=== He Don' Call It Inside for Nothin' ===
Kudos to Jason for a bangin' report on the M's division chances through the lens of eight or ten field scouts.
I/O: First scout says, tons of offensive holes -- even if you lead the league in ERA, scoring 650 runs won't win a division. Angels the faves.
Crunch: Blengino acknowledged this on the radio a week or two ago: "The bottom line is, we finished ten games out because we scored 640 runs," or somesuch.
The offense is a legit question -- in terms of winning the AL West. Notice how each response takes 81, 85 wins as a given. The skepticism is related to winning the division and the pennant.
That said, Rob Neyer's first reaction in a recent radio interview was that "The Mariners added Chone Figgins and he was one of the 10 best players in the American League last year."
Hm. Well, yeah. If you give Figgins credit for +5 or +10 runs at third base, there he is at +45 or +50 runs. Baserunning and walks included, he created 100-120 runs as a third baseman. Quite a year.
Problemo is, despite his +61 RAR last year, his previous high was about +30...
The M's did hugely upgrade 3B and LF, and the platoon may control some of the damage at 1B.
I/O: Third scout says, lineup went considerably backwards, the defense and pitching only slightly up. Not enough to win the division unless a lot of things land right.
Crunch: On paper, yeah, Washburn allowed 0 or 1 runs in 13/20 starts. No way Lee does better than that, right?
Well, that's on paper... some other M's pitcher will probably benefit from the park and defense in similar fashion. Fister or RRS or somebody will likely wind up with a lucky 3.00-ish ERA, first 3-4 months, canceling Washburn, and then Lee replaces the 5 starter.
Still and all, the M's can't do better than lead the league in ERA.
They finished at 112+ last season. With Felix, Lee, a half-year of Bedard, and some breaks at BOR, the 2010 Mariners can ERA+ 115 to 120.
I/O: Fourth scout says, a bunch of young and hungry players -- add a #3 starter "and the M's could run away with the division."
Crunch: This guy is looking at the whole rather than the sum of the parts.
The M's do have competition at 1B, at C, at LF. With the Kotchman-Garko thing, and the Byrnes-Saunders thing, etc ... I could see a plucky, Oakland A's-style surprise out of the offense.
A team that ERA+'s 118, and OPS+'s 100, can win 95 games.