The Mariners’ Rotation Is Holding Up Remarkably Well So Far

Yeah yeah yeah, I know it’s early. We are 2 and one-fifths of the way through the rotation not even two full weeks into the season. But, that’s sort of the point of today’s argument, because this early in the season is when you really have to worry about a starting rotation holding up.

We’re right out of Spring Training. Rosters are slightly expanded for this very reason: pitchers’ arms aren’t built up yet. Pitch counts are relatively low as a result. And, should they run into too many travails, starts can be cut short, resulting in over-taxing of the bullpen.

2021 was kind of the Worst Case Scenario in this regard. We lost James Paxton early in his very first start. We lost backup starter Nick Margevicius not long after. We had to suffer through numerous full-on bullpen days because we were trying to run a 6-man rotation out there to limit innings and keep guys fresh, without sufficent healthy backup options to roll with (saying nothing of other starts being cut short due to early-season ineffectiveness).

The bullpen was gassed, and it necessitated multiple back-and-forth moves between Tacoma and Seattle just to keep this pitching staff afloat. But, we haven’t had that problem this year.

The worst start we’ve had so far was Marco Gonzales’ 2.0 innings in Minnesota. The next-shortest stint was a 4.1 affair by Flexen, also in Minnesota. Everyone else has gone at least 5.0 innings per start, including rookie Matt Brash, who is reported to be on a VERY strict pitch count for this season.

I think that’s pretty remarkable. Maybe I have low standards in this regard, but it’s clearly showing in our bullpen’s performance thus far. We have a bullpen ERA under 3 and the only blown save on our ledger is a game we came back and won.

This could all change at a moment’s notice, of course, but I think it’s a pretty good sign. In the not-too-distant future, our Major League roster is going to shrink a little bit, and we’ll be limited in the number of pitchers we can keep up here. Not wearing guys out in the most fragile part of the season should hopefully work wonders towards keeping this staff in good working order.

Beyond that, though, the starters have looked good in games! Our team ERA is 3.03, so it’s not like the bullpen is doing everything. Robbie Ray had one rough start in Chicago in that crazy rain game, but otherwise has looked every bit the ace. Matt Brash has been a revelation, and looks like he’ll be a valuable big league pitcher for many years to come. Logan Gilbert has quietly been a monster. Marco bounced back with a VERY impressive outing in our home opener against a very good Astros lineup. And, Chris Flexen looks just as steady as he was last year. Considering Marco and Flexen are our 3/4 pitchers, I think that speaks very well of the talent in this pitching staff.

I’m cautiously optimistic, because the better the pitching staff does now, the better our team should be as a whole. Clearly, we’ve needed the pitching to get off to a good start. Now that the offense has started to come around since we returned home, it’s starting to look like things might be okay. The last thing we need is to go into a deep hole with our record. 6-5, with a +8 run differential isn’t shabby in the least. I’ll take it! That’s something to build on, for sure.

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