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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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July 3, 2008 9:23 AM

Disappointment contest

Posted by Geoff Baker

So, the other day, I was reading one of those panel discussions from a national online sports site in which the panelists got to vote for their biggest surprises/disappointments of the baseball season so far. One of the biggest surprises for me was how many people chose the Mariners. Next on the list seemed to be the Detroit Tigers, who are in town tonight riding a 7-3 streak in their past 10 games. This will be the biggest test of the Jim Riggleman regime to-date. It's one thing to look good against the NL's dregs and the Toronto Blue Jays. But these are the same Tigers, remember, who are 5-1 versus Seattle this season. You've got four games against them here. Split the four and I'll start to be convinced the M's really have turned things around. Too late, but around.

Anyhow, which of these clubs has been the biggest disappointment?

Both mortgaged away some sizeable talent in the hopes of contending.

Seattle gave up Adam Jones and others for Erik Bedard. Detroit surrendered Andrew Miller and a bunch of others to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. The latter is back in the minors, while Cabrera -- expected to return tonight after being out two days with a sore hip flexor -- is muddling along with 11 home runs and an on-base-plus slugging percentage of .806. Not quite the 34 homers and .966 OPS he had last year. Cabrera's average career OPS -- even when dragged down by this year's numbers -- is .917.

In park factored OPS+, he'd averaged 150 or higher the past three seasons. It's now only 115. Yes, he's been a disappointment.

As a team, the Tigers have turned it around to sit 42-42 after a terrible start. They are still 7 1/2 games out of first place in the AL Central. They sit 6 1/2 back of Boston in the wild-card race. In other words, their chances of catching up, from an historical perspective, are not very good.

Then again, the Mariners are 17 1/2 out in the division and 15 1/2 back in the wild card race.

If Seattle continues to play at the 8-4 pace it has under Jim Riggleman so far, the M's will reach .500 again by about the second week in September.

Let's look at some other totals.

The Tigers were supposed to be a Murderers' Row lineup. They do sit fourth in the AL with a .771 OPS. But that's still more than 30 points behind Texas and Boston. And remember, the Red Sox are scuffling without David Ortiz in the lineup.

Seattle? Dead last at .690. Right behind the Angels. Yes, the Angels. (Want to really cry? The so-called Pythagorean Expectation says the M's should only be seven games behind the Angels, despite everything). What could have been...

On the pitching front, though, the Tigers are actually worse than the Mariners. Detroit sits 13th of 14 AL clubs with a team ERA of 4.51. Seattle is 12th at 4.45.

That's serious stuff. Detroit was supposed to have the pitching to win a World Series. Seattle was only picked to contend for a division title.

Detroit starters are at a 4.59 ERA comapred to Seattle's 4.84. That would be 10th best compared to 13th.

But in the bullpen, the M's are eighth best at 3.76 compared to Detroit being 12th at 4.34.

The Tigers' best starter is rookie Armando Galaragga, who is at 7-2 with a 3.40 ERA at age 26. His ERA+ is at 121.

Seattle's best is 22-year-old Felix Hernandez, at 6-5 with a 2.83 ERA and an ERA+ of 138.

The M's spent $117 million on their payroll. The Tigers checked in at $137 million.

Which team has been the bigger bust?

For me, expectations-wise, it might be the Tigers. Unless they at least make the post-season. We'll get into the Cleveland Indians and the monumental bust they've been at another date. But when you think about it, the Indians were suppsoed to be the Tigers' biggest division obstacle. And Cleveland has completely tanked. Yet, the Tigers, barring one of those inspirational comebacks, probably won't win their division. They were picked by many -- maybe even a majority of pundits -- to win it all. They are spending $20 million more than the M's.

One thing in Detroit's favor? They might be able to rebuild this thing pretty easily. Seattle? Not sure about that one. Leaning towards no.



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