20 Percent Grades – The Pitching

Dave · May 14, 2007 at 1:02 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Continuing on with the 20 percent grades.

Felix Hernandez, #1 Starter – Grade: Incomplete

Felix was the best pitcher in baseball through his first two starts, throwing up back to back dominating performances and announcing to the world that the King was taking his throne. Then, the elbow started to hurt, the fanbase went into a collective panic, and we had to go a month without the best player on the team. Even with the injury, he still single handedly won the Mariners two games, which is more than most of his peers can say.

Jarrod Washburn, #2 Starter – Grade: A

Whether it’s through non-repeatable skills and unskilled opponents or not, Washburn tossed up 48 innings with a 2.64 ERA. Like other early season surprises John Maine and Braden Looper, he’s clearly not this good, but in terms of a retroactive grade, that doesn’t matter. The results have been all-star quality, and the bump the team has gotten from his performances are the main reason this team hasn’t sunk without Felix.

Miguel Batista, #3 Starter – Grade: F

Batista is the poster child for the inconsistency of guys who pitch-to-contact. He’s given up three runs or less in four of his seven starts, but gave up 8, 6, and 7 runs in his other three starts. His underlying skilset isn’t any different than it has been in previous years, so the large fluctuation in his results are mostly due to effects of his opponents, but there’s no way a guy with an ERA of 6.99 while pitching half his games in Safeco gets anything better than an F at this point in the year.

Horacio Ramirez, #4 Starter – Grade: F

He’s been a disaster. He’s struck out zero or one guy in four of his six starts, and like Batista, his success is basically tied to how well the other team does at getting the balls in play to fall in. Consistency is impossible with this kind of pitcher. Much is made about Ramirez’s Home/Road splits, but no one mentions the competition he’s faced in those appearanecs. He got whacked around by the Angels, Red Sox, and Tigers on the road, and shut down the Rangers, Royals, and Yankees at home. The huge splits between Safeco and non-Safeco games will shrink dramatically as the year goes on.

Jeff Weaver, #5 Starter – Grade: F

Do we really need to write anything here. He’s had the worst six start run of any starting pitcher in Mariner history. Opposing batters are hitting .446 against him. His two-seam fastball is not a major league pitch, but he continues to throw it over the plate hoping to reinvent himself as a groundball pitcher. The M’s finally made up an injury to get him off the roster, and fans everywhere hope they never see him again.

J.J. Putz, Closer – Grade: A

Despite shelving his splitter, he’s continued to be a dominant relief ace, getting outs with little more than a fastball that he can blow by people. The injury scare from spring training is all but forgotten as J.J. continues to assert himself as one of the games premier relief aces.

Brandon Morrow, Setup – Grade: B

Morrow’s had some memorable strikeouts in big situations, including the huge strikeout of Alex Rodriguez yesterday. Remarkably, he’s getting people out with one pitch that he has marginal command of. Hitters come to the plate knowing that they’re going to get a steady diet of fastballs, yet they’ve been unable to hit them in spite of that. He’s walked 12 guys in 14 innings, so there’s still cause for concern, but he’s shown the obvious value of having a strikeout reliever to pitch in the 8th inning.

George Sherrill, Setup – Grade: A

The unheralded member of the bullpen. He doesn’t throw as hard as Putz or Morrow, but he’s ridiculously tough on left-handed hitters and has improved his command to the point that he’s useful against RHP as well. As the year goes on, the M’s would do well to hand him more high leverage situations, because he’s earned the right to be trusted in critical games.

Chris Reitsma, Middle Relief – Grade: B

Reitsma’s change-up has been an effective outpitch for him, and his command has been good enough to serve as a useful reliever, even if he doesn’t have top-notch velocity. He’s given up a pair of critical homers and been usurped by Morrow as the primary setup man, but there’s nothing wrong with having Reitsma as your 4th best reliever.

Eric O’Flaherty, Middle Relief – Grade: B

O’Flaherty’s work on Saturday in shutting down the Yankees was a big step forward towards getting him out of the LOOGY pigeonhole. He’s got enough pitches to be a quality reliever against both sides, and he’s done good work for the team in a variety of roles. There’s still some more growth potential here as well.

Mateo, Green, White, and Woods, Mopup – Grade: D

The quartet of no-outpitch replacement level gusy have been mediocre to downright bad, but since they’ve been almost exclusively used in games that have already been decided, it hasn’t mattered much. The M’s could do better than these guys, but in the end, this is the least important role on any team in baseball.

Overall Pitching – Grade: D

Felix was great for two starts, Washburn’s performance has been the pleasant surprise of the year to date, and the bullpen has been good, but the that’s all undone by the #3, #4, and #5 starters performing at a rate below what you’d expect if you called up any random arm from Double-A. The team could use a couple more major league starting pitchers, and I’m still rooting for Brandon Morrow to work on his breaking ball, because he’s going to need a second pitch before the year ends.


76 Responses to “20 Percent Grades – The Pitching”

  1. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2007 4:14 pm

    Isn’t it unfair to give HoRam, Weaver and Batista F’s, since they are switching leagues? Much like switching from position playing to DH, pitching in another league is-(snicker, guffaw)…

    Crap, I can’t say this with a straight face.

  2. Paul B on May 14th, 2007 4:18 pm

    re Weaver’s historically bad start as an M.

    Digging into the brain cells trying to recall someone who had a truly awful debut as a Mariner starter.

    Steve Trout. 1988. 13 starts and a 7.83 ERA. Oh, the memories.

    And, yup, checking, he wasn’t anywhere as bad as Weaver. Although in Trout’s first start, which is probably what I recall, he pitched only two thirds of an inning and gave up 4 runs.

  3. SexsonPower on May 14th, 2007 4:19 pm

    Well at least Weaver won’t be recieving his 1.4 million in incentives!!

  4. 1000N on May 14th, 2007 4:37 pm

    #24 said:

    > So, with the offense at a C and the pitching at a D, how the heck did the M’s end up at 17-16, 1 1/2 back of the Angels?

    > Crappy division.

    I don’t buy it. The AL West is exactly at .500 right now which makes it very different from the 2005 NL West.

  5. Benno on May 14th, 2007 4:41 pm

    I wonder if Weaver would be able to file a grievence to get his incentives paid. He could claim the M’s never let him get into a groove, by pulling him too early in the games.

  6. dw on May 14th, 2007 4:41 pm

    Methinks comments on USSM are about to go away.


  7. Paul B on May 14th, 2007 4:43 pm

    55, if I was an abitrator, and Weaver claimed that he got pulled to early, I’d have a real hard time keeping a straight face. No, I’d laugh out loud.

  8. colm on May 14th, 2007 4:55 pm

    Surely Weaver will have the grace to just pocket the $8M and shut up?

  9. hans on May 14th, 2007 5:00 pm

    Wow, a tale of two staffs! Lots of very high grades and lots of very low ones. At least it should be easy to improve (that is, if we had any way to acquire better starting pitching).

  10. eponymous coward on May 14th, 2007 5:00 pm

    I don’t buy it. The AL West is exactly at .500 right now which makes it very different from the 2005 NL West.

    The NL West was at 127-133 June 1, 2005 (with two teams over .500 and one team at .500) and started imploding afterwards.

    I’d also like to point out that of the top 3 teams in the division, you have Anaheim with an OBP/SLG of 9/11, Oakland at 7/12 and the Mariners at 11/7. None of them are what you could call good offenses.

  11. JMHawkins on May 14th, 2007 5:02 pm


    I’m pretty much in agreement on the grades (maybe I’d give Batista and F+). The surprising thing for me is the M’s continuing ability to fabricate a decent – actually sort of outstanding – bullpen out of spare parts. It’s an odd sensation for someone who remebers the Ayala and Mesa years to be nervous about the starters and optimistic when the game ends up then hands of the relievers.

  12. Jon on May 14th, 2007 5:22 pm

    Here’s the funny/sad part: Gil and Jo-El (I know how to spell his name) look better and better. Not this year’s Gil and Jo-El. The ones we had the past few seasons. If only Bavasi’s imports were THAT good.

    I finally was able to rationalize away my anger towards Bavasi by telling myself (over and over and over) that Weaver was signed because Bavasi was hedging his bets and he was hoping two out of the three would turn out well, but he just didn’t know which two. Three out of three would have been too much to hope for, while only one out of three was his worst fear. Well, his worst fear has been exceeded so far. None are doing well.

    Which means that we are looking back fondly (!) on Gil and Jo-El and we wonder, again, why is it we traded Moyer?

    I am not saying I wish we had Gil and Jo-El. I am saying that Bavasi’s decision to ditch them wasn’t followed by a well-executed plan to replace them with upgrades. And his decision to dump Moyer and open up a spot for youth has met with similar (lack of) success.

  13. msb on May 14th, 2007 5:30 pm

    trading Moyer was not ‘dumping’

  14. dks on May 14th, 2007 5:36 pm

    #24 said:

    > So, with the offense at a C and the pitching at a D, how the heck did the M’s end up at 17-16, 1 1/2 back of the Angels?

    Well, they’re two games back now that LA wond today, but your point holds.

    Luck and more luck. Luck that it’s a bad division and the division leader is only at 22-17.

    More luck that a RS/RA differential of 150-167 resulted in a record of 17-16 instead of 15-18. Although that’s not completely luck; it’s also that half (ok, not half) of the RA are from Weaver’s starts alone, but he can’t lose more than one game at a time.

  15. Edgar For Pres on May 14th, 2007 5:45 pm

    I think our pitching staff is the model of unreliable.
    Check this THT article out. It gives some good stuff about how being inconsistant actually isn’t that bad. Just kinda an interesting article that this writeup reminded me of.

  16. Ralph Malph on May 14th, 2007 5:45 pm

    The surprising thing for me is the M’s continuing ability to fabricate a decent – actually sort of outstanding – bullpen out of spare parts.

    This may be the easiest part of being a GM.

  17. AuburnM on May 14th, 2007 9:01 pm

    Guess what? I mostly agree.

    I would give Batista and HoRam Ds, not Fs, and the overall grade would be C-, but I agree with Dave’s overall point.

    This team needs three more RELIABLE, CONSISTENT starters if they going to win the division. As Dave points out, our best option is to cross our fingers and root for more consistency from Batista, HoRam, and Baek.

  18. hcoguy on May 14th, 2007 10:31 pm

    I think Batista and the Ho deserve their f’s but they should not have to share the same grade as Weaver. He should get a Y or a Z or hell he was expelled so whatever grade that would be.

    Actually, an L would be the best now that I have seriously (yes, seriously) thought about it.

  19. rcc on May 14th, 2007 10:40 pm

    Do the Mariners have any “replacement level” arms in their farm system that they could promote to replace even one of the three “F” starting pitchers?

    I note that Gil Meche has started in 6 of the Kansas City Royals 13 wins. Is it possible that he has turned a corner, and is not the suckfest he was as a Mariner?

  20. Tak on May 14th, 2007 11:28 pm

    Meche had another impressive start today as well.


    Luck is obviously a factor, but I would say that its more about the whole division being weak more than anything.

  21. Salty Dog on May 15th, 2007 5:23 am

    I don’t disagree with the F’s for Ho-Ram and Batista, but there’s reason for hope with both of them.

    Ho-Ram has struggled because he forgot who he was. Early on, he was trying to fool hitters, strike them out, and generally use tools that he just doesn’t have. I thought he was using his cutter way too much, which is what got him in trouble with the Braves. He’s a groundball pitcher who lives and dies by limiting walks, holding batters to mostly singles, and inducing double plays. I didn’t see his last start, but given that he had a 14-4 GB/FB ratio and only 1 walk, I’m hopeful he’s realized he needs to get back to basics: throw his sinker for strikes and let the infield defense carry him. That won’t make him a great pitcher, just a solid back of the rotation starter.

    Batista just seems to be a bit unlucky. His BABIP is abnormally high, his LOB % is abnormally low. I’ve watched a few of his recent starts, and he looks perfectly fine to me. Again, not a great pitcher, but one whose skillset should translate to quality starts.

  22. Gomez on May 15th, 2007 11:16 am

    Gil Meche apparently made a mechanical adjustment during ST that has allowed him to throw with more ease and, subsequently, control.

  23. DMZ on May 15th, 2007 11:57 am

    I’ve been chewing over a Meche post for a while, but to summarize: I think his improvement is not sustainable and cruel to Royals fans.

  24. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2007 12:19 pm

    Meche’s FIP is 3.66, his xFIP is 3.53. I don’t think he’ll have a 1.88 ERA all year long, but he’s improved his K rate, BB rate, and GB rate (with the increase in K rate dating back to last year, so if it’s a fluke, it’s a fluke that’s lasted for over a year). Let’s also recall this is a guy who’s had over 2 years blown out of his career by injury that he would have spent refining his craft.

    He would not exactly be the first power pitcher who big steps forward at a comparatively late age, either:


    Note that I am not saying Meche == Johnson, or even Schmidt. If anything, he’s probably close to Clement (until he does something over a couple of years comparable to Schmidt).

    So I’m curious to see an argument as to why Gil Meche is going to disappoint the Royals.

  25. Gomez on May 15th, 2007 12:44 pm

    Ooh, now I’m curious, Derek! Is it the abnormal difference between his FIP and actual ERA? Is it a combination of weak lineups and an abnormally low number of runs scored off of the hits he’s allowed? You think his low walk rate is the product of hacktastic lineups rather than actual improvement of control?

    I’m totally pulling these guesses out of thin air, but I’m certainly curious. I’d welcome an entry on the subject if you get the chance.

  26. eponymous coward on May 15th, 2007 1:03 pm

    Oh, and let’s recall, these are the ROYALS we are discussing here.

    Staff aces for the last 10 years (leading team in IP), using bad traditional stats because that’s what fans will generally use:

    2006, Mark Redman: 11-10, 5.71 ERA
    2005, Runelvys Hernandez: 8-14, 5.52 ERA
    2004, Darrell May: 9-19, 5.61 ERA
    2003, Darrell May, 10-8, 3.77 ERA (this was their +.500 year…and they STILL had a staff ERA over 5)
    2002, Paul Byrd, 17-11, 3.90 ERA
    2001, Jeff Suppan, 11-14, 4.37 ERA
    2000, Jeff Suppan, 10-9, 4.94 ERA
    1999, Jose Rosado, 10-14, 3.85 ERA
    1998, Tim Belcher, 14-14, 4.37 ERA
    1997, Kevin Appier, 9-13, 3.40 ERA

    Let’s KC is used to being disappointed by their staff aces (exactly ONE year with more than 14 wins and a +.500 record, and three consecutive years where the staff “ace” posted an ERA over 5.50), so Gil’s bar for avoiding disappointment isn’t exactly impossible to clear here.

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