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I don’t know if I could’ve reasonably asked for much more than what Kuma gave us in 2016. He stayed off the DL for the first time since 2013 – which is more than you can say for every other starter on this team last year – and he kept us “in the ballgame” in about 25 of those starts (give or take; I’m doing a rough eyeball test of his game log here). As I’ve said countless times, expecting him to return to his elite 2013 form just isn’t happening. The best we can expect is pretty much what he gave us in 2016. And that … wasn’t bad.
You’re going to find me talking about each and every one of our five projected starting pitchers in this series because they’re all super important to the success of the team this season. The order isn’t a coincidence (Felix 1, Paxton 2, Kuma 3 …) because I feel like – at this stage in his career – Kuma is a #3 starter. You hope he stays healthy, you hope he doesn’t fall off the cliff with his production, and you hope – with a top-tier offense – he’s able to win you a bunch of games. He’ll be 36 years old as the season starts, which is really getting up there in baseball years, so here’s to hoping he’s taking good care of himself this offseason.
I’m writing about all the starters because our depth is rail thin. I already have zero confidence in Gallardo as our fifth starter, so pointing to Ariel Miranda as a part of this team’s “depth” just isn’t going to do it for me. In essence, I’m already banking on Miranda getting significant time in this rotation thanks to ineffectiveness alone. That’s not even factoring in the usual bumps and bruises you get with your average starting rotation. It’s damn near impossible for the same five guys to make all the starts for your team for a full season; someone is GOING to get injured. Given his age and his track record, I think it’s easy money to bet on Kuma seeing the DL at least once. Beyond that, Paxton has a history of a billion different weird injuries, and you gotta figure there’s not much tread left on Felix’s arm; it’s only a matter of time before he blows it out and has some REAL rehabbing to get through.
So, with that being the case, and with the guys in Tacoma being who they are, it would be an absolute godsend for Kuma to somehow make all his starts for the second year in a row. Or, at the very least, hold out until July when this team can make a deal at the deadline.
Not for nothing, but if we’re going to venture out and dream a little dream, Kuma doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence as the #3 starter in a playoff series. In an ideal world, King Felix bounces back, James Paxton takes a big step forward, and this team trades for an elite starter at the deadline to bump Kuma down to 4 or 5 in the rotation. But, you know, let’s not go nuts dissecting our playoff chances here when pitchers and catchers haven’t even reported.