20 Percent Grades – The Pitching
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.