Seems like as good a time as any to bring this up, what with all the handwringing over the Casey Kotchman move.
Ask anyone about the 2010and, to a man, they'll tell you the same thing. This team can pitch a little bit, and its defense is extraordinary, but scoring runs will be a struggle. They'll tell you that the offense is poor, and that, while hitting isn't everything, it's important, and also this team's biggest weakness. In short, the consensus opinion seems to be that the lineup may not produce enough runs to get this team into the playoffs.
Now, it's not right to just focus on hitting, and I don't want to encourage that sort of analysis. Rather than as pitchers, hitters, and defenders, teams should be thought of as pitchers and position players. Position players provide value both at the plate and in the field. However, I'd still like to take this opportunity to point out that, though our lineup isn't terrific, it's really not that bad. People who're concerned about a 600-run season might want to take a step back and re-think their calculations.
Observe the following table. In it you'll find my best guess at the roster, my best guess at playing time, and each player's 2010 wOBA, as projected by CHONE. Try not to focus too much on the specifics. Maybe Josh Bard makes the team over Adam Moore. Maybe Milton Bradley gets a few more PAs. Maybe Jack Wilson stays healthy. Trust me when I say it doesn't make much of a difference. Giving all of Griffey's plate appearances to Bradley changes the team wOBA by a staggering two points.
Note the listing of [Name] for BENCH-OF. The assumption here is that the team will find a replacement for Bill Hall, and that he'll be something like a league-average hitter.
The result? A team wOBA of .321, against a Safeco-adjusted league average of .325. A year ago, the Mariners clocked in at .313, the result of collapses by Yuniesky Betancourt and Adrian Beltre and a mess in left field. This roster projects to be better by about 40 runs or so. Now, there's clearly room for some trouble in 2010 as well, as Jose Lopez may regress or Bradley could get really hurt, but a chunk of that is balanced out by Ichiro being projected 19 points below his career wOBA. Personally, I think the table above is pretty fair.
What if you're not a big fan of the CHONE projections? Let's take an alternate route and keep the same players and playing time while plugging in their 2009 performances instead. I don't necessarily recommend this, but just for the hell of it:
Note that I left Moore, [Name], and Assorted as is. Slight park adjustments were made for Kotchman, Figgins, and Bradley.
The result? A team wOBA of .323. Virtually identical. We can say with a pretty high degree of certainty, then, that the current Mariner roster projects to be only a little below average at the plate. Using Fangraphs' numbers, a .321 team wOBA is something like 19 runs below average, and while there's room for the team to do worse than that, you also have to consider that Ichiro's pretty low, Griffey (and Langerhans) may do better in platoon roles, and the outfielder I think we're going to bring in may be better than this. Every projection comes with error bars. All you can plan for is the point in the middle.
All those people who think this offense is hopeless? All those people who don't want to trade Jose Lopez because "he's one of our only hitters"? Their hearts are in the right place, but their worries are not. Unless I'm missing something huge, I just don't think we look as bad at the plate as so many people have assumed. There's not a lot of home run power here, but home runs aren't the only way to score, and this team looks ready to prove it.