First Half In Review: Passing Out The Grades (Pitchers)

Jeff Sullivan · July 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

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?


23 Responses to “First Half In Review: Passing Out The Grades (Pitchers)”

  1. Dennisss on July 17th, 2014 4:05 pm

    Jeff, I’m guessing that you are in a slightly sunnier mood than yesterday, looking at all these fine grades. Since it’s practically a requirement to quibble over something, I’ll say that I would not have put Chris Young on a par with Iwakuma. Kuma is just freakishly good (meaning still not as good as Felix) when he’s on, which is pretty often.

    My biggest fear is that they are going to give away Paxton in a trade for someone who won’t help them as much as Paxton would. Hope I’m wrong.

  2. Jeff Sullivan on July 17th, 2014 4:12 pm

    I originally had Young at a B+ but then the magic swept over me

  3. Westside guy on July 17th, 2014 4:24 pm

    Dennisss, I don’t think it’s mood related. When you look at the Mariners’ season to this point, the one thing everyone can agree on is the pitching has been a huge part of why they are in the playoff hunt at this point in time – so I expected the pitchers’ grades to be better than the position players’ grades.

    Thanks for another interesting post, Jeff!

  4. HighBrie on July 17th, 2014 5:45 pm

    Discrepancy between Walker and Paxton not warranted given sample size. Corsican twins must be graded similarly.

  5. ndevale on July 17th, 2014 5:52 pm

    Elias, 0.9 WAR, Sullivan, C*
    Young, 0.4 WAR, Sullivan, A –

  6. Dennisss on July 17th, 2014 6:12 pm

    I looked forward to seeing Elias pitch early in the season; now I cringe a bit inwardly when I see he is starting. Not sure if he is tired, or luck is catching up to him, or the league has figured him out, but I really want to see Walker and Paxton take over the last two rotation spots.

  7. Jeff Sullivan on July 17th, 2014 6:23 pm

    FanGraphs WAR isn’t really a stat that applies to Chris Young very well, this year and historically.

  8. Westside guy on July 17th, 2014 7:26 pm

    Is there ANY stat that applies to Chris Young, really? He seems to defy them…

  9. Longgeorge1 on July 17th, 2014 7:58 pm

    It is July 17, If this were the end of the season, the M’s would have another game at least. I don’t give a rip how you divide it up, but in my scoresheet in the play-offs is at least B+ by definition. If the grades don’t average B+ your grading is off, not the players. The fact that we have a Ferrari and a bunch of dandelions tells me that the dandelions are making pretty sweet wine

  10. Milendriel on July 17th, 2014 8:31 pm

    Chris Young’s RA9 WAR is 2.7, the same as Iwakuma’s. Elias is at 0.4.

  11. Westside guy on July 17th, 2014 8:43 pm

    Longgeorge, you’d need to weight the grades proportionately to the percentage of total innings pitched by each pitcher. Your B+ cutoff is obviously arbitrary; but at least looking at the starters I suspect the “average” of Jeff’s grades would come pretty close to hitting it.

    Personally I’d have given Kuma an A, and I’d probably bump Elias up slightly. But those are minor niggles.

  12. Dennisss on July 17th, 2014 9:04 pm

    If you’re trying to average grades. I’m not sure A+ is a high enough grade for Felix. For example, I think Felix plus Elias is still an A.

    Even for someone of his stature, Felix had a remarkable first half.

  13. PackBob on July 17th, 2014 9:32 pm

    Maple Syrup!

  14. Longgeorge1 on July 17th, 2014 10:03 pm

    Westside – Weighted yes, but not just pitchers but position players too. The whole team won and lost. B+ may be arbitrary and actually all grades are arbitrary, but 5 of 15 make the play-offs so you are in the top third for sure. I just think the average M’s fan just has too much damage to accept that they are playing good ball right now.

  15. Westside guy on July 17th, 2014 10:39 pm

    I can’t argue with you there. I freely admit I keep half-expecting the other shoe to drop – in part because it seems like there are so many obvious holes, but probably also just because it’s been so long since the team didn’t suck!

  16. bookbook on July 18th, 2014 12:32 am

    I’ve seen Felix mentioned as the MVP front runner (since there’s an unwritten rule in baseball that Mike Trout isn’t allowed to win it).
    I think Chris Young is earning his luck, but the offense has just been lucky. Maybe the hitters start performing up to their luck in the second half!

  17. LongDistance on July 18th, 2014 12:40 am

    Some observations.

    If we were playing the one game playoff with the Angels today, here would be how things stack up in terms of the W-L trend:

    So far, we’re up on them 6 wins to 3 losses
    2 of those wins (each): Felix, Paxton
    2 of those losses: Elias

    The next three days with them, coming up, with Iwakuma (first outing against the Angels), Felix and Young (who’s also a winning pitcher against them), are going to be very interesting for way more reasons than usual, because we’ll be seeing how each team has evolved to this point, from wherever they were a couple of months ago. Not forgetting we’ve got 7 games (4 there) more with them in the last half of September. Yep, you read that right.

    In their first four match-ups of the season, we won 10-3, 8-3, 8-2, 5-3 (April 8)

    Since April 8: 0-2, 5-1, 4-6, 3-1, 5-7

    They went 4 for 4 against the Angels up to April 8, the first three wins all at 5+ runs. From April 8 on, they have been trading wins with the Angels, game for game, 5 of the 6 games being 2 run wins. That success rate change is an incontrovertible fact, regardless of how it’s explained. No one can take anything away from them for the first part of the first half. They played great, fun ball, and even had a surprisingly clutch offense. But at this point, this team is strictly .500 against the Angels, and that mainly because of the pitching.

    We know Lloyd is hoping very much that Jack gives him some OF+batting help. So do we all. Jack’s evidently convinced it’s necessary (although we don’t know how much leeway he has). Evidently, there’s disagreement with that, although I agree whole-heartedly. I was taught that when you have an advantage, you press it. You don’t rest upon your laurels. Especially when your opponent is working hard to improve its position with an open pockets approach (Street, Kennedy, Ross).

  18. LongDistance on July 18th, 2014 2:04 am

    And I post this separately from the analysis, because I would hope it’s understood there’s no intention to be dumping on the M’s, at all, at this point. They’re playing better baseball than we’ve seen in a long time.

    If all things stand as they are, we go into the last half of September nose to nose with our main rival.

    That’s great baseball, points to a great season, and is very exciting as a prospect.

    And it makes it not a one game playoff, but an 8 game series with a sudden death finish.

    That’s not only exciting, but legendary, baseball and I love it. Regardless of the pretty pertinent if noted above.

  19. MrZDevotee on July 18th, 2014 7:37 am

    It’s fun to think about those special seasons where things go so well they defy logic… This is one of those seasons, even though the ceiling of the team is probably not a World Series.

    My major concern coming into the season was the fear that we WOULD be in the hunt for a Wild Card berth and then the wheels would fall of when Paxton and Walker ran out of innings and got shut down, and we were stuck trying to plug the dyke with Beavans and Maurers… Falling over the finish line out of breath and 2 games back from the 2nd Wild Card after 162 games.

    Miraculously, the Baseball Gods decided it would be more fun to have Paxton and Walker pitch mostly in the 2nd half of the season, with no fear of getting shut down because of innings. And that problem magically vanished.

    If the right left fielder showed up in the next couple days, and Brad Miller can keep his current non-patheticness going, and somebody can find the missing part that keeps Michael Saunders running, this could be a truly fun 2nd half, all the way to the playoffs. Meaningful baseball in September sounds like such a cool idea, and I vaguely remember it happening a long, long time ago.

  20. PackBob on July 18th, 2014 9:50 am

    I think the Mariners ceiling *is* the World Series. Not because of true talent, as there are other teams with more total talent, but because they have two of the top starting pitchers in the game and a bullpen that has been among the best in baseball. They don’t need to be an offensive force to win games, just to score enough behind their great pitching.

    Johnson/Schilling showed what two top pitchers can do and George Brett showed what one dominant hitter can do. The Mariners don’t quite have a Brett, but they do have Cano and Seager which puts them in a similar place. A hot Cano and Seager can do some damage. They do have a Johnson/Schilling combo in Felix and Hisashi.

    I would not rate the Mariners as anything close to favorites to win, or even get to, the World Series, but if they can make the playoffs they have a legitimate shot at winning the whole thing. If the World Series is your thing (I like the regular season better), you should be very excited if the Mariners make the playoffs, and even more so if they get past the elimination game.

  21. Jeff Sullivan on July 18th, 2014 10:36 am

    One of the biggest hits in World Series history was off the bat of Tony Womack, against Mariano Rivera

  22. Mariner.lovechild on July 18th, 2014 12:23 pm

    nice point Jeff, what an exciting moment that was too!

    I’d be interested in reading a post about who the M’s could possibly pick up. Do we think they’ll spend/trade a bit?

    I haven’t been keeping up on here as much – it’s almost like I visit this blog more when they’re sucking!

    Went to Sunday’s loss vs. the A’s. First of the season, fun to get the lady friend into baseball! Catching the Aqsox here in Spokane this weekend too.

  23. akampfer on July 19th, 2014 6:15 am

    I wasn’t impressed with Wolf as a person. In Arizona, I watched as a kid politely as Wolf for an autograph and he just barked at the kid and kept going.

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