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A Quick Dash of Optimism

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I'm bouncing from one obligation to another these days, so I don't have much free time on my hands, but as long as I'm here, there's something I want to say:

Don't be fooled by their record. The Mariners don't have to rebuild a 69-93 team this winter.

You can take this any way you want, but however you look at it, the 2005 Mariners underperformed as a team. In terms of Pythagorean record and Third-Order Adjusted Standings, they finished six wins below the expected 75-87 mark. Sure, we saw the same kind of thing happen with the 2004 team, but generally speaking, this kind of bad luck doesn't carry over from one season to the next.

With that in mind, you could say that the Mariners were a 75 win-caliber team, but what does this really tell you going forward? This is a team that gave more than 10% of its at bats to trash like Wilson Valdez, Scott Spiezio, Pat Borders, and Miguel Olivo (among a few others). If you take those same AB's and give them to just randomly generated replacement-level bats, you get another four- to five-win improvement, bringing the team's expected record considerably closer to the .500 mark without the front office having to do anything particularly significant or creative.

The 2005 Mariners easily could have finished with a win total in the upper 70s without having to change very much at all, and that's before you consider the implications of having guys like Felix, Sherrill, and Soriano around all year long, instead of, say, Sele, Thornton, and Nelson. With that in mind, they really don't need to rock the boat this winter in order to be in good position for 2006 - with a B-grade addition to the lineup and some added starting rotation depth, they could find themselves staring something like 86-76 in the face, just an Adrian Beltre rejuvenation away from winning the division.

There's a ton of untapped analysis in there, but I don't really have the time to do it right now. The basic gist of the message is that the Mariners really don't look like that bad of a team going into next year, and that's before you factor in potential offseason acquisitions or player improvement (I'm looking at you, Beltre, Reed, and Lopez). Honestly, they're not that far away. I don't think you'll find a better sleeper pick for 2006.