First Half In Review: Passing Out The Grades (Pitchers)
Yesterday, we took a look at players with letters after them. Today, we’ll look at other players with letters after them. One thing all these players have in common is that they’re pitchers. Another thing all these players have in common is that they’ve been Mariners pitchers. In truth, there are virtually countless things all these players have in common, but I’m not going to write out that list. I’m going to write out a different list! Here are first-half letter grades, based on, I don’t know, something, probably.
Blake Beavan: D
On April 15, Blake Beavan and the Mariners lost to the Rangers 5-0. The game was over in a brisk 142 minutes, and Beavan went just four innings after starting in front of an outfield of Bloomquist/Almonte/Romero. Beavan’s velocity was curiously down and after he was removed it was revealed that he was pitching through discomfort, discomfort that would shortly thereafter send him to the disabled list. The nature of the injury remains something of a mystery, and as such, Beavan has lost the one thing he had going for him, which was dependability. Yet given what he could be depended on to provide, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have less of it.
Joe Beimel: B+
Beimel didn’t pitch in 2012, and when he pitched in 2013 he pitched in Triple-A. He’s back in the majors as a hairy 37-year-old and to this point he’s kept lefties to a batting line of .140/.180/.188. He hasn’t kept righties to the same kind of batting line, so let’s not think about that too much, but Beimel’s been successful in his primary role, and this is the kind of thing that would make for a hell of a story for an audience that doesn’t really exist. Objectively, we know that Beimel has overcome a good deal of adversity to succeed in the present league, but good luck getting many people to give a hoot about a veteran second lefty. There are just too many other things to be interested in. How much do you know about tree sap? Probably not enough! Tree sap, wow!
Roenis Elias: C+
At his best, Roenis Elias has been terrific, and overall he’s been tremendously valuable for a starting rotation that was having its depth questioned and tested. It’s looking now like Elias could be a legitimate big-league starter for years, and he’s not a guy who was on anyone’s radar even a handful of months ago. But Elias has also had his fits, in particular lately, and maybe that’s not a shock, given his quick rise and given his mounting innings. I’m simultaneously pleased by the emergence of Roenis Elias, and I’d be pleased to have him as the Mariners’ fifth or sixth starter going forward, instead of something more important than that.
Danny Farquhar: B+
A year ago, Danny Farquhar got a whiff for every four curveballs he threw. That made it one of the most unhittable pitches in baseball. This year that rate has dropped to about one out of six, possibly related to a slight velocity drop, but while Farquhar has slid some, he gave himself plenty of room to slide after posting some truly obscene numbers in 2013. Farquhar can get lefties out, he can get righties out, and he can throw enough strikes and miss enough bats. He hasn’t really been utilized as a high-leverage reliever, which he’s good enough to be, but that would be a bigger issue if the Mariners’ bullpen were giving away runs. It’s not doing that!
Charlie Furbush: B
Charlie Furbush has appeared in seven more games than Joe Beimel, and he’s thrown three fewer innings. So Furbush has been more of a specialist than Joe Beimel has been. Not very long ago people were talking about Charlie Furbush as a possible starter. Incidentally, with Chance Ruffin having up and retired, Furbush is what we have left to show for the Doug Fister trade. And you know what? Furbush has allowed just 12 runs this year, while Fister has allowed 27. That’s a difference of 15 runs in the Mariners’ favor! Who really got robbed?
Felix Hernandez: A+
Just about perfect. I’m not being hyperbolic; I’m being sincere. Felix Hernandez is just about the perfect pitcher, in the way that Clayton Kershaw is also just about the perfect pitcher. Awesome, loyal, personable, healthy, dedicated, even improving. Felix doesn’t have a 0.00 ERA or whatever, but this is a former top prospect who has achieved his ultimate ceiling in just about every way possible. Don’t feel bad if you don’t appreciate this enough. We’re not biologically equipped to sufficiently appreciate anything this extraordinary. Our design wasn’t prepared for something like Felix to be possible.
About ten months ago, Matthew and I were camping in the North Cascades, and in the middle of the night, we were able to see the Milky Way in the finest detail the naked eye will allow. I knew, in that moment, I was staring at something I’d never be able to fully comprehend. I understood what I was seeing on the surface level, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the meaning. I just knew, standing there, that that meant everything. Every question I’d ever asked was answered in the skyscape before me, but damned if I’m not still looking for answers today. Certain things you see with your own eyes just never sink in, because they can’t. Your best hope is to retain the 5% that you can actually make sense of before the moment has passed forever.
Hisashi Iwakuma: A-
Remember when the Mariners had Cliff Lee? Who could forget when the Mariners had Cliff Lee? 2010 was a special season some of the time, and that year, Lee struck out 22% of batters while walking 2% of batters and getting 42% groundballs. Iwakuma, over his 14 starts, has struck out 22% of batters while walking 2% of batters and getting 52% groundballs. There’s only the slight hint of a penalty because Iwakuma has allowed a few extra dingers, but this guy is amazing. I think he might be the pitching staff’s version of Kyle Seager — nobody outside of Seattle really gives a crap about him, but he’s not actually that far behind the household name. We can make fun of the lows on the Mariners’ roster, but the highs are super high.
Dominic Leone: B+
We were wondering who the hotshot would be. Some people assumed it’d be Carson Smith, and others assumed it’d be Logan Bawcom, but Dominic Leone is the new, I don’t know, Carter Capps? Over his last 22 appearances he’s got seven walks and 31 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, and he hasn’t shown much of a platoon split. Leone’s versatile, with 14 appearances of more than one inning, and he isn’t a guy you don’t want to face anybody in particular, so he’s good support for a bullpen people didn’t know whether they’d be able to trust. Leone’s better than average at a variety of things, which is a good thing to be.
Lucas Luetge: D-
I thought, for a moment, that Lucas Luetge was a Rule 5 draft pick last season. Actually, he was a Rule 5 draft pick two seasons ago. Oh yeah, that’s right. That is a certain fact, about Lucas Luetge, who pitches sometimes.
Brandon Maurer: D+
The grade’s because Maurer has three times as many rotation innings as relief innings, and the rotation innings were bad. Well, some of the rotation innings were bad, while the first ones were usually okay. Between innings 1 – 3, Maurer had a 3.43 ERA. Between innings 4 – 6, Maurer had a 16.20 ERA. This might be just about the most obvious reliever conversion, and so far, so good. Out of the bullpen, Maurer’s averaged 97 miles per hour. Out of the rotation, he was more 92 – 93. In the first half, Maurer was more bad than good for the Mariners, but because of the way it ended, he projects to be damn helpful down the stretch. This could be one of those weapons that really starts getting attention and air time in October.
Yoervis Medina: B
I like to give Yoervis Medina a lot of crap, because he’s pretty wild and he takes for freakin ever to throw a pitch, but the truth is that, while he walks guys, he doesn’t really get hit much. Last year, he allowed a .307 slugging percentage. This year, he’s at .250. So, for his career, he’s at .289, making him sort of like a poor man’s Fernando Rodney. I’ll never feel comfortable when Medina’s pitching, and I’ll never forget the meatball he threw to Giancarlo Stanton in Miami, but my issue with Medina might be more about me than it is about him. It’s the same thing with milk.
Hector Noesi: F
Against the Mariners this year, Noesi has allowed zero runs in 11 innings. Against everybody else this year, Noesi has allowed 55 runs in 76.1 innings. When you were younger, you might’ve wanted a mortal enemy. It was a common trope in kid’s shows and movies, and it seemed like a certain path to adventure. Battle stations, everyone. You’ve got a mortal enemy, and yours is mine and mine is yours.
James Paxton: A-
I feel cursed by my lazy comparison of Dustin Ackley to Jeremy Reed, and I feel similarly cursed by my lazy comparison of James Paxton to Erik Bedard. Ackley isn’t a dick in the way that Reed was, but so much of the rest is coming true. Paxton isn’t a dick in the way that Bedard is, but-
A healthy James Paxton might be the playoff-race starting pitcher the Mariners currently seek. A healthy James Paxton is something I’ll believe when I see it, for weeks in a row.
Stephen Pryor: D-
If you look at the Mariners’ pitching stats on FanGraphs, you see Stephen Pryor’s name. If you split by starters and relievers, though, Pryor’s name disappears, which is curious and symbolic. Did you know that Stephen Pryor throws 92 now? In fairness, he’s still working his way back from an unusual injury, but in fairness, Franklin Gutierrez isn’t a 6’2 pathological mothership. Baseball isn’t fair, and neither is the way we consume it. For our purposes, Pryor basically is what he does, and what he does isn’t good enough at the moment.
Erasmo Ramirez: D
In Erasmo Ramirez’s fifth appearance of spring training, he spun six shutout innings against the Cubs, striking out four. Some people started to believe that Ramirez might be back on track as a quality starting pitcher, but even then, even that early, Lloyd McClendon saw what we didn’t see yet:
“They’re horse*&% pitches,” McClendon said. “Everybody was all excited about his last start, ‘oh he did such a great job.’ But he made a lot of horse&*^% pitches on 0-2.”
Ramirez made the team because the team was desperate, not because the manager had his back, and I don’t think McClendon’s ever been impressed. And, for the most part, we haven’t been impressed, either, because Ramirez has been dreadful. In June, Ramirez put together three consecutive zero-run starts. He had 11 walks and 12 strikeouts. The thing about Hector Noesi is that he’s gone and moved on. The other thing about Hector Noesi is that he isn’t exactly one of a kind.
Fernando Rodney: A
It takes a while to shake a first impression. And, sometimes, the first impression is the right impression, so there’s nothing to be shaken. We were wary about Fernando Rodney at first, and in his first 7.1 innings he walked six guys. He was surviving by the skin of his teeth, and from there, memes were born. Fernando Rodney was henceforth understood to be an experience. Well as it happens, since April 27, Rodney has six walks and 32 strikeouts, with a .484 opponents OPS. Over that stretch, two of every three pitches have been strikes. Overall, including the first impression, Rodney has the same strike rate as Dan Haren, James Shields, and Cole Hamels. He has the same strike rate as Dominic Leone. We know Rodney doesn’t have good command. He just doesn’t. He doesn’t place the baseball. But he doesn’t need to. He throws super hard and his changeup is super good. Fernando Rodney, almost all of the time, is in control, even when he isn’t. He’s not the most comfortable closer in Mariners history, but he’s among the most effective.
Taijuan Walker: D
Before the year, the consensus idea was that, if the Mariners were to contend for the playoffs, it’d be because they were getting big positive contributions from their considerable assortment of talented youth. Right now the Mariners are in a playoff position. Walker, Paxton, Ramirez, Ackley, Miller, Franklin, Smoak, and Romero have a combined WAR of -0.3. Obviously that isn’t all the youth, but, haha, whoops. It’s funny, some of the things that haven’t gone right.
Tom Wilhelmsen: B
In a way, Yoervis Medina is a poor man’s Fernando Rodney, and in a way, Tom Wilhelmsen is Yoervis Medina. He never really feels that comfortable, but he seldom gets hit, so the walks aren’t as dangerous as they appear. Remember a short while ago when John Buck got dropped and word emerged that some of the pitchers were frustrated by throwing to him? With Buck, Wilhelmsen had 13 walks and 11 strikeouts. With Mike Zunino, he has 12 and 32. I don’t know what that means, but I feel like Tom Wilhelmsen probably had opinions about John Buck as a catcher.
Chris Young: A-
We kept waiting for Chris Young’s ERA to regress more toward his peripherals, but instead his peripherals are regressing more toward his ERA. Over his last six starts, Young’s got six walks and 28 strikeouts, with a .220 OBP allowed. He’s still a guy who’s presumably over-achieving, but he’s always been able to allow fewer runs than you’d expect based on his style, and the longer this goes, the more willing you are to believe that his surgery really did relieve all of the arm problems he’d been experiencing for years. Chris Young is the biggest 2014 Mariners miracle, and to get here the team had to go through Scott Baker and Randy Wolf first. Remember how close we came to having Randy Wolf instead. People were upset by the way Wolf was treated by the front office. If Randy Wolf had signed the thing most players in his position usually sign, the Mariners wouldn’t have these 111.1 innings of a 3.15 ERA. And then where would they be?