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Mariners 2009 Midseason Grades

This is going to be a longer post than usual. Without any games today though, we all have more time than usual, right?

The Mariners are poised for an intriguing second half. Are they buyers or sellers? Can they stay in the pennant chase? What will it take for the M's to pass the Rangers and Angels?

The only way to look at the future is through the past. So, today I will take a look at the first half of 2009. I will assign each player a grade.

Grading is difficult, especially in a context like this. I will be weighing two main factors: how good a player is, and how good they were expected to be. So, anyone playing at a superstar level will get an 'A,' but consider two players who are league average. If one was supposed to be in AAA but got thrust into the role, they may end up with a 'B.' Meanwhile, if the other has been a clean-up hitter and slipped, they may get a 'D.'

I will only grade players still on the M's roster that have logged enough time on the field to evaluate them. That means no Yuni, or recent acquisitions Ryan Langerhans and Jack Hannahan. Players are listed in order of jersey number, just to mix it up a little bit. Here are my midseason grades for the 2009 Mariners:

  • Kenji Johjima: He seemed like a candidate to bounce back after an awful 2008 season, despite his age. To a certain extent he has, but not as much as I hoped. Kenji's defense has been good this year, though pitchers still do not seem like they enjoy throwing to him. Grade: D+
  • Ronny Cedeno: His glove is as good as advertised. His bat is not. Ronny hits a few too many balls hard for me to think he won't bounce back at the plate with regular playing time. His average has risen some the past few weeks. Still, it has been painful to watch him in the batter's box so far. Grade: D
  • Jose Lopez: Jose still does not have much range at second, or much patience at the plate. He makes up for some of it though with decent power. It's still a mystery how he drives in so many runs. Even though Lopez is still young, I'm starting to think he is what he is at this point. Grade: C
  • Mike Sweeney: He really doesn't have much left to offer on the field. Injuries have taken their toll. Off the field though, he has united a clubhouse in shambles at the end of last year. Players like Sweeney make a rookie manager's job a bunch easier. That has to be taken into consideration. Grade: C
  • Endy Chavez: He is done for the year (and half of next), but he was an important player in the first half of the season. The M's got what they should have expected out of Endy - great defense with light hitting. Grade: C
  • Franklin Gutierrez: Guti was supposed to have defense, but he still had to adjust to center field. Immediately, he established himself as an elite defender. Franklin also had not been much at the plate in Cleveland, but his minor league track record was promising. Additionally, the M's coaching staff believed he had power potential. The last month, he has definitely shown that. Gutierrez looks like a player piecing it all together right now, and it is fun to watch. Grade: A
  • Shawn Kelley: With this being Shawn's rookie season, coming up from AA, and two months on the shelf with an injury, I thought long and hard about skipping him. He is a little too important to the bullpen though to do that. Basically, he was a pleasant surprise until he got hurt, and since being back he has been unpleasantly getting hit hard. All things considered, this is an unfair grade. I really should give an incomplete. Grade: D
  • Ken Griffey Jr.: The batting average is low, but Junior still gets respect. He walks a ton, and still has a bit of power left in his bat. He is the M's best option at DH, and one of the better bats on the team. He also has closed the gap between Ichiro and the rest of the team in the clubhouse. Oh, and he is a Seattle icon that returned home to finish a glorious career. That's a nice cherry on top. Grade: C
  • Wladimir Balentien: Balentien looks about as good as he did last year. In other words, he has power, but he is too aggressive. At some point he should adjust and get better, and the fact that he hasn't is disappointing. Grade: D+
  • Adrian Beltre: It's unfair picking on a guy with bone spurs in his shoulder, but he played every day through it. That says something about his character. More than that, the pain did not seem to impact his defense at all, making his phenomenal play even more unhuman. However, the pain certainly impacted his offense. A healthy Beltre would be a heck of a boost to the team in September. Even the damaged one contributed. Grade: C
  • Russell Branyan: The muscle already has a career high in home runs. He can hit lefties. Everything he hits is epic. Rusell's defense is not great, but even that is better than what we've seen the past couple years. What's not to love? Grade: A
  • Rob Johnson: Rob is hard to grade. His defense really is not that great. His hitting has been about what could have been expected, and that's not great either. Pitchers love throwing to him though, and I am willing to give him some credit for how well the staff has done. Grade: C
  • Felix Hernandez: King Felix is growing up right before our eyes. He's going deep into ballgames. He's stopping losing streaks. He made the All-Star team, and pitched a scoreless inning in the midsummer classic. He is becoming an ace, and it is exciting to watch. Grade: A
  • Brandon Morrow: Between injuries and inconsistency, this has not been a fun year for Morrow. His most recent start against the Rangers was rock bottom. With such tremendous stuff, it should not take him much time in Tacoma to figure things out. He just needs a little more command. If he finds it, he will be better than any player the M's could add in a deadline deal. Grade: F
  • Jason Vargas: Somewhat of a throw-in in the Putz trade, Vargas has ended up playing a key role so far thanks to all the injuries. His home run rate will eventually catch up to him, but he battles admirably well, and for the most part has kept the M's in games that he pitches. Grade: B
  • Chris Jakubauskas: Another unheralded player coming out of spring training, Chris has saved the bullpen on numerous occasions from getting completely spent in one game. His ERA should come down if he continues to pitch as well as he has. Long relief is a great spot for him. Grade: B
  • Miguel Batista: After a horrendous 2008 season, Miguel has bounced back considerably this year. It helps that he finds himself mostly in low-stress situations, but he is throwing more strikes and keeping the ball in the ballpark. Batista still is not worth the money, but at least he has rebounded to the point that he is useful again. Grade: C+
  • Erik Bedard: When Bedard is on the mound, he is as good as any pitcher the M's have. However, he usually doesn't finish the sixth inning, and he seems a bit fragile. Still, his attitude, health, and performance are all better than last year. When Bedard is healthy, it's hard to argue there is a better duo than King Felix and him. Grade: B-
  • Sean White: Talk about heroes. White has come out of nowhere to become one of the best relievers in the American League. It's hard to believe he can keep it up, but he is one of the biggest reasons the bullpen has been shockingly good this season. Grade: A
  • Roy Corcoran: Talk about struggling. After a breakout 2008 campaign, I figured Corcoran would take a step back this year. I didn't think it would be this bad though. There are signs that he is starting to turn it around, but things could not go any worse for Roy than they did in the first half. Grade: F
  • Garrett Olson: It is hard to imagine where this team would be without Garrett. He seems to be steadily improving even as he bounces between the rotation and bullpen. His stuff is deceptively good, and he seems to have a future as a solid starter. He is solid now. Grade: B-
  • Ichiro: It looked like Ichiro might be showing a little age after a disappointing 2008. I was wrong. He has come back with a vengeance in 2009, and is arguably having his best season yet. His offensive abilities are still overrated, but they have always been overrated. Ichiro is back, and as good as ever. Grade: A
  • David Aardsma: Aardsma always had the stuff, but now he has some command to go with hit. He has really taken charge of the closer's role and flourished. He could have been an all-star, because he has been about as good as any reliever in baseball. Branyan is still the steal of the offseason in my opinion, but Aardsma is nipping at his heels. Grade: A
  • Jarrod Washburn: Where did this come from? I thought Washburn might be helped out by a vastly improved defense, but that's not all that has happened. Jarrod is working deeper into ballgames, and lefties just can't hit him anymore. He has reinvented himself, and the M's are getting the best performance of his career. I have to think he will come back to reality some in the second half, but he's still a different pitcher now. Grade: B+
  • Mark Lowe: The good news is that Lowe has his velocity completely back after the big arm surgery a few years ago. The tight spin on his breaking stuff is back too. He should be better with the stuff he has, but sometimes it takes a couple years to recover from massive arm surgery like he had. Lowe has flashes of brilliance, and he may be in the process of getting all back together. Grade: B-
All in all, it was a fantastic first half for the Mariners. There were many more bright spots than dark ones. While some guys performed over their true abilities, others were under. This team really is about as good as it has shown so far.