World ML: What does Seattle need to make the next jump up?
captain10a: The M's pitching staff has been carrying the team for the past 2
seasons. If the young bats like Santayana and Lopez can progress and take a
big step forward, Seattle should be able to make a move in the AL.
World ML: Can the Pirates repeat?
blanch13: Can? Sure. Will? Longshot. We got really lucky last year. Remember, we only got the 6th seed by 4 games over the Reds. Take away an out-of-his-mind career year by Roberto Rodriguez and we may not have made the playoffs.
That said, our pitching staff is tailor-made for playoff baseball. Caldwell, Garrido and McBride threw 70% of our playoff innings last year. Get us in the playoffs and we're dangerous.
We have to upgrade our offense. Joe Jackson and Jorge Polanco were nice pickups for us. Rod McNeill will probably open the season with us in left field and gives us a legit power threat. And we expect a better season (.246, 19 HR) from Fernando Posada, who showed us what he can do in the playoffs (.324, 7 HR).
So we're better, but still trying to improve on the offensive side.
I think we also improved our pitching. Denny Sullivan should be a step up at 4th starter. We were really stoked to get Benny Polanco - those 2 long/middle reliever roles are key for us with a 4-man rotation...Benny will open at one of those and Joakim Rosado, Brett Gordon and Rodney Stuart will battle for the other. David Espinosa gives another reliable late-innings vet.
So I'm optimistic. I don't think we can overhaul the Mets in the NL East but maybe we'll get into the playoffs with a little more breathing room this year.