4 SEATTLE MARINERS

March 26, 2012

ENEMY LINES

A rival scout sizes up the Mariners

I'm still scratching my head over the trade of Michael Pineda. He was so filthy last year—the combo of Felix Hernandez and Pineda in the rotation had the potential to be one of the best in the league. And to break that up for what's essentially a DH in Jesus Montero? He has big-time power, but I don't see it happening with him as a catcher. He's got a lot of issues with his feet. With such a young pitching staff, you want a guy like Miguel Olivo behind the plate, not someone who could be a train wreck.... There's hope for Seattle because of the young pitching. When you see them in person, you understand why the team thought it could part with Pineda. Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton remind me of Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux, the way they push each other. Hultzen is the closest to the majors and a potential Rookie of the Year candidate, especially in that ballpark.... Hernandez was in midseason form in early March. He's lost a lot of weight and looks more determined than ever.... They won't be as unwatchable offensively as last year, though there's no question Ichiro's star has dipped. He doesn't throw as well, and he has lapses on the bases. He's going to struggle in THE NUMBER 3 hole.... Dustin Ackley has no fear whatsoever. This guy is a force at the plate. I think second base is going to be a challenge for him—he should be in leftfield.... It's not Seattle's time, but they've got a ton of talent coming. They're being smart by being patient.

THE LINEUP

With 2011 Statistics

MANAGER ERIC WEDGE

2nd season with Mariners

[originallink:10882176:1009531]

ROTATION W L ERA WHIP
RH FELIX HERNANDEZ 14 14 3.47 1.22
LH JASON VARGAS 10 13 4.25 1.31
RH HISASHI IWAKUMA (R)* 6 7 2.42 1.05
RH KEVIN MILLWOOD 4 3 3.98 1.23
RH BLAKE BEAVAN 5 6 4.27 1.25
BULLPEN W SV ERA WHIP
RH BRANDON LEAGUE 1 37 2.79 1.08
LH HONG-CHIH KUO 1 0 9.00 1.74

NEW ACQUISITION (R) ROOKIE *JAPAN LEAGUE STATS

PROJECTED PAYROLL

$77.4 million

THE NUMBER

.292

Seattle's OBP last season, the second straight year it had the lowest in the majors. The Mariners, who had a .298 OBP in 2010, are the first AL team in the DH era with consecutive sub-.300 OBP seasons—the main reason they've finished last in the AL in scoring two years running.

MODEST PROPOSAL

The Mariners made a nice pickup in December 2009 when they obtained Brandon League and a prospect from the Blue Jays for Brandon Morrow. When closer David Aardsma blew out his elbow last spring, League stepped into the role and saved 37 games, making the All-Star team along the way. This makes it the perfect time to trade League. Seattle is at least a season away from contention, and League can become a free agent at the end of the year. While the sharp improvement in his command, which helped him to a 2.79 ERA, may be real, League's strikeout rate was just 18% of batters faced; closers need to have a rate of at least 25% to project well, and League has approached that number just once in his eight-year career. There's an excellent chance that League's 2011 performance was a peak for him, so the Mariners should sell high. Under the new CBA it's unlikely that Seattle will get a draft pick if League leaves as a free agent, and signing him to a long-term deal would be a waste of resources. Flipping League now, before the strikeout rate catches up to him, is the best move.

PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (MONTERO) PHOTOLEON HALIP/GETTY IMAGES (LEAGUE)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)