the books, I see an average offense, and an above average pitching staff, which in turn should translate into a winning season.