One of the primary recurring themes of this long, long baseball offseason has been several teams' renewed focus on defense. We all know how the Mariners went from losing all 162 games they played in 2008 to incredibly winning all 162 in 2009 (editor's note: exaggeration) due to improved an improved defense supporting an already strong pitching staff.
And we all know that the Mariners have continued to make savvy moves to bolster their pitching and defense again, in hopes of improving on that 162-0 record that was fueled by great pitching and stellar defense.
Boston has also placed a premium on bolstering its rotation and defense this offseason, the latter of which is fairly hilarious when you consider my little league field had a deeper left field fence than the Green Monster. Unfounded teasing aside, on paper the Red Sox look to be a run-preventing machine, much like the 2010 Mariners.
Even the Yankees -- despite providing an offensive year for the ages in 2009 -- have been somewhat infected with the defensive-mindset, opting to give Brett Gardner every chance to succeed in left (center?) field while letting Damon's far-superior bat find another home.
What does all this mean? I have no idea until they start playing some actual Goddamn games, although given that Boston's and Seattle's defensive improvements have seemingly come at the expense of offensive firepower, I'm still not sure these teams have what it takes to compete with the Yankees. The Yanks return a near-identical if not more potent 1-9 than last year to the batter's box, while also making defensive upgrades in two-thirds of the outfield. Oh yeah, and they also brought back the guy who had the 4th-best FIP in the NL last year to the rotation.
Make no mistake, the Sox and Mariners are both going to be good this year, but I do think the intense focus on improving the defense while neglecting the offense could end up being their respective undoings. All the run prevention in the world don't mean a thing if you've got a goose egg on your side of the ledger at the end of nine.