Seattle Mariners 2011 Preview, Part 1: The Pitchers

I was going to set this aside as its own post, but then all hell broke loose over the weekend, so I guess I’ll address the Michael Pineda Situation here.

As I said before, I was torn.  More torn on this issue than on any other.  There are too many pro’s and con’s on both sides, so we’ll just list them out here.  To start Pineda in Tacoma:

Pro – let him get a little more seasoning before throwing him into the fire, let him work on perfecting that change-up and any other secondary pitches, and of course saving ourselves a full year of service time by not bringing him up until late May.

Con – risk bruising his ego when he is so clearly among the best 5 starters we have in the organization, risk shattering team morale by making the better move for the organization long-term vs. the better move for winning games right now, and Pineda wouldn’t have access to major league coaches to help him work through problems.

To start Pineda in Seattle:

Pro – he DOES get access to those major league coaches, he gets to face Major League hitting (which should speed up his overall progress, since he’s shown he’s a man among boys in the AAA level), and he gets to mentor under the greatest pitcher of our generation, Felix Hernandez.

Con – maybe he gets roughed up early and has to be sent back down, maybe he strains himself and hits the DL, maybe he tries to rely too much on his fastball and doesn’t develop the secondary pitches he will need to be a bona fide Number 1 starter because he’s too concerned with using what he’s got now to get the outs he needs to STAY a Major Leaguer.

Whew!  That was exhausting.  Anyway, I’ve given it thought, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this will be a good thing in the long run.

Yeah, that full year of service time hurts.  Let’s face it, either way he was going to get the same amount of Major League experience this year before being shut down (as he will be on a strict innings count).  But, you know what?  I like that he made the team out of Spring Training (in his first real attempt).  I like that he’ll be starting with the big ballclub as their #5 man.  No pressure, plenty of down time when we’ve got off-days in between.  And who knows?  Maybe these extra few weeks will be all the difference!

Make no mistake, I’m not predicting Cy Young numbers out of Pineda.  You’re going to see a guy who will probably go somewhere around 11-14 with a 4.78 ERA.  But, within those harsh numbers you’ll see his potential break out.  Remember, this is a team that’s not going to score a lot of runs, so he WILL lose more games than he wins.  Nevertheless, you’ll see some real gems where he goes 7 innings of 2-hit ball.  AND, you’ll see some games where he can’t get out of the third inning.  It happens to the best of ’em.  Hell, King Felix himself had to go through his growing pains.

Pineda will likely start out hot, then the league will figure him out, then towards the end of his season he’ll start making the right adjustments to end on a high note.  I wouldn’t ask for anything more.  Season 2 might bring some more pains, but then by Season 3, he should be a stud.  With Felix and Pineda leading the charge, look for THAT year to be something special in Marinerland.

***

Our rotation as a whole is going to be a REAL mixed bag.  We’ll have Mr. Cy Young, then we’ll have soft-tossing left-hander Jason Vargas.  Then we’ll come back with soft-tossing right-hander Doug Fister, followed by marginally hard-throwing Erik Bedard.  That’s a cool little mix there of Righty, Lefty, Righty, Lefty, Righty.  And I wouldn’t even worry all that much about Felix following Pineda after the first turn of the rotation.  With Pineda, you’re getting gas plain and simple.  Teams will focus in on that, and then Felix will come right out with the wicked bendy stuff to throw them completely off balance.

I’m not predicting anything less than Cy Young material out of Felix this year, so we can pretty much move on.

I want to say that I see bad things for Vargas, but I honestly believe his change up is too big to fail.  He may only throw 87 miles per hour on the fastball, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t come into his own last year.  He strikes me as a very cerebral dude who’s got just enough smarts to out-wit his opponents.

I DON’T want to say that I see bad things for Fister, but in reality he’s going to be this year’s Rowland-Smith.  Fister has had a messy Spring, he didn’t finish the season anywhere NEAR the level he started it, he can’t generate swinging strikes to save his life, and when his pin-point accuracy on the corners of the plate is lacking, he’s the most hittable guy I’ve ever seen.  You’re going to see Fister struggle.  You’re going to see him get more chances than he deserves because the guys in Tacoma (and on the DL) aren’t quite there yet, and you’re going to see Fister struggle even more.  After this season, you’re going to see Fister in another uniform, and after next season you’re going to see him out of baseball.  Count it.

I’m SO happy that Erik Bedard is back.  I think he’s going to give us everything he gave us the LAST time he was healthy!  Which is rock-solid front end of the rotation pitching.  Between him, Felix, Vargas, and every other time with Pineda, we’re going to look MIGHTY good on the mound this year.

***

Until we get to the 7th or 8th innings.

Bullpen is crap!  Print it, post it, put it to bed.

Well, that’s not entirely fair.  But, in the first month or so it’s going to be crap.  Probably.

We’ve got two very young guys in Josh Lueke and Tom Wilhelmsen with all the talent in the world.  They throw hard, they throw in the strike zone, and I have no doubt that they’ll be excellent back-end relievers (and potential closers) in the years to come.  But right now?  Right now they’re rookies.  They’re going to have nights where they’re electric and nights where they implode.

Chris Ray and Jamey Wright are NOT rookies.  They’re as veteran as they come.  Ray is a former closer who’s coming off multiple injuries/surgeries.  Wright is just a guy who’s bounced around the league with marginally good stuff.  These guys will probably pitch the bulk of our 7th and 8th innings when we’ve got a lead (at least until the younger guys step up).  I have no faith in either of these guys getting the job done.  Give the Mariners a 1-run lead in the 7th with this gauntlet of crap and I will bet on the Blown Save every time.

I don’t know a thing about Aaron Laffey except that he throws the ball with his left hand and is not Garrett Olson.  I like him already.

David Pauley is David Pauley.  He started a bunch of unmemorable games for us last season, he didn’t totally destroy his career by posting league-worst numbers, so he got a tryout this Spring and did okay.  Bank on seeing him at some point in the first five games, then bank on seeing him every 10 days or so.  Long relievers have GOT to have the best jobs in baseball.  All you do is come into games where your team is either down by a lot or up by a lot, all you have to do is throw strikes, and if you go 5+ innings while your team makes a miraculous comeback, then you’re a superstar.

Brandon League is our closer RIGHT NOW.  Aardsma will be back, likely, in early May.  Aardsma will also, likely, be traded sometime within the next 12 months.  So, look at April as League’s opportunity to showcase his abilities to get three 9th inning outs.  He better bring his splitter, that’s all I’ve got to say.  And let’s cut back on totally sucking dick in save situations where Felix was the starter, huh?  I WANT to like you, League!  You’ve got magical stuff that every once in a while gets pounded into submission for some reason.  Just don’t get pounded when Felix previously occupied your mound for the first 8 innings!

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  1. Pingback: Mariners 2011 Season Overview: Michael Pineda | Seattle Sports Hell

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