Ever since the Putz trade went down and it became apparent that our regular 2009 starting outfield is likely going to feature Ichiro flanked by Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez, a lot of people - both malcontents and optimists alike - have been saying "okay, but where's the power?" These three players combined to hit 15 home runs last year. Adding together their career highs only yields 33. A major point of concern, then, is that, while the outfield will be able to scamper its ass off, it may not be able to hit enough to really help the team.
These people are correct on one point - the outfield isn't going to drive in that many runs. CHONE projects only one of the group to finish with a SLG over .400, and that's Gutierrez, at .403. It's not a unit that Zduriencik put together with the intent of stabilizing the lineup.
But it's on the subsequent suggestion - that the outfield won't hit enough to be of much service - that I think these people are mistaken. I shouldn't need to tell you that a run is a run, no matter how it's contributed. A player could be worth 3 WAR by hitting a lot of singles, drawing a lot of walks, slugging a lot of homers, stealing a lot of bases, or making a lot of plays in the field. It doesn't matter. They're all equally valuable. It makes no difference how runs are created, so long as they're created.
And the outfield that it looks like we're going to put out there a lot of the time will generate a good deal of its value by tracking down fly balls. Just because the contributions won't be as conspicuous isn't going to make them any less real.
Let's try this. In order of 2009 projected WAR, over a full 700 PA sample:
Ramirez: 3.75 - 4.25
Ichiro: 3 - 3.5
Gutierrez: 2.25 - 2.75
Dunn: 2 - 2.5
Abreu: 1.5 - 2
Burrell: 1.5 - 2
Ibanez: 1.25 - 1.75
Chavez: 1 - 1.5
Anderson: 0.25 - 0.75
Griffey: 0 - 0.5
We're looking at a league-average outfield with the potential to be more than that, and while the names might not be sexy and the bats might not be the most potent, it's about equal with an outfield of, say, Ibanez/Ichiro/Dunn, and well ahead of an "outfield" of Ibanez/Ichiro/Griffey. Hell, for all the flak Ichiro gets for not being a classic run producer, over the past three years he's been worth 0.9 wins more than Alfonso Soriano, 2.6 wins more than Vladimir Guerrero, and 4.4 wins more than Torii Hunter. He's an awesome player, even if he doesn't seem like one.
Home runs, OBP, RBI - don't get caught up in these things. They're good things to collect, but there's a lot that goes into being a useful player, and bemoaning the 2009 Mariner outfield's collective lack of power and traditional run productivity only serves to sell it short, because that's not how it brings its value to the table. If you can accept that there are several different ways in which a player may help his team, then you will be more prepared to enjoy these guys for what they are, and less inclined to be frustrated with them for not being what they're not.