Is it necessary to put that “Batting” in there? Would everyone understand if I just said, “Taking An Early Look At The Mariners’ Lineup”? Ahh well, it’s too late now. Can’t change what’s already on the Internet, that’s unpossible.
It appears, with the trade for Adam Lind(*), the Mariners have their starting nine all set. Really, for all intents and purposes, the vast majority of the roster is set; you might see some minor signings for extra pitching depth/bullpen help, but for the most part, what you see is what you get.
(*) – Love the trade. Only gave up 3 really low-level pitchers? For a 1-year rental? I’d say that’s well worth it.
The pitching sort of frightens me this year, if I’m being honest. I look at this team, and I look at all the moves that’ve been made, and I’m seeing something really special going on. The lineup 1-9 looks FANTASTIC. Looks like it was absolutely made with Safeco Field in mind. The black holes have been drastically reduced, we’re no longer counting exclusively on young players trying to develop; indeed, the only youngster on the 25-man right now we’re hoping will succeed is Ketel Marte. Everyone else has a good chunk of Major League experience. So, we can look at the backs of their baseball cards and reasonably expect the majority of our hitters to reflect the numbers we’ve seen in recent years. That’s a HUGE upgrade over what we’ve had to slog through since probably 2009 or 2007.
The pitching, however, looks to be the reason why this team WON’T make the playoffs; when was the last time you could say that? (well, maybe 2015, but I would argue a lot of hitting woes contributed to that disappointing season as well). After Felix, it’s nothing but question marks. And the bullpen? I’m not even REMOTELY prepared to go there. Surely, you reason, the bullpen couldn’t be as bad as last year! While it might not be as gut-churning as watching a Fernando Rodney 9th inning meltdown, I would argue we’re in for a lot more quick stomach punches. The guys we’ve brought in so far appear to be good at throwing strikes, but also have a tendency to give up a lot of homers. So, what was once a situation where he walks a guy, gives up a bloop single, strikes out a guy, walks another guy to load the bases, and then either gets out of it or gives up 4 runs; now will be a situation where we’re clinging to a 1-run lead, or heavens forbid a tie ballgame, and all of a sudden, WHAM, blown save on the first pitch.
I’m already having flashbacks to situations that haven’t even happened yet.
So, let’s focus on what should surely be this team’s strength: hitting. Would you like to see a professional baseball lineup? It’s been a while, I don’t know if you’re ready! Mariners fans are like those people who are just getting out of a sexless marriage and are now starting to date again after 15 years; a lot has changed in the world of Major League hitting. For starters, steroids are illegal now. Like FOR REAL illegal. I KNOW, right? Also, winning ballclubs don’t just try to out-homer every other team. You’ve got to get guys on base, play some small ball, hit line drives and whatnot. It might shock some people (I know it came as a HUGE surprise to the Mariners organization), but we don’t play our home games in the Kingdome anymore. So, building lineups out of slow, lumbering, right-handed homer machines isn’t really the best way to score runs on a consistent basis.
With that preamble out of the way, I want you to brace yourselves, as you feast your eyes on my first projected Mariners lineup of 2016:
- Nori Aoki, LF, bats lefty, career .287/.353/.386/.740
- Ketel Marte, SS, switch hitter, career .283/.351/.402/.753
- Robinson Cano, 2B, bats lefty, career .307/.356/.494/.850
- Nelson Cruz, DH, bats righty, career .273/.334/.510/.844
- Kyle Seager, 3B, bats lefty, career .263/.328/.434/.762
- Adam Lind, 1B, bats lefty, career .274/.332/.466/.797
- Seth Smith, RF, bats lefty, career .263/.344/.452/.796
- Chris Iannetta, C, bats righty, career .231/.351/.405/.756
- Leonys Martin, CF, bats lefty, career .255/.305/.361/.666
Isn’t that something? Tack on Guti to platoon with Smith, with his career .258/.309/.405/.715, and you’ve got yourself something you can work with!
Obviously, I highly doubt this is what it’ll actually end up looking like. If nothing else, the order will probably be fluid. I think Lind’s natural spot is going to be in that 5/6 range; he’ll bat immediately after the trio of Cano/Cruz/Seager, however they end up ordering the Big Three. Lind has moderate pop (hits over 20 homers when he’s able to play a full season), which keeps him right in that range. As for the 2-hole, I think the team WANTS Marte to earn that spot. He’s got the speed you like at the top of a lineup, and he appears to get on base at a good clip (though, we’d need more than a half-season sample size to confirm). But, the great thing with this lineup, is that it’s really riddled with 2-hole hitters.
You could bump the Big Three up, so Cano is batting 2nd, Cruz third, and Seager 4th. You could jump Seager up to the 2-hole. You could keep them where they’re at and put a veteran presence like Smith/Guti in there. Or, given his on-base ability, you could have Lind in that spot.
The best part of this lineup, should Marte pan out, is that we’re really 7-deep. There aren’t any easy outs until you get to the last two spots in the lineup. But, you’re still going to get a professional at-bat out of Iannetta. And, with Martin’s speed, he’ll always be a threat to get on via the infield single.
The point is, we’ll be putting pressure on opposing pitchers and keeping it on them. THAT’S what I like about this lineup. That’s what I’ve been looking for all along, since the good Mariners teams crashed in 2004 and we had to start the thing all over again.