Why just meeting expectations might be enough

So, I'm trying to distance myself from despair over the Angels' signings, and the lack of activity by the Mariners this offseason as of mid-December. To do that, I'm trying to figure out how a mediocre offseason and just having a roster that doesn't all tank at once, could be a possible contender.

I'm shamelessly riffing off of Dave Cameron's offseason plan to do just that. I think I have a way to have some hope here, if I'm using WAR correctly. My apologies if this comes across as rosterbation. I'm trying to steer away from that by just inserting placeholders for some positions, rather than any particular people.

Hope can be had by:

  • adding some league average players
  • having no terrible cliff-dives from anyone
  • a bounce-back season from a couple people
  • a modest step forward from 2 or 3 players who are supposedly some of the future of the franchise anyway

I think this, all taken together, is both more realistic than "we need Fielder / a monster offense", and still a stretch, as we haven't seen a roster all have an average or meets-expectations season yet.

My napkin math is after the jump.

Start with the lineup. It depends on Ackley having a breakout year, Smoak having a healthy year, and Guti and Ichiro bouncing back. Everyone else needs to just be league average. The numbers after each name are WAR. Comments in parenthesis.

  • C Jaso 2 (league average - assumes Jaso is 2010 Jaso and not 2011 Jaso, of course)
  • 1b Smoak 2.7 (fan projection from Fangraphs)
  • 2b Ackley 4 (fan projection on Fangraphs is actually 5.7!)
  • SS Ryan 2 (league average)
  • 3B Average player 2 (league average)
  • LF Average player 2 (league average)
  • CF Gutierrez 3 (fan projection from Fangraphs)
  • RF Ichiro 3 (This is more than what fans had him at. 3 is what I think a end-of-career bounceback year looks like, esp. since his only years under 4 were last year (.2) and 2005 (3.4).)
  • DH "Meh" player, 1.5 (low-expectations rotation of generic people)

That's 22.2 WAR there.

If you have mediocre bench players at 1 WAR each for 2 infielders and an outfielder, plus .5 WAR from Olivo, that's another 3.5 for 25.7 WAR.

For the bullpen, if you have League and another good reliever each contributing 1 WAR, 4 guys being average at .3 WAR each, and one guy being kinda meh at 0 WAR, that's another 3.2 WAR, for 28.9 WAR.

Finally, the rotation. Pencil in...

  • Felix for 6 WAR
  • Pineda for the fan-projected 4 WAR
  • Vargas for 2.5 WAR
  • A league-average pitcher for 2 WAR
  • A 5th starter / new guy breaking in / random assortment for 1 WAR

That gives you 15.5 WAR. 28.9 + 15.5 = 44.4 WAR. 43.8 WAR was the Angels' WAR last year, and it was 10th overall in baseball.

I don't know what the threshold will be for winning the West or the Wild Card in 2012. And I don't know what 'strength of schedule' does here, i.e. how these M's would hold up against the Rangers and Angels. And obviously WAR is a counting stat, not a predictive one, so hopefully I'm not abusing it so much here that I'm wasting your time. (Apologies if I have.)

But what all this leads me to hope for, is not some wonderful Pujols-sized Xmas gift; not some miracle run like '95 or '01; just a fervent hope that people can actively not suck. No fiery crashes, but no miracles either.

The Mariners can just get average players for 3b, LF and SP, have modestly good seasons from several players, and then have everyone else simply meet expectations. Is that too much to ask?

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