2012 Mariners Preview Part II: The Pitchers

FYI, this one isn’t going to be nearly as wordy as yesterday’s post.

While you could argue that my views on the hitters are marginally optimistic – I’m generally hopeful about five of our potential regulars, and not entirely against the idea of a couple others – my views on this season’s crop of pitchers is pretty darn negative.

Aside from Felix, of course.

I would like to point out, with 100% bias, that if I had my choice of any one starting pitcher in all of the Major Leagues, I would hands-down choose Felix over everyone else.  And I don’t necessarily think that’s too crazy!  His numbers are comparable to anyone else’s in baseball, he’s an insatiable innings glutton, and he’s got a winning personality that makes you glad he plays for your team (if you’re a Mariners fan, that is).  Not only that, but he’s easily the most coveted pitcher on or off the market; it makes me happy knowing the best teams out there want our guy, but they can’t have our guy!  Fuck you, Yankees!

Felix aside, though, YE GODS!  It’s a tremendous step down to our number two starter, Jason Vargas.  Now, I’m not as down on this guy as most Mariners fans are.  I will say that I don’t necessarily think he’s worth the money he’s getting this season (and I REALLY don’t think he’s going to be worth the money he will command on the open market next season).  But, it’s not like the Mariners were just going to cut ties with a guy who is a durable left-hander.  And it’s not like anyone was going to want to trade for him considering this was his last season of club control (and if they did trade for him, we wouldn’t have gotten squat for him anyway, so whatever).

Essentially, we were stuck with Vargas, we were stuck with his $5 million paycheck, and there’s nothing we could’ve done to change that so stop crying over spilled milk.

With Vargas, you’re going to get some games where he looks as dominant as they come (relatively speaking, for a guy who throws in the mid-to-high 80s), where he’ll shut out a few teams, give up only a handful of hits and striking out upwards of double-digits.  That’s when his change up is on and his fastball is located well.  You’re also going to get some games where he looks like he belongs in the Independent Leagues, where he’ll get shelled and won’t escape the third inning (or worse).  This is when his change up is dead and his fastball catches too much of the plate.  Both of these scenarios – the dominant and the inept – will be in the vast minority of his overall output.  In general, Vargas will go 6-7 innings and he’ll give up 2-4 earned runs.

If I had any memory at all, I’d track how many times he has a game in that exact range.  I guess we’ll see.

Vargas is the least sexy pitcher I’ve seen in ages.  Which makes him truly the epitome of the Seattle Mariners.

Then we’ve got Hector Noesi and Blake Beavan.  They make Jason Vargas look like Don Draper’s new wife.

Her.

I know enough about Blake Beavan to know that I’m not crazy about him.  I don’t despise the guy, but let’s just say I’m not looking forward to watching him make 30 starts this season.  He’s another low-90’s fastball right hander who’s certainly NOT as sweet as Doug Fister.  Whereas with Fister I saw potential in a guy who – with pinpoint command – could be great; with Beavan all I see is a 4.50 ERA.  For every great start he’ll give you five duds.

I know next-to-nothing about Noesi, so in that respect I guess he’s marginally more interesting than Beavan.  But, I’m sure as his own ERA hovers around 4.50, the novelty will wear off quickly.

And then there’s Kevin Millwood.  You know how the guys you hate the most tend to be the most durable?  Like they stay healthy just to spite you, while much more talented and enjoyable players (*cough* GUTI *cough cough*) can never seem to stay on the field long enough to live up to their vast potential.  That’s exactly what I’m looking forward to dreading with Kevin Millwood.  I guarantee you that while our younger phenoms (Ramirez, Hultzen, Paxton, Walker) are all dominating at their various levels of play, Kevin Millwood will not see one day of the Disabled List.  Bank on it.

Speaking of which, if there’s one thing to be hopeful about with the starting pitching of 2012, it’s that this will HOPEFULLY be the last season we’ll have to watch guys like Vargas, Beavan, Noesi, and Millwood infecting our starting rotation with their mediocrity.  If one thing absolutely needs to happen this season, it’s that our Big 4 (and Felix) need to stay healthy.  If two things need to happen, it’s that they also need to develop into Major League regulars.  I want 2013 to be the most exciting season ever; that’ll happen if the Big 4 make the jump to everyday Major League starters.

As for the bullpen, I like Brandon League.  I’ve said all along that I think the Mariners would be smart to sign League to a long-term extension.  He looks like he’s durable (in that he doesn’t have a crazy arm motion that’s going to put undue stress on his shoulder or elbow), he’s got a dominant sinking fastball that approaches 100 miles per hour, he’s got a devastating out-pitch in his split-fingered fastball, and he’s shown he’s got what it takes after the past two seasons of playing at a high level.

On the downside of Brandon League, he has that annual stretch of five-or-so games where he gets battered around by the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles.  I say this season, we just leave him back in Seattle for that road trip.

A not-insignificant reason to sign League to an extension is this:  we gave up what could very well be a monster starting pitcher in Brandon Morrow for him.  It would be nice to not get totally hosed in that deal by losing the other Brandon.  Yeah, Morrow hasn’t exactly put it all together yet, but he’s shown enough flash with some of his dominant high-strikeout games to make me a believer that ONE DAY he will figure it out.  And he’ll be awesome for years thereafter.

After League, who the fuck knows?  Wilhelmsen looked pretty good last year once we brought him back up (after his miserable initial stint with the team), but will those great late-season appearances translate to him being the real deal in 2012?

We got George Sherrill back, so I guess that solves our problem in the bullpen from the left side.  Then again, does it?  He’s pretty old at this stage of his career.  Most fans believe he’s got at least one more season left in him; let’s hope so.  Not that it matters.  Sherrill isn’t exactly a long-term solution at the end of our bullpen (not that the phrase “long-term” ever really applies to bullpen guys, but that’s neither here nor there).

We’ve also got Shawn Kelley back from a seemingly never-ending string of injuries.  Who has confidence this guy has seen the last of his woes?  My bet is he’s back on the DL before the end of May.  Who wants action?

And, we’ve got other arms, but who really cares about those other arms.  A couple of nobodies and a dude in Iwakuma who couldn’t even beat out Blake Beavan for a starting job … hey, look out for these guys!

My Predictions For the 2012 Season

74-88, fourth place in the AL West.  I think our Team ERA will be in the bottom third of the American League.  I think our Runs Scored will be marginally better than last season’s (no more than 25 runs scored).  I think one of our major stars will suffer a season-ending injury (please not Felix, please not Felix, please not Felix).  That having been said, I think the Mariners will have one of the best records in Baseball in the month of September when all of our awesome starting prospects get called up and start mowing through the competition.

That’s that.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go to bed early so I can wake up at 3am to watch a stupid fucking baseball game.

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