2013 Seattle Mariners in Review: The Starters

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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Erasmo Ramirez – 72.1 IP, 4.98 ERA, 4.83 FIP, 4.26 xFIP, 7.09 K/9, 3.24 BB/9, 0.2 WAR

Did it seem to you at times that Erasmo was walking the world? Maybe not, but my perception of Ramirez’s 2013 season was that he couldn’t help himself from handing out tons of free passes. Well whadya know, 3.24 walks per nine isn’t a great number, but it’s not terrible, either. Perception lied, in this instance. Unfortunately, the perception that Erasmo had a disappointing year is dead on, as he developed a nagging home run problem and got shelled in seemingly all of his pre-September starts. It was a huge bummer of a season for a guy who was popular among fans and held in high regard from the team. It’s seemed forever as though he’s had to try extra hard to earn his place in the rotation, and 2013 did him no favors going forward. The M’s will almost certainly look to upgrade over Ramirez this winter, which, unfortunately, makes a lot of sense.

Brandon Maurer – 90 IP, 6.30 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 4.25 xFIP, 7.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.0 WAR

Maurer made the leap from AA to the bigs to open the season, then found himself finally tasting AAA after being really bad with the major league team. He bounced from AAA to AAAA, rotation to bullpen, and never really got into a positive groove. His biggest accomplishments came in his last three starts of the season, in which he finally began to look more like a member of the Big Four and less like Hector Noesi. Like Ramirez, Maurer isn’t likely to make the rotation out of camp in 2014, and like Ramirez, he doesn’t have much of any trade value right now. It was a rough year for M’s arms.

Aaron Harang – 120.1 IP, 5.76 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 4.42 xFIP, 6.51 K/9, 2.09 BB/9, 0.6 WAR

Did the Harangutan do anything well this year? Yeah, he limited walks. What about other things? Nope. Well, he soaked up some innings, I suppose. Aaron Harang is like a big ugly sponge that leaves crumbs everywhere and smells like rotten meat. Also, the sponge is bad at pitching. He was a bad sponge.

Joe Saunders – 183 IP, 5.26 ERA, 4.72 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, 5.26 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.6 WAR

I find it hard to fault the Mariners for signing Joe Saunders, because it’s generally unfair to evaluate deals purely based on hindsight. Also, and most importantly, because it was a fine idea at the time. Recall that Saunders was expected to get at least two guaranteed years. Also recall that Joe Blanton actually got two guaranteed years, and then after that had happened the M’s swooped up Saunders for a year and an option. Saunders would have been a fine signing if it hadn’t been for his awful, awful pitching. There were 81 pitchers in the majors this year who threw enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, and of them, Joe Saunders ranked 80th in ERA. He also ranked 80th in FIP and 79th in strikeouts per nine. The mistake wasn’t sticking Saunders on the team to begin with – the mistake was keeping him there for so long. The mistake is that he qualified for the ERA crown.

Felix Hernandez – 204.1 IP, 3.04 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 2.66 xFIP, 9.51 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, 6.0 WAR

This was Felix’s best season. Is that statement an infallible truth? No, of course not. The King did miss a few weeks, for example, and therefore missed out on the opportunity to post a gaudy innings total. His ERA started with a three, whereas in the past it has sometimes started with a two. But he posted the lowest walk rate of his career. He posted the highest strikeout rate of his career, by far. He didn’t show even the slightest signs of wear and tear on his arm, which was critical as he entered into his record-breaking new contract. Felix is signed for seven years and $175 million, which means we shouldn’t expect him to produce a lot of surplus value going forward. But this was a six-win season, and currently there aren’t any major leaguers who are paid to produce six-win seasons. The highest AAV in the game is $27 million, and the theoretical market rate for a win is $5 million. Even with A-Rod’s salary, 2013 Felix would have produced surplus value, and that is unbelievable. Felix was the sixth-most valuable pitcher in baseball, even though he threw the twenty-sixth most innings. It seems impossible, given what he already is and how long he’s been here, but Felix is still getting better. He might be the best pitcher in the world, and he might be better next year. Felix Hernandez is one in a million, if that isn’t selling him short.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hisashi Iwakuma – 219.2 IP, 2.66 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 3.28 xFIP, 7.58 K/9, 1.72 BB/9, 4.2 WAR

The Mariners’ Pitcher of the Year in 2013, Iwakuma erupted with a massive season for Seattle that nobody was counting on. He emerged as a front line starting pitcher, an ace, a workhorse, and set a team history WHIP mark while he was at it by running a low BABIP and walking less than zero batters, which you thought was impossible. Iwakuma was supposed to be an expensive Oakland A, but instead he’s a cheap ace for Seattle, and under club control for a couple more years. It’s funny, really – we’re all freaked out over Danny Hultzen’s shoulder injury, and rightfully so, but Iwakuma is not far removed from a devastating shoulder injury of his own. A shoulder injury that basically led to him being signed by the Mariners on the cheap, and that he has bounced back from just about as well as one could have possibly hoped. While the home run bug bit Iwakuma a bit this year, he more than made up for it with the rest of his game. Despite the dingers, he ran a ground ball rate that almost touched 50%. Iwakuma gave the Mariners one of the best front twos in all of baseball, and next year he gets to do it again. The 2014 Mariners don’t have much, but they have two aces, and that’s a lot.

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