A Look At The Mariners Pitching Staff in 2011
- Updated: April 15, 2011
The Mariners have stumbled out of the gate to start the 2011 season; however, it’s no fault of the pitching staff.
ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 GB%
2011 (9 games) 4.56 3.59 6.43 2.22 47.9
2010 (162 games) 3.95 4.17 6.09 2.83 43.4
Nine games is a very small sample size but, based on the results so far the Mariners pitching has been solid, if not a little bit better than last year. Now let’s look at who they will be running out there this season:
King Felix. It sure feels nice to pencil in the King to take the ball for the Mariners every 5th day. Trade speculation will never end with Felix, at least until the M’s start winning again. The best Mariners fans can do is ignore the rumors, because Felix isn’t going anywhere. Considering his young age, cy-young pitching and his desire to stay with the Mariners for his entire career, the King will be resting his crown in the Emerald City for the foreseen future. Now it’s the other 80% of the rotation that the Mariners have to worry about.
Jason Vargas and Doug Fister make the perfect #4/5 starters. Unfortunately, for the Mariners, they’ll be asked to begin the season as the #2/3 starters with the hope being that Erik Bedard and Michael Pineda will fill those roles by season’s end. Until then, we have the consistent, yet unspectacular pitching of Vargas and Fister to look forward too. But, let’s look on the bright side, our #4 starter used to be a #1 and still has that ability as long as he’s healthy. Bedard is one of the more interesting Mariners to keep an eye on in 2011. To have any chance of making the playoffs, they will need a very good season from a finally healthy (please ignore the irony of Bedard and healthy being in the same sentence), Erik Bedard. Needless to say, Mariners fans will be holding their breath every time Bedard takes the mound for fear that his arm will finally just fall off. This finally brings me to the most highly touted Mariners prospect since the King himself, Michael Pineda. Pineda followed up a very good 2009 season by dominating AA and AAA over 25 starts in 2010. At the ripe age of 22, he is poised to spend his first full season in the major leagues and hold down the #5 spot for the Mariners in 2011. With good control of a fastball that has hit triple digits, Pineda just needs to work on improving his secondary pitches and he will make a great complement to King Felix. Prince Pineda anyone?
This winter the Mariners pen looked like it would be a strength heading into 2011. Then the injury bug bit, taking with it closer David Aardsma and set up man Shawn Kelley. Then Dan Cortes couldn’t find the strike zone during spring training and began the season in AAA. This left the Mariners with the following collections of arms to begin 2011:
There’s a great shot that by October 2011, none of these players will be in the Mariners pen. League will take over closer duties until Aardsma returns. He features a nasty split finger that ranked 4th amongst AL relievers by FanGraphs.com last year. The only problem is his desire to throw his fastball over the splitter. The ability is there, let’s hope that League finally puts everything together this year and turns into the lock down relief pitcher that everyone expects him to be. If the M’s fall out of the race early he’ll be one of the most desirable available relievers on the trade market, especially if he does well filling in for Aarsdma as the closer.
After League, there are a bunch of questions marks. Lueke and Wilhelmsen are the rookies of the bullpen. Lueke (acquired from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal last summer), has a great fastball and the potential to be a future closer. Wilhelmsen is an interesting story to say the least, he was a 2002, 7th round draft pick of the Brewers and left baseball in 2005. In 2010 he attempted a comeback signing with the Mariners and pitching for a few of their minor league affiliates. After a solid spring he finds himself in the bullpen. Pauley and Laffey will both pitch long relief for the M’s and are the most likely to fill a spot in the rotation should the need arise. Wright is a journeyman pitcher who broke into the majors in 1996 with the Rockies. A starter for most of his career he has transitioned to the bullpen to extend his major league career. Chris Ray will fill a set up role for the Mariners this season, don’t expect anything spectacular.
Overall, the rotation is once again the strength of the Mariners. On paper, it looks amazing. Let’s hope that Felix will duplicate his success of the past two seasons, Vargas and Fister will continue to eat innings, Bedard stays healthy and crosses the 100 innings mark for the first time since 2007 and Pineda shows signs of developing into the #2 starter that we all hope he will become. The bullpen is going to be a huge concern for the Mariners at least in the early part of 2011. Here’s hoping that League puts it together, Cortes learns how to throw strikes and Aardsma and Kelley heal quickly.