A great running line in the Newman/Redford classic, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was “Who are those guys?” It was said by Cassidy/Newman when no matter what Butch and Sundance did to ditch a posse, they could not shake them. Well Seattle GM, Jerry Dipoto has shaken up the Mariner bullpen and brought in a new posse. But will it be better? At the moment it looks to be their biggest weakness.
Frankly at the moment it scares me. I think Dipoto has secret Freemason analytics unknown to the rest of us. Something found in ancient knowledge of necromancy, alchemy, and witchcraft. Looking at his acquisitions I ask, “Who are those guys?”
There are 20 pitchers on the 40 man roster, six of which are starters, those being Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Nathan Karns, and two lefties, Taijuan Walker and Wade Miley. That leaves 15 relievers, including one recently acquired for another reliever, also acquired during the offseason. By spring training all the following pitchers could trade as Trader Jerry likes to deal like a riverboat gambler.
Their are only six pitchers returning who spent any time with the Mariners and four of those are lefties. Charlie Furbush, 29, appeared in only 33 games due to an injury; Vidal Nuno, 28, another lefty was 1-5, 3.74 in 35 games (3 with Arizona), 10 starts; Mike Montgomery, 26, who began 2015 as a starter was 4-6, 4.60 and though he had two early shutouts, his 16 starts indicated a five inning pitcher at best; Dave Rollins, 26, the fourth lefty was 0-2, 7.56 and was dreadful. From the right side is Mayckol Guaipe, 25, 21 games, 5.40 ERA and Tony Zych, 25, who only appeared in 13 games with a 2.45 ERA.
Based on the five returnees Furbush and Nuno are likely to be in the pen, with Montgomery being a starter in Tacoma. Guaipe will have to compete with seven new righties and all have question marks.
Staring at the end with Steve Cishek, 29, the likely closer with 39 saves in 43 opportunities in 2014, but between two teams last season was 4 of 9 with 3.58 ERA. So a question mark as to health and if he can regain his previous form. The setup man is likely Joaquin Benoit whose only question is age at 38 as his 2015 ERA was 2.34 in 65.1 innings with San Diego. He also has closing experience. They should make the team. That makes Cishek, Benoit, Furbush, and Nuno. Along with 5 starters, that makes nine pitchers.
Assuming a 12 man staff that leaves three spots open between seven pitchers-at the moment. The odd man out of the rotation, baring another Iwakuma/Paxton/Other injury, is Karns. If he stays in the bullpen as long reliever, that leaves two spots. Besides Zych there is Jonathan Arno, 25, 6.97 in six games with Boston in 2015; Ryan Cook, 28, 8.2 innings between two teams allowing 20 hits, 18.69 era in 9 games. An aberration as he had three good years with Oakland and can also close games. Another former Oakland A is Evan Scribner, 30, 5-2, 4.21 career marks; Justin DeFratus, 28, 6-1, 5.51 with the Phillies in 2015; Cody Martin, 26, 7.92 between Atlanta and Oakland; and Joe Wieland, soon to be 26, two bad starts with Dodgers in 2015, career record 1-5 5.85 in 11 games. Anybody’s guess, so I pick Cook and Zych, or Cook and Scribner, or draw two names out of a batting helmet.
Dipoto has remade the pen and they can make or break the 2016 team, just as the 2015 pen sunk the Good Ship Mariner. I am at the moment a bit seasick and must get below deck.
Many relief pitchers have a problem coming into the 9th in non-save situation. It is likely that thinking the lead is safe the pitcher throws strikes to get outs, but the strikes are too good and hits come, not outs; or the pitcher is relaxed and throws balls just out of the strike zone. It is only a surmise; the truth is a mystery.
But that is not the problem Sunday when Fernando Rodney came into the 9th with a 7-3 lead on Oakland. Lets look at the last of the 9th. Reddick a leadoff double, Semien a walk, then Sam Fuld 2-run double, 7-5. Canha infield single, Zobrist walks. McClendon visits mound and then Butler hits into double play, a run scores, 7-6, but two outs. The last out is the toughest and Sogard singles, Canha scores, 7-7.
Here is the problem. Rodney had pitched Saturday night so he was not in need of work and by bringing him in on Sunday throwing 25 pitches in a non save situation, it is unlikely he will be used for the Monday game against the Dodgers. Would it not have been better to start Medina in the 9th and if he gets into trouble, then bring in Rodney?
Managers tend to go with their closer and rarely take him out when he is not pitching well. The manager will, like the captain of the Titanic, go down with the ship, and the closer is the managers ship. That is why Rodney was allowed to either get out of the jam or lose the game. But if he lost, this would be one of those games you look back on and say this game was one that got away. And the M’s missed the playoffs by one game in 2014. Even early in the season you don’t want to let games slip away.
Nelson Cruz bailed the M’s out with a 10th inning homer and medina pitched a 1-2-3 9th for the save. Rodney got an undeserved win.
Closers are best in save situations.
In a previous blog I argued that if the National League adopted the DH they might as well eliminate the pitcher and use pitching machines. I doubt that will happen, but then I never thought I could watch a movie on my phone either.
But pitching will change. It as changed in my lifetime and will continue to change. At one time pitchers were expected to complete games, or at the least, go deep into the game. I am not talking about the old days when Charles Radbourne pitched in 75 of his teams 114 games, with 73 complete games, 59 wins, and 679 innings with 441 strikeouts. That was 1884. The year I graduated from high school, the year being none of your business, the complete games were down to a league leading 20 in one league, 18 in the other.
Saves? That statistic did not become official until 1969. Saves changed the game. First a closer usually went two or three innings like Rollie Fingers or Goose Gossage. It was not a big deal. Today a closer rarely pitches more than one inning. Now we have set up pitchers in the seventh and eighth innings.
Starters? A starter goes six, the magic number. Then we have to count pitches to make sure he can pitch the seventh. Many can not. Example: Eric Bedard. He came out of games after six when pitching with Seattle. I think the marine air tired him out.
The future will change because pitcher’s arms are being babied. Young arms are valued in the millions. King Felix of Seattle and Steven Strasburg of Washington are only two of dozens of young arms that must be cared for. Some pitchers get shutdown with innings restrictions.
So in the future a starting pitcher will go three innings, then sit down, and another pitcher will go two innings. That comes out to five innings. Then one pitcher for each of the next four innings, changing lefty for righty depending on batter of course. That is a minimum of six pitchers per game. A pitcher who pitched one inning will be the starter the next day and pitch his three. Rosters will expand of course. Teams will carry 30 players, 17 of which will be pitchers.
Complete games will be extinct and so will pitching duels like King Felix and Jon Lester yesterday in Oakland. Or in the old days like Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal; Bob Gibson and Ferguson Jenkins; Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton. I don’t think the future is all it will be cracked up to be.
Charles Radbourne must be laughing in his grave.
When Earl Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles in 1978 and 1979 he had a closer named Dan Stanhouse. Weaver called him “Two Pack” because every time Stanhouse came in to close a game, Weaver’s nerves were tested to the point that Earl said he smoked two packs of cigarettes watching him pitch.
Consider 1978: 75 innings, 52 walks, 42 strikeouts, base runners all over the place, yet 24 saves and a 2.89 ERA. In 1979, 73 innings, 51 walks, 34 strikeouts, but again a low ERA of 2.85 and 21 saves.
Earl would go through at least two packs watching the Mariners closer Fernando Rodney. In one inning against Texas Friday night Rodney walked two, gave up two hits, two runs, and I think hit a batter, threw a wild pitch or two, yet got a save when Justin Smoak speared a line drive and caught the Texas runner off the bag for game ending double play.
Rodney has saved four of five in 7.1 innings, but allowed 9 hits, 6 walks, striking out 10 and has a 3.68 ERA.
But he could be better if he does one thing. For those who haven’t seen Rodney pitch, his trademark his wearing his baseball cap off to the side, far to the side. The cap, which is centered to his left, pulls him that way causing his pitches to go in directions he did not intend. Clearly the misaligned cap creates a causal shift in barometric atmosphere infringing on a fifth dimension. This throws his axis balance off as his spiritual center is out of harmony.
All Rodney has to do is wear his cap straight on as designed and he will throw strike after strike, getting batters out with ease, and save 40 to 50 games. And in so doing prevent Lloyd McClendon and Mariner fans from reaching for a pack of Lucky Strikes. Even better it will prevent kids from taking up the habit.
My website http://terrynelson.net/