What Has Become Of The Seattle Mariners’ Pitching?


For years, the Seattle Mariners haven’t had much in the way of positive claims to fame. They’ve had less than their share of hitters and even less in the way of team success, though they have always had one strength to lean on. Safeco Field is a pitcher’s park, and the Mariners are a pitcher’s team. And more often than not, the Mariners have featured a good-to-great pitching staff.

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This year has been a pretty massive letdown for M’s fans. The team was supposed to be good, and instead it just totally sucks. They’re bad in their typical, punchless way, but also in a new, worse way. Because while these Mariners still feature position players who are bad in the field and worse at the plate, there’s now no strong side to lean on. Because this team has cobbled together a bunch of pitchers who can’t pitch.

For an overview: the 2014 Mariners had a strong but not world-beating pitching staff, finishing tied with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with 15.0 pitching wins above replacement, thirteenth-best in the majors. So far this year they’re at 6.4, firmly entrenched in 23rd place. The team as a whole has thrown 1056.2 innings, and they’ve been about as valuable as the 236 innings thrown last year by Felix Hernandez alone.

Looking for reasons to be disappointed about this team? Of course you aren’t, nobody is, but if you were you’d probably look at the offense, out of habit. The offense has been it’s usual self, so it seems almost unfair to say that that’s the most disappointing thing about this team. We’re used to bad defense, too, and so that leaves the pitching. And oh, how disappointing it’s been!

Felix has been the team’s best arm – by far – and he’s on pace to have his worst season since 2008. He’s had three legitimately terrible starts this year, including last night’s ten-run drubbing. All told, the King is running a 3.65 ERA and a 3.53 FIP. As a reminder, this is following a season where he proooobably should have won the Cy Young. It’s not like he’s been a disaster, or even that he’s been at all bad. He’s just been kind of pedestrian, especially compared to himself.

So the one guy who’s holding the whole group up is having an off year. So is Hisashi Iwakuma, who, despite his no-hitter, is still having a down season. Taijuan Walker has excited at times, but more often than not he’s been a bummer. James Paxton? Hurt almost all year. Roenis Elias was bad. Mike Montgomery is finally pitching like the guy he was supposed to be all along. J.A. Happ was a dumb idea in the first place.

A patchwork rotation generating patchwork results, say the ones who would love to pretend that they saw this coming in March. In reality, the rotation was supposed to be the strongest point on a team that was strong everywhere. That was the theory then, and now we have the reality. As far as realities goes, it’s pretty garbagey.

Don’t forget last year’s 4.1 WAR bullpen, which was baseball’s ninth-best by that measure. They had the best ERA in all of baseball! They had a top ten K rate and a top five FIP! That was as fun a bullpen as we’ve seen in years. The team did almost nothing to change it, and has paid dearly. The lesson we thought everyone knew was never trust relievers to be consistent. Turns out we had forgotten – as had the M’s front office.

This year the Mariners’ bullpen has been worth 0.1 WAR, third-to-last and ahead of only Texas and Boston. It’s an embarrassing collapse that has more to do with individual volatility than anything else. They shouldn’t be this bad, but they shouldn’t have been that good last year, either. Trusting that (or any) bullpen to replicate it’s success was crazy. Stupid and crazy.

Over the last three days the Mariners allowed 45 runs. That might have been an anomaly, but the simple fact that the pitching fell on it’s face shouldn’t be a surprise any more – it’s been this way all year. The 2015 Seattle Mariners have allowed the fourth-most runs in the American League. They’re not just bad because of their hitting. They’re bad because of their everything.

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