One of the true joys of watching sports is that, occasionally, the results defy all conventional wisdom and expectations. Who would have expected Butler’s basketball team to play in back-to-back national title games? Who projected Notre Dame to play for the 2012 college football championship? Who would have had the courage to suggest Chone Figgins would (or even could) homer not once but TWICE last season? Nobody. Or at least, not publicly, because those predictions would have been insane.
But sometimes, those kinds of outlandish prognostications make sports a little more fun. Maybe these predictions are backed by some small, unquantifiable detail one just happens to notice in the flow of a game or a season. A gut feeling if you will. Predictions from the gut are particularly satisfying: If they flop, all will be forgotten soon. But if you’re gut feeling is right, you’re the seer, you’re the one who can read the matrix. A gut feeling can be exhilarating and it can add another layer of intrigue to the event in question.
Since none of us at PBNW are immune from coveting all the adulation that comes from such whimsical success, Griffin, Nathan, and I are each sharing one gut feeling we have about the upcoming season. There is nothing scientific, sabermetric, or even necessarily anything rational about these predictions. Sometimes though, climbing on a limb can be revealing. Or at least serve as a change of pace. Anyways, we hope you enjoy them, and we invite you to share your own in the comments.
Did you know the Mariners have had a bad offense for years? Really? You’d already heard? Well that limits the effectiveness of this intro. Anyway, while plumbing the endless depths of the hitters’ years of ineptitude I found the following:
In the last three seasons the Mariners have not had one position player accumulate at least 4.0 fWAR. The player who came closest was Brendan Ryan in 2011 with 3.6. I'm fairly certain that the majority of that total was achieved with his glove and not his bat.
By comparison the 2001 team had five players above 4.0 WAR and three more over 3.0. In 2001 almost every regular player in the Mariners lineup was superior to every player they have used for the last three years. That that statement does not ring hyperbolic says many things, amongst them: I want to drink.
All of that depressing information sets the backdrop for my hunch. During those last three years the M’s front office has spent vast resources through drafts and trades to acquire a core of young offensive talent. That core has largely disappointed. My hunch is that while we as fans have looked to trades or free agent signings this offseason to improve the team’s hitting, the biggest addition will be the breakout of one of the Ackley/Montero/Smoak(?) trio. The fences are coming in, probability would lend itself against three highly touted prospects all becoming below average players, and I find it infinitely easier to be optimistic about the team during the winter when the harsh reality of their being does not confront me every day at 7:05. Additionally, I am a snobby beer drinker who cannot afford the amount of quality booze required to sit through another season of this.
Look for a current hitter on the roster to bust out and post a 5+ WAR season. May Heaven so favor me as to deem this hunch accurate. For the good of us all.
Dustin Ackley will be an All-Star caliber player in 2013. Coming off a season in which he hit just .226/.294/.328 for a total of 1.8 fWAR, it’s hard to get excited about Ackley’s prospects for next year. Yet I think not only will Ackley bounce back, but that he’ll be one of the Mariners most valuable hitters, and a 4-5 WAR player.
After tearing up the majors as a rookie during the second half of 2011, Ackley’s sophomore campaign was largely disappointing. One of the main causes of his steep drop in production was a fluky BABIP, which fell from a robust (and probably fortunate) .337 average in his rookie season to an unlucky .265 mark this year. He should see his BABIP regress some in 2013, which will boost his value.
But, more than anything else, Dustin Ackley can just flat out hit. He’s excelled everywhere he’s played—from college at North Carolina up through every level of the minor leagues—and I don’t believe that he somehow lost that talent after one bad season.
Plus, he’s proven he can succeed against Major League pitching, as he did when he hit .273/.348/.417 in a little over a half of a season in 2011; it’s not as if he is completely overmatched by the competition.
2013 will be the year Ackley puts it all together. He will add impact offense to his already outstanding defense and will develop into one of the American League’s best second basemen.
I see that it's 'feel good about the young bats day' at PBNW. I'm not one to spoil a parade, so I'll continue the theme with my prediction: I believe Jesus Montero is going to bust out and make us forget all about his mediocre rookie campaign.
Critics of Montero will rightly point out that he's simply masquerading as a catcher while also arguing that his performance against righties was alarmingly poor. And while, no, a .228/.262/.346 line against right handers won't cut it long term, I think I'd let a prospect with his talent tour the circuit a few times before labeling him a platoon bat.
Moreover, I was encouraged by his 113 wRC+ away from Safeco. It's a convenient sample to be sure, but it's also clear that Montero was frustrated by his home yard. I am cautiously optimistic that the shortened dimensions on the left side of the field will help Montero mentally as much as they will tangibly, and that his numbers in Safeco will soon perk up.
At the end of the day, even though Montero fell short of (lofty) expectations, there were enough encouraging signs in his game to believe that he can develop into a star hitter. Nobody on this team can smack a ball like he did against Tim Lincecum. Nobody in the organization can line a major league pitch as hard as Montero does when he's locked in. And lest we forget, he was only twenty-two last year.
With all that in mind, I'm going to optimistically predict a .280/.350/.450 line with 20+ bombs for Montero next season. No, it won't come as a catcher like we all hoped when the trade was consummated. But even though he's a DH (and I think Mariner fans hold a soft spot for that position), I expect his production to more than justify his place on the team. He's going to be young, good, and ours to enjoy for years to come.