The Seattle Mariners, legitimately, have two of the best pitchers in the American League. Felix is a given; as long as you have Felix, you’re always halfway to making a claim for a dynamic pitching duo. But, Iwakuma is a bit of a surprise. Most of us thought his biggest upside was as a #3 starter, or a #2 starter on a bad team. That was “best-case”. But right now? Through seven starts? He’s throwing Ace-like numbers behind a bona fide Ace in King Felix.
I love it when the Mariners have a stellar #2 pitcher because I feel like it gives Felix a little extra something. I would never say that Felix doesn’t try; he’s always going out there and giving everything he has. But, it seems like when he’s got another starting pitcher around him threatening to steal some of the spotlight, he takes his game to another level to show who’s really Top Dog in the clubhouse. When the Mariners brought in Bedard and gave him the Opening Day start, that was the year where Felix became established as the team’s #1 pitcher; from that season on, no one would ever supplant King Felix on Opening Day. When the Mariners brought in Cliff Lee to make a push towards contention, Felix did him one better by winning the AL Cy Young Award. Now, we’ve got Iwakuma really starting to turn some heads. And so Felix has no choice but to keep pace.
- Felix – 50.2 IP, 51 K’s, 7 BB, 1.60 ERA
- Iwakuma – 44.2 IP, 42 K’s, 8 BB, 1.61 ERA
A championship baseball team needs a lot of things to go right for things to work out. You need timely hitting, you need GOOD hitting. You need a dominant bullpen, you need quality defense. And you need at least two really good starting pitchers.
Starting pitching seems to rule the day in the playoffs. If you have two dominant starters, you will win every series as long as you’re able to win their starts. It’s extremely hard to build a championship baseball team (as seen by the utter futility the Mariners have toiled in for the past … forever), but I feel like the hardest part is acquiring those Top 2 starting pitchers.
Championship teams can get by with smoke and mirrors on offense. As long as they’re not completely inept like these recent Mariners teams, you can throw together a bunch of veteran bats from free agency and come away with enough runs to get the job done. Championship teams can also get by with an average defense. You generally just plug your best hitters into whatever spot on the field they’re least likely to embarrass themselves. But, those starting pitchers, they’re tough to come by. Why do you think most contending teams try to trade for pitching at the July 31st deadline? Because you can ALWAYS use more pitching!
Which is going to make these 2013 Mariners more frustrating than in recent years. The Mariners HAVE two dominant starters. They have hitting that will look inept at times, but will also look legit at other times. They have a solid bullpen with one of the best closers in the game. The defense is spotty, but it’s good-enough. I’m not saying that this team is close to being a championship team, but I’m saying they’re CLOSE to being close.
Every Major League team is close to being close. They’re in the Majors; they’re obviously the best baseball players in the world! The difference between the 25 players on the worst team in baseball and the 25 players on the best team in baseball isn’t that wide. We like to think the difference is Grand Canyon-esque, but really we’re talking about world-class athletes, regardless of a team’s win/loss record. The 2013 Mariners have a lot of problems – corner outfield defense, production from the short stop & catcher positions, injuries to key players, certain young hitters not hitting to their potential, a lack of depth/experience in the minors to replace those in the Majors who have no business being there in the first place – but ultimately their biggest problem (and reason why they won’t contend this season) is the fact that the starting pitchers behind Felix and Iwakuma are total dogshit.
This Joe Saunders crap is really starting to piss me off. The laws of regression state that he’s not going to be as horrible as he’s been on the road; he WILL start posting decent outings away from Safeco. But, of course, the distressing thing about the laws of regression tell me that he also won’t be as good at Safeco as he’s been thus far to date. So, where does that leave us? Fucked! For us to count on Saunders at all, he’s going to have to regress A LOT with his road performances while still maintaining a distinct home field advantage. Will it happen? Fuck if I know.
Brandon Maurer appears to be up here for the long haul. Ultimately, that should prove to be a good thing, as he’s getting the kind of experience you need to succeed quicker. But, if he doesn’t develop that change up, then he’s just another in a long line of place-holders for a replacement that might never come.
I doubt that Harang will continue to be as bad as he’s been. That having been said, I also doubt that he will ever be worth a damn. I never thought I’d see the day where I longed for Jeremy Bonderman. The last thing I heard about him, he recently threw 8 shutout innings. Wouldn’t mind seeing that replicated over the next couple weeks, just in case.
If the three starters after our Big 2 were even halfway competent, we’d be looking at a winning baseball team. Instead, we’ll get almost exactly what everyone predicted before the season: a team that’s going to hang around near .500, without really ever threatening for that final playoff spot.
At least the weather is starting to get nicer.