Jacob Luft: New-Look Lineups

February 14, 2005

The winter wheeling and dealing is pretty much done, and many teams barely resemble what they looked like when the 2004 season ended. In some cases that's a good thing. Let's take a look at five of the more intriguing new-look lineups.

1. New York Mets

2004: 684 runs, 12th in NL

2005 Outlook: Last year the Mets gave too many at bats to guys like Todd Zeile (.319 OBP in 396 plate appearances) and Karim Garcia (.272 OBP in 202 PAs). The key off-season moves were signing centerfielder Carlos Beltran (right) and switching Mike Piazza back to catcher to take Jason Phillips's bat out of the lineup. Also, impressive youngster David Wright (.525 slugging percentage in '04) will put in his first full season at third base and in the cleanup spot. First base could be an interesting platoon of lefty Doug Mientkiewicz and righty Andres Galarraga, who has killed lefties in the past. This offense is for real.

2. Seattle Mariners

2004: 698 runs, 14th in AL

2005 Outlook: So many shortstops were available this winter, and the best the Mariners could do was Pokey Reese? At least they identified the weakest areas, signing free agents Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson for corner infield positions. Bucky Jacobsen (nine HRs in 160 at bats last year) will get time at first and DH when he returns from knee surgery late in spring training. Expect Seattle to climb back toward respectability.

3. Milwaukee Brewers

2004: 634 runs, 15th in NL

2005 Outlook: The Brewers stand to improve most at catcher, where Chad Moeller was abysmal. (New backstop Damian Miller had a .339 OBP and a .403 slugging percentage for Oakland, numbers that dwarfed Moeller's production.) Replacing centerfielder Scott Podsednik with Carlos Lee was an unsung off-season move. Milwaukee could make a giant leap.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

2004: 761 runs, 9th in NL

2005 Outlook: Going by Value over Replacement Player (VORP), a stat that measures a player's value by runs contributed to the team, the 2005 Dodgers' lineup is 43 runs behind last year's. But it's hard to make much of '04's numbers because the team was overhauled at the trade deadline. It looks like L.A., which added second baseman Jeff Kent and outfielder J.D. Drew, will have a decent lineup. If it doesn't, G.M. Paul DePodesta will tear it down at the trade deadline again.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

2004: 615 runs, 16th in NL

2005 Outlook: You know you're in trouble when picking up shortstop Royce Clayton represents an offensive upgrade. Arizona needs huge bounce-back years from Troy Glaus and Luis Gonzalez to get out of the offensive cellar. Also, they are better off sticking with Scott Hairston at second instead of the newly added Craig Counsell, but it looks as if they will make the change anyway. On paper this lineup doesn't appear much better than last year's flop.

• You can read Jacob Luft's Inside Baseball column and his Power Rankings at SI.com/baseball.

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