UPDATE 11:03 A.M.: Game 1 lineup
LF Endy Chavez
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Russell Branyan
2B Jose Lopez
C Rob Johnson
CF Franklin Gutierrez
SS Yuniesky Betancourt
RHP Chris Jakubauskas
A look out at Michigan Avenue moments ago on what Elvis Presley might have described as “a cold and gray Chicago morn’ ” as we await today’s doubleheader. I think they’ll get it in. But it’s going to be cold. Have a look at this quick video I shot if you want a sense of what it’s like walking along this city’s famed shopping stretch. Not a tour. Just designed to give you a quick feel for what downtown Chicago and the weather are like today (since you can’t be here yourselves).
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Anyhow, let’s check in with the Mariners’ defense, since it’s a big reason the team remains 12-7 and in first place.
A look at FanGraphs.com shows us the Mariners are no longer the top-rated team defensively when it comes to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). But the good news for M’s fans is that the team remains No. 4 overall in the majors and second in the AL behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Seattle has a rating of +7.4, which is down one run from the last time we checked in just over a week ago. But you have to remember, there is a margin for error with these stats. They are not picture perfect — no stats are. But they are slightly less reliable than offensive stats, so what you look for are trends. And after three weeks of baseball, the trend is that the M’s remain a much better team defensively than a year ago. In fact, they remain one of the better teams in MLB, whether they are first, fourth, sixth, or whatever. If they stay top-10, you can pretty much assume they are good.
Franklin Gutierrez continues to lead the way. In fact, he’s improved since last we checked in and sits at a +4.2. Adrian Beltre is second at +3.0, as anyone who watched his glove during the last homestand can attest. He’s coming on defensively.
Endy Chavez is a combined +3.0 runs saved at three positions.
On the downside, Ichiro remains a -1.0 defensively, though I still think that’s going to hit the plus-side pretty soon as he plays more games.
Yuniesky Betancourt is getting worse, having dropped down to a -4.1. He’s going to have to pick it up in the field.
And the entire team will have to pick it up offensively. With defense this good, even a minimal jump in run production could mean a lot of wins.
Here are the UZR scores:
Franklin Gutierrez +4.2
Adrian Beltre +3.0
Endy Chavez (LF +2.5; RF +1.1; CF -0.6) +3.0
Wladimir Balentien (LF +0.6; RF +0.3) +0.9
Russell Branyan +0.6
Jose Lopez +0.6
Ken Griffey Jr. +0.5
Ronny Cedeno (LF +1.0; SS 0.0; 2B -0.3; 3B -0.3) +0.4
Mike Sweeney -0.4
Jamie Burke (1B) -0.4
Yuniesky Betancourt -4.1
Remember, catchers and pitchers are not measured by UZR.