Seattle Mariners: Can the Bullpen Be a Strength Instead of a Weakness?

Alex CarsonCorrespondent IIIMarch 8, 2011

Brandon League will help. At least for a while.
Brandon League will help. At least for a while.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

When you lose 100 games, lots of fingers get pointed in lots of directions. The Mariners enter 2011 looking to improve every aspect of their roster not named Felix or Ichiro.

The unhappy totals for the bullpen were not exempt from being a target, certainly.

The collective WAR of the group was -0.4, second worst in all of baseball. The Mariners, quite literally, could have run out any random 12 average minor leaguers and got similar results.

Only four relievers on the roster posted a positive WAR, with one of them being September call-up Dan Cortes, who only pitched 5.1 innings. Guys like Brian Sweeney and Sean White sucked up nearly 40 innings with below average relieving.

As we head into 2011, can we expect this group to a strength as opposed to a weakness?

Looking at the group that should fill the bullpen for the majority of the season, I think it can be a strength.

If all goes right, we could optimistically expect a collective WAR in the three-four range. Though, the team will at some point be breaking in rookies Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke with the expected eventual departure of either, or both, David Aardsma and Brandon League via trade.

Both of those guys are capable of being plus-one win or better players, so that does hurt the chances. However, while Lueke and Cortes won't immediately replace that value, both stand to be better than the aforementioned Sweeney and White right out of the gates.

I don't know that this group will challenge for the league lead, but I believe they're certainly capable of a 2.8 collective WAR, which would put them in the middle of the pack in the game.

As the team continues to add pieces and bring up young talent, things will turn around and fewer fingers will have to be pointed in a negative way.

When the sun sets on the 2011 season, the bullpen will indeed be pointed at again. This time, though, it will be as a strength that helped improve the team from their 100 loss woes.