The Encouraging Small Sample Size Of The 2014 Mariners Bullpen

Six guys on the Mariners have a 0.00 ERA right now.  All of those guys have come out of the bullpen to do so (Chris Young will switch to being a starter in this weekend’s series against Oakland).  Six guys, ranging from 1-4 appearances, totalling 17.2 innings, have given up zero runs while walking 9, giving up another 7 hits, and striking out a whopping 19 batters.

The others in the bullpen aren’t too shabby either.  All told, the bullpen has given up 5 earned runs over 25.2 innings, walking 13, giving up 14 hits, and striking out 29.  But, here’s the thing:  that includes Hector Noesi’s never-should-have-been-here-in-the-first-place ass.  Take away his brutal numbers, and this has been your Mariners bullpen through the first eight games:

24.2 innings, 13 walks, 12 hits, 2 earned runs, and 27 strikeouts.

That’s a 0.73 ERA!  Again, it’s only 8 games, and the bullpen performance can change on a dime at any time, but it beats the alternative.

I still have some problems with how certain pieces are being used, but I feel that it will work itself out eventually.  Tom Wilhelmsen seems to have the 8th inning set-up role on lockdown, when really it should belong to Danny Farquhar.  Or, at the very least, go situational.  Tom Wilhelmsen should avoid pitching to left-handed bats at all costs.  And he should NEVER be brought in with runners on base.  I mean, this should be a no-brainer:  Farquhar averaged nearly 13 strikeouts per 9 innings last year!  That’s insane!  He’s on a similar clip this year, while Wilhelmsen sunk to a little under 7 strikeouts per 9 last year, and is not making much of a case that he’s regained that once-dominant out-pitch he flashed in 2011.

I think Wilhelmsen is destined to be a guy who’s on fire one night and a complete trainwreck the next.  That kind of performance deserves to be used exclusively in games where we’re already behind, or already up by a number of runs more than 2.  And it also deserves a very short leash when he starts getting himself into trouble.

I think Yoervis Medina is entirely underrated and mysteriously over-used.  With a lot of our starters struggling to go past 5 or 6 innings, Medina has usually been the first man out of the ‘pen.  Again, this role should probably belong to Wilhelmsen (I tend to waffle between saving him for a less pressure-packed role on the Mariners and sending him down to Tacoma for good, depending on how he has affected my mood that particular day), but I also find it curious that Charlie Furbush isn’t being used more.  He doesn’t throw particularly hard, and that seems to be a prerequisite to getting an abundance of playing time on this team.  Maybe it’ll work itself out over time.  Either way, if I had my druthers, I’d have the bullpen go Medina-Farquhar-Rodney (7th/8th/9th innings), with a lefty sprinkled in depending on matchups and such.

Of course, that’s my preferred rotation RIGHT NOW.  That’ll change when Fernando Rodney inevitably falls off the wagon and starts blowing saves left and right (this WILL happen, it’s only a matter of when).  Never trust a closer who has trouble with his command (and who seemingly NEEDS to be put into a jam in order to ratchet up the intensity required to start pitching effectively).

But, I’m not here to set myself up for easy “I Told You So’s” later.  Right now, I’m just enjoying the ride.  I want the good times to continue for as long as humanly possible.  And, as for the rest of the lads down there – Joe Beimel, Dominic Leone, and Lucas Luetge – we’re cool until you start fucking our shit up.  Beimel seems to be a savvy situational-lefty who should probably never EVER face a right-handed bat (unless he’s turning around a switch-hitter whose preferred side is the left side).  I certainly trust Beimel over Luetge (who seems destined to go back down to Tacoma once we call up our fifth starter for that series in Texas next week).  Dominic Leone is a rookie just getting his first taste.  He’s another hard-throwing righty and so far I dig his style.  Seems to have some good movement out of his breaking pitches, which is always a plus when you’ve got a plus-fastball like he does.

It’s early, but it’s also encouraging.  Here’s to being happy for once about the Mariners’ bullpen.  And, here’s to hoping we don’t need them tonight, with Felix mowing down the A’s.

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