Without Functional Rotation, Seattle Mariners Bullpen Woes Won’t Be Fixed


The Seattle Mariners have allowed the most runs in the American League. They trail only the Milwaukee Brewers for the MLB “lead,” and that Brewers team is a dumpster fire like we haven’t seen in years. Suffice to say, this was unexpected. Of all the things to go wrong, this was the one people were least prepared for.

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So goes the story of the 2015 M’s so far: the hitting, somewhat unbelievably, has been there, save for a few guys, but the pitching is bringing this team to it’s knees. It’s another harrowing reminder that anything could go wrong. And right now what’s going wrong is that Mariners pitchers are getting smacked around.

Last night against the Houston Astros, Taijuan Walker had his most successful outing of the year. With eight strikeouts, Walker finally showed signs of coming around, despite allowing four walks. Except there was still one thing missing: he only threw 5.1 innings. Which meant another night of three-plus innings of work for a bullpen that really, really needs some paid time off.

We all saw what happened: an eight-inning implosion, starring two of the very best Mariners relievers. If Robinson Cano‘s error opened a door for the Astros, then the outings of Charlie Furbush and Danny Farquhar ripped the door all the way off by trying too enthusiastically to open it further. A Mariners lead gave way to a tie, which gave way to a deficit that finally settled in at three runs. The M’s didn’t overcome that deficit.

So while the bullpen lost this one with a little help from the defense, it’s easy to see how this could have been avoided. Furbush and Farquhar each pitched the night before, too – a clean inning for Furbush and 1.2 unsuccessful innings for Farquhar. They had the day off before that, but Farquhar pitched an inning the day before that, and Furbush got action the day earlier. They’d both been throwing a lot, is what I’m getting at.

Not to say that Lloyd McClendon should have simply gone with other arms – all the relievers are like this right now. The starters, even on their best days, just aren’t going deep into games. That means all the relievers are pitching more than you’d hope they would be. Which means they’re going to be vulnerable to outings like this.

It all starts with the starters, and right now the quickest, cleanest way to fix what’s plaguing the Mariners is for the starters to go deeper into games. The relievers don’t look great right now, but nobody would look great when asked to pitch as much as these guys have been lately. We want to jump all over the bullpen because the bullpen’s losing game after game right now. But they’re ill-equipped to deal with their current workload. Any evaluation right now would be hasty and emotionally responsive.

But yeah, this is hell for our emotions. We want these guys to do good, and it’s frustrating when they don’t, and it’s most frustrating when their failures are in large part due to circumstances outside their control. Walker really needed to eat innings last night, which he did not do, which is a shame because we should be celebrating his outing. Got the strikeouts right, that’s for sure. Kept runs off the board. But he walked dudes, and he further taxed the bullpen. What a mess we’re in, now.

Eventually things will get sorted out. Hisashi Iwakuma is too good to be this bad, and Walker/Paxton are still more likely than not to turn things all the way around. The bullpen has looked good when they’ve been rested, which, unfortunately, hasn’t been very often. There’s your solution: get the bullpen more rest, and the Mariners should stop allowing more runs than any other team in the league,

The 2015 Seattle Mariners probably aren’t the 2015 Minnesota Twins, but we’ve now seen just how close the two are when you take away Seattle’s perceived biggest strength. If the pitching doesn’t turn around, the M’s might be really disappointing. Fortunately three weeks of ineptitude hardly spells doom for a team that’s still projected to win their division.