My noon post over at FanGraphs is about David Aardsma. If you don’t want to follow the link, I made the same argument over there that I did when we acquired him – that we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s pitching well, since he was a pretty good reliever before he got hurt last year.
However, I wanted to expand on Aardsma a bit here. He was a pretty decent reliever for the M’s in April and May, limiting the long ball and getting enough strikeouts to minimize the walk problem. But man, he’s been something else in June.
8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 15 K.
He’s faced 28 batters this month and struck out more than half of them. He’s just blowing people away lately. This hasn’t been his high-wire act, where he throws a bunch of pitches out of the zone and tries to get hitters to chase them. He’s just throwing fastballs in the strike zone and hitters can’t catch up to it. For the last couple of weeks, he’s been a true relief ace.
Will he keep pitching this well? Probably not. His command is still poor, and it’s almost impossible to get by on one pitch for too long. He’s not a Joe Nathan/Mariano Rivera/Jonathan Broxton shut down reliever where we can expect him to keep doing this all year. But, he’s got the ability to be that kind of shut down guy in stretches. He doesn’t have the command to do it consistently, but when David Aardsma is throwing strikes, he’s lights out.
For all the talk about how great of a pickup Russ Branyan was (and it’s all true), Jack deserves a bunch of credit for picking up Aardsma and being willing to go into the season with a bullpen that the media was convinced was going to be terrible. Once again, more evidence that bullpens can be developed for nothing, and good teams don’t spend assets to acquire veteran relievers. Talent > Experience. The Mariners have spent the smallest percentage of their payroll on the bullpen of any team in baseball, and being able to get quality work out of guys like Aardsma is why that works.