Thursday, April 08, 2004

The offense speaks for itself. Two ten-run games against two good pitchers in a pitcher's park are nothing to cough at. Ace Washburn didn't look so great last night; our pitchers may have to get used to long rests between innings.

How bad does Seattle's defense look? Letting Mike Cameron flee to the Mets meant that Randy Winn -- a good leftfielder -- moved to center, and Raul Ibanez was picked up to fill the leftfield gap. Cameron is a superlative centerfielder; MGL's Ultimate Zone Rating (no longer available online, I believe, pending Tango Tiger's move to his new website) sees him as (from most recent backwards) 31, 28, and 25 runs above average with his glove over the past three years; the only comparable player is our own Darin Erstad, who had three straight seasons of 38, 24, and 56 before being injured last year.

Winn and Ibanez, meanwhile, are no great shakes at their positions. The Mariners are likely losing two or three wins, and they can only hope that Ibanez out-hits Cameron to a similar degree. Raul Ibanez, who will turn 32 this year and whose OPS+ since 2001 have gone 112, 116, and 99 (career mark: 99). Whereas Cameron has put up 124, 116, and 106 (career: 105). Seattle is betting heavily that Cameron will continue his decline, and that Ibanez's 2003 was a mirage. The talent at the top of the AL West is so close that two or three wins could prove significant.

Mariners fans must also be frightened by the glovework of Rich Aurilia, who has looked like Little League replacement level defensively. UZR bears out these observations; after a good 2001 (+16 runs), Aurilia has declined to -18 and -10 over the last two years. Carlos Guillen was about average.

My initial thought was that it should be fairly easy for Aurilia to out-hit Guillen, but looking at the numbers doesn't bear this out. Aurilia was a bona fide MVP candidate (well, in a normal, non-Barry world) in 2001, matching a good defensive performance with an eye-popping 148 OPS+. But the last two years have seen a decline to 95 and 91. Guillen, by contrast, is moving the other way: the 98 and 102 he's put up the last two years have each marked career highs.

I still think that Seattle is a formidable foe, and that we cannot easily discount them. But they are counting on a lot of risks paying off, and a lot of veterans hanging on for one more good year. You can see why Mariner fans are frustrated with their team's direction.

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