The Mariners’ Pitching Is Sucking My Will To Live

The Seattle Mariners are currently 31-43, good for a .419 winning percentage.

The Seattle Mariners of 2011, as of this date one year ago, were 38-39, good for a .494 winning percentage.

Now, the 2011 Mariners went on to finish 67-95, which means from this point onward they went 29-56, good for a .341 winning percentage the rest of the way.

I don’t have the kind of readership that would make a poll worth a damn, but I just wonder what percentage of M’s fans would believe that the 2012 Mariners are worse than the 2011 Mariners, if you threw out the records of each team and just looked at the rosters subjectively.  I know I don’t think these 2012 Mariners are worse than the 2011 version! 

For one thing, the hitting is better.  It’s certainly not “night & day”, but I guess more like “night & later that same night, just a few hours before dawn”.  I think, if anything, it’s unfair to compare these Mariners to those of the 2011 variety, mostly because of how that 2011 team fell apart.

And, with that, you can point squarely to the pitching.

The June 25, 2011 Seattle Mariners had some sweet pitching!  Felix, of course.  Erik Bedard’s resurgence.  The coming-on of Doug Fister.  Jason Vargas, rather than being a sub-par #2 starter, was a sub-4 ERA #4 starter.  And, of course, who could forget Michael Pineda mowing people down on his way to a rookie All Star Game appearance?

Then, the 2011 Mariners fell apart, in large part because they traded Fister, Bedard got injured for a month and then was traded, Vargas struggled mightily until his last few starts in September, and Pineda hit some kind of rookie wall that prevented him from continuing the sub-2.5 ERA dominance he enjoyed over the first three months of the season.  The hitting was always bad; what changed was the quality of the pitching.  Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Anthony Vasquez all shared starts the rest of the way with Felix, Vargas, and Pineda.  All, aside from Felix, were terrible in the second half of the season.

So, if you’re going to compare the 2012 Mariners to the 2011 Mariners, it would only be fair to compare the First Half 2012 Mariners with the Second Half 2011 Mariners.  Because the pitching has been THAT bad.  For both halves.

But, the 2012 hitting has been marginally better!  As such, that’s why I believe these 2012 Mariners are better than their 2011 counterparts.

Nevertheless, this pitching!  Ye gods!

Hector Noesi has been terrible against most teams, with a bright spot here and there against terrible teams.  Never has he been dominant, however.  Jason Vargas has been just plain mediocre throughout this season; pretty damn great at home (3.19 ERA, only 4 home runs allowed over 6 starts) and as bad as it gets on the road (5.70 ERA, and a whopping 16 home runs allowed over only 10 starts).  Blake Beavan seemingly retained only his worst qualities from his rookie campaign last season, with no improvement across the board anywhere else (thus earning his demotion to Tacoma).  Beavan’s replacement, Erasmo Ramirez, has been hit around like a pinata in his two starts.  Kevin Millwood has been a nice little surprise for this team, but he is still going to have nights like last Friday where he just doesn’t have it (5 IP, 8 runs, 5 ER) and that will ultimately reduce his trade value to almost nothing.  Even Felix has been susceptible to being rocked around on occasion (though we’re all hoping after his short week-plus stint of not starting, he has turned a corner on whatever issues he was experiencing).  When you factor in this is also a pitching staff where they had to demote their closer, it’s no wonder we’re looking at the record we’ve got right now.

With the way the Mariners have been able to hit, especially on the road (compared to last year), a halfway decent pitching staff would have led this team to at least a .500 record!

And, truth be told, it’s unfair to lump in the bullpen with the rest of this group.  Yeah, Brandon League lost his closing job and deservedly so.  But, for the most part, the rest of the bullpen has been lights out!

I don’t know if Tom Wilhelmsen has given up more than a small handful of runs since he earned the closer’s job.  Hell, he hasn’t given up a run in the last 13.2 innings, dating back to May 23rd!  In the month of June (jinx alert), he’s given up all of 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 16 over nine appearances.  He is, quite frankly, the most remarkable pitcher on the entire staff, and it’s going to be exciting to watch him go the rest of the way.

It’s not just him, though.  Lucas Luetge recently gave up his first runs of the season, and he’s a Rule 5 guy who has been on the roster as a lefty specialist since Spring Training.  Charlie Furbush, as a middle reliever, has been absolutely lights out, with 39 strikeouts in 31.1 innings.  Even Brandon League, aside from a few terrible outings (and his absurdly low K/9IP rate) still has a sub-4 ERA and should fetch us SOMETHING at the trade deadline.  And Shawn Kelley is solid, if unspectacular, as a right-handed set-up guy.

This team could – and SHOULD – be better than its 31-43 record.  Unfortunately, the scapegoat this time around isn’t the usual suspect.  Granted, the hitting isn’t 1997 Seattle Mariners caliber, but it’s at least good enough to be having us CONTEND for SOMETHING.  Something besides last place … last in all of baseball that is.

I guess why I’m not more upset about this is due to knowing what we have in the minor leagues.  Millwood and Vargas will be gone after this season (most likely).  Beavan will get a chance to turn his career around, but he’s going to have to take a page out of Doug Fister’s book to do so.  Erasmo Ramirez might not be anything more than a bullpen guy if he can’t figure out a way to avoid getting knocked around every five days.  Ditto Hector Noesi.

We’ve got three highly-touted young prospects in the middle and upper Minors who are ready to break out.  If the hitting can just maintain this upward trajectory, 2013 might be moderately exciting. 

Of course, there are more If’s in that paragraph than I’m letting on.  Those minor league pitching prosects need to be ready to make the jump.  And if they’re not, we could be looking at more of the same in 2013.  Possibilities:  we’ve got them in spades!

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