Extra MustardSI On CampusFantasyPhoto GalleriesSwimsuitVideoFanNationSI KidsTNT
NCAA Basketball Scouting Reports

Seattle Mariners

SI Rank: AL West (4) | MLB (25)
This year Ichiro can tie the modern major league record for most consecutive 200-hit seasons (seven), but will he try to break it elsewhere?
This year Ichiro can tie the modern major league record for most consecutive 200-hit seasons (seven), but will he try to break it elsewhere?
Damian Strohmeyer/SI
FAST FACTS
Seattle Mariners MANAGER MIKE HARGROVE
THIRD SEASON WITH MARINERS
Team Page | 2007 Schedule
THE NUMBERS        LIE | DON'T LIE
.667 Combined OPS of the Mariners' designated hitters, the worst such mark in the league last season. With a .235 batting average and only 38 extra-base hits, DH was essentially a wasted spot in the order. That the rapidly declining Jose Vidro (.744 in '06), obtained in a trade with the Nationals, can be considered an improvement in this spot says it all.
CONSIDER THIS
For the Mariners to have any hope of being an AL West dark horse, they have to make a teamwide commitment to reaching base. Their .325 on-base percentage last season ranked 13th in the league, thanks mostly to drawing an AL-worst 404 walks (49 of which were intentional). You can get away with fewer bases on balls if you're Ichiro Suzuki and hit .320, but there's only one Ichiro. Young Seattle players such as Yuniesky Betancourt , 17 walks in 558 at bats, .310 OBP) and Jose Lopez (26 walks in 603, .319 OBP) have to be more selective, while even veterans such as Adrian Beltre (47 walks in 620 at bats, .328 OBP), Ben Broussard (26 in 506, .331 OBP) and Kenji Johjima (20 in 423, .331 OBP) can improve. As the Yankees have shown in recent years, making plate discipline an organizational priority can lead to more runs and victories.
BATTING ORDER
POS. PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
CF ICHIRO SUZUKI L-R 20 .322 9 49 45
3B ADRIAN BELTRE R 56 .268 25 89 11
DH JOSE VIDRO S-R 215 .289 7 47 1
LF RAUL IBAŅEZ L-R 113 .289 33 123 2
1B RICHIE SEXSON R 65 .264 34 107 1
RF JOSE GUILLEN R 139 .216 9 40 1
C KENJI JOHJIMA R 117 .291 18 76 3
2B JOSE LOPEZ R 177 .282 10 79 5
SS YUNIESKY BETANCOURT R 208 .289 8 47 11
BENCH
POS. PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
1B BEN BROUSSARD L 282 .289 21 63 2
INF-OF WILLIE BLOOMQUIST R 300 .247 1 15 16
ROTATION
THROWS PITCHER PVR W L K WHIP ERA
RH FELIX HERNANDEZ 32 12 14 176 1.34 4.52
LH JARROD WASHBURN 92 8 14 103 1.35 4.67
RH JEFF WEAVER 157 8 14 107 1.51 5.76
RH MIGUEL BATISTA 138 11 8 110 1.53 4.58
LH HORACIO RAMIREZ 178 5 5 37 1.52 4.48
BULLPEN
THROWS PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
RH J.J. PUTZ 23 4 1 36 0.92 2.30
RH CHRIS REITSMA 257 1 2 8 1.93 8.68
LH ARTHUR RHODES 306 0 5 4 1.69 5.32

The addition of a clubhouse powder keg, a boost in payroll that could have been put to better use and, worst of all, one Japanese superstar seriously considering hitting the free-agent market next winter add up to yet another dreary forecast in the Pacific Northwest. With an extra $17 million available to them in 2007, the Mariners signed, among others, free-agent outfielder Jose Guillen, who is known for his temper and is coming off elbow surgery, rather than nailing down franchise player Ichiro Suzuki with a contract extension. There is a difference between spending and spending wisely, and Seattle not only failed to re-sign Ichiro but also did not land an impact player to help lift the team out of its three-year fog, which includes last-place finishes in '04, '05 and '06 and diminishing attendance in each of those years.

Like many teams Seattle was caught flat-footed by the out-of-whack market for free-agent pitchers (including its own Gil Meche). Intending to land a No. 1 starter to ease the burden on 20-year-old phenom Felix Hernandez, the Mariners fell short in the Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito derbies. Instead, they settled for three less-than-spectacular alternatives: the inconsistent Miguel Batista (three years, $25 million), the even more enigmatic Jeff Weaver (one year, $8.4 million) and injury-plagued Horacio Ramirez, whose cost will be felt more in the talent sacrificed (fireballing setup man Rafael Soriano) in a trade with the Braves than in cash (one year, $2.65 million).

"We wanted to get better, with or without Meche or Joel Pineiro," says general manager Bill Bavasi, referring to his two departed starters, who jumped to the Royals and the Red Sox, respectively. "But that was complicated, and what made it more complicated was the spike in the market."

It's questionable whether the overhauled rotation is an upgrade over last year's starting five, which finished in the middle of the league in runs allowed and ERA. The key to improved run prevention will be the continued development of the slimmed-down Hernandez, who is brimming with confidence after a solid second half (4.02 ERA, compared with 4.95 before the All-Star break), and one of the game's most promising middle-infield combinations, defensively speaking: shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, 25, and All-Star second baseman Jose Lopez, 23, both of whom -- like most of Seattle's regulars -- need to show more patience at the plate. Seattle also has an elite closer in J.J. Putz (36 saves and a filthy 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio), but the club burned the perfect bridge to Putz when it traded the 27-year-old Soriano, who struck out more than one hitter per inning and held opponents to a .204 batting average in '06.

Yet for the declining number of Mariners season-ticket holders, the inimitable Ichiro, 33, remains the primary reason to show up at the park every day. (King Felix is a once-every-five-days excuse.) With both Jeremy Reed (.260 OBP) and 21-year-old Adam Jones, the Mariners' top pick in the 2003 draft, in over their heads in centerfield, Ichiro voluntarily made the switch from rightfield last August and looked terrific. Ichiro is not the force he once was with the bat (he hit .228 with runners in scoring position last year, for example), so don't expect a repeat of his ridiculous 2004 (when he won the AL batting crown with a .372 average and set a major league record for hits in a season, 262). Still, he remains one of the game's elite leadoff hitters. The Mariners must re-sign him.

For now, Ichiro is noncommittal. "Everything that was done in the past and has built up to this point is an important part [of my decision]," he says, "but what happens in this season is important also." -- Jacob Luft

Issue date: March 26, 2007

Search