Jack Z and the 2011 Seattle Mariners Offense
- Updated: March 30, 2011
The 2011 season will be Jack Zduriencik’s 3rd season as GM of the Seattle Mariners. It seems like just yesterday that the Mariners were fresh off a horrible season, had no good players (excluding Ichiro and Felix), a bloated payroll, and no hope of a prospect contributing anything to the big league club in the near future. To an outsider it may seem like it has been a roller coaster ride for Zduriencik over the past couple of years. However, his message has been clear from the start, even if the results have not necessarily always been there. A team with strong defense, especially up the middle, an offense that can draw walks, a hard thrower in the bullpen, and a rotation that pitches to contact and allows the defense to work its magic behind them. Since taking over, Jack Z has had to deal with a variety of different expectations heading into each season:
2009: low expectations, everything went right
2010: high expectation, everything went wrong
2011: win, or start looking for a new job
In 2009 Jack could do no wrong. And really how could he? He was replacing someone whose idea of building a winning team was to trade blue chip prospects and sign right handed power hitters ill fitted to play at SafeCo (Bavasi…cough, cough). Everyone knows the story by now. Jack traded for Franklin Gutierrez who has become a superstar defensive outfielder; he traded for David Aardsma who has turned into a lock down closer. He managed to trade Washburn for something decent and get rid of Carlos Silva. After the 2009 season that saw the Mariners rebound from a 61 win season to win 85 games Jack could do no wrong.
He approached the 2010 season with an eye on the Mariners returning to the post season for the first time in nine years. He stole Cliff Lee from the Phillies for next to nothing. He signed Chone Figgins from the divisional rivals, Los Angeles Angels. He picked up defensive minded 1B, Kotchman in a deal and resigned Franklin Gutierrez and King Felix. Things were bright entering the 2010 season. Unfortunately, we all know the story, Figgins was a bust, Kotchman was even more of a bust, Franklin struggled at the plate, Cliff Lee started the season on the DL and by the time he was ready to pitch a month into the season the Mariners were already all but out of it. Things got so bad towards the end of the 2010 season that there were rumors swirling around the world wide web of Jack being handed his walking papers at the end of the season. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Now, with the farm system ready to produce for the first time in years, and big bucks coming off the books at the end of 2011, the Mariners will look forward to the future in 2011.
Up the Middle
The Mariners will head into the 2011 season with one of the best defenses up the middle in the league.
CF Franklin Gutierrez (could begin season on the DL due to stomach problems)
SS Brendan Ryan
2B Jack Wilson
C Miguel Olivo
After posting an unheard of 31.0 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in 2009, Franklin came back to earth in 2010 posting a 7.3 UZR, still good for 4th among OF in baseball. To me, Franklin is the best OF in all of baseball. He has an uncanny ability to run in a straight line to exactly where the ball is hit. He finally, very deservingly, won a gold glove last year. Miguel Olivo, is no stranger to Mariners fans. After struggling through two very poor seasons with the M’s in 2004-05, Olivo returns to the Mariners in 2011 as a veteran catcher known for his strong defense and power. The Mariners double play combo for 2011 has a chance to be one of the best defensive pairings in recent memory. The Mariners will boost the past two SS UZR leaders as their middle infield duo (Wilson in 2009, Ryan in 2010). Wilson will make the shift from SS to 2B. Overall, expect great defense and no offense in 2011 from the group up the middle for the Mariners.
Offense from the Corners and DH
If the Mariners are going to score runs in 2011 it’s going to have to come from their corner positions and DH.
1B Justin Smoak
3B Chone Figgins
DH Jack Cust
.286/.349/.339 that’s Figgins slash line (average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) post all-star break last year, a far cry from his pre all-star break numbers of .235/.332/.276. Who can blame him? A new team, a new position, it clearly affected the beginning of his season. Now, he’ll move back to 3B, which is where he played when he had a career year in 2009 with the Angels. It should also hopefully mean a rebound to his plus defense at 3B. I don’t think I need to dwell on Ichiro very much, I’ll write him down for another 200 hit season and gold glove defense in right. Things get interesting when we look at Bradley and Smoak. Anything positive from Bradley this year would be a plus. When he’s right he can be one of the better hitters in baseball, when he is not, he’s a disaster at the plate and a distraction in the clubhouse. Smoak is the future for the Mariners at 1B. A slash line of .325/.400/.575 in 40 Sept/Oct at bats show his potential. The power, defense, and eye are all there. Hopefully he can put them all together in 2011. Cust reminds me a lot of former Mariners, Richie Sexson and Jay Buhner, for the fact that he’s an all or nothing hitter. The majority of his at bats result in either a strikeout, home run or a walk.
After years of watching the Mariners send free swinger after free swinger to the plate they can finally walk out a lineup (pun intend) where the majority of their hitters can draw a walk. Smoak, Figgins, Bradley and Cust all know how to find their way on base consistently without hitting the ball (and let’s face it Ichiro will continue to do his thing even if he’s not walking). Walks extend innings, they make the pitcher throw more pitches, they help the Mariners score more runs. Most people dig the long ball, I dig the walk.
The 2011 Mariners won’t break records for scoring runs, they won’t hit many home runs, but hey, one thing I can promise is that they will be better than the 2010 Mariners offense. And to anyone who struggled through the Mariners 2010 season that means a lot.
Stay tuned for an article outlining the Mariners pitching staff.