Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins Make Seattle Mariners Team To Beat In AL West

Joe HojnackiContributor IDecember 18, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 02:  Starting pitcher Cliff Lee #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in Game Five of the 2009 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park on November 2, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 8-6.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners have become the team to beat in the American League West with the additions of Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee. They now have a one-two punch in both their lineup and pitching rotation that makes them stronger than any other team in the division.

Let's start with the offense. This is what the Mariners projected offense looks like with their 2009 bating line (AVG/OBP/SLG) according to U.S.S. Mariner , the best Mariners blog on the Internet:

C-R Rob Johnson .213/.289/.326

C-R Adam Moore .217/.346/.429
1B-L Mike Carp .315/.415/.463
2B-R Jose Lopez .272/.303/.463
SS-R Jack Wilson .255/.292/.362
3B-B Chone Figgins .298/.395/.393
LF-L Michael Saunders .221/.258/.279
CF-R Franklin Gutierrez .283/.339/.425
RF-L Ichiro .352/.386/.465
DH-L Ken Griffey Jr. .214/.324/.411
UT-R Bill Hall (IF/OF-R? OF-R?) .201/.258/.338
IF-L Jack Hannahan .230/.311/.345

The offense has two legitimate lead off hitters in Ichiro and Chone Figgins. Figgins projects to drop off slightly in his on base and average. He is entering his age 30 season, which is when we typically see players tend to begin their decline, especially speed guys like Chone. Ichiro, however, is one of the most consistent hitters in the game and will put up big numbers. He probably won't hit .352 again, but Bill James projects him at .319, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Beyond that, the lineup is only missing a big power threat. Mike Carp has a lot of upside, but will be entering his first full season in the bigs. Jose Lopez delivers the best power on the team with only 25 homers. Resigning Russell Branyan would go a long way to helping the power numbers. Griffey looks to be a DH at best, and he probably won't play every day, maybe less than half the time.

Then there is also Bleacher Report's Jack Daniels suggesting that they go hardcore after Adrian Gonzalez . They have stiff competition in that battle, however. The Red Sox are also in play for the for the Padre first baseman, and they need to fill a hole at the corner infield spots badly.

The starting rotation is the next reason the Mariners look like a contender. The Angels had the best staff before they lost John Lackey to the Red Sox. Now, Seattle has Felix Hernandez and Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to hold down the pitching mound.

The back of the rotation needs a little finalization. Brandon Morrow only started ten games in the majors last year and needs to bring down his walk rate a bit. He would love to return to his 2008 form when he threw 10.44 K/9 IP in 64 2/3 innings out of the pen. Ryan Rowland-Smith projects to sit in the four spot. He will keep the ball in the park (.92 HR/9 IP), but needs better strikeout numbers to really succeed. The last spot will belong to either Carlos Silva, Ian Snell, Doug Fister, or Yusmeiro Petit.

Compared to the rest of the division they have one of the best teams out there. The Angels lost a lot when Figgins stayed within the division by signing with the Mariners and when Lackey left town for Boston. The Rangers have not gained anything, and they are losing Hank Blaylock. Nobody expects Oakland to do much of anything and will lose pitching because of Justin Duchscherer declining arbitration.

The Mariners have lost the least and gained the most. The team went 85-77 last year and they will have expectations of 90 wins or more and a division title. One more big signing and I am willing to pencil in them in for the ALCS come October.


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