Tagged: Earned run average

The curious case of the Mariners bullpen

The strength of the 2014 Mariners was pitching, especially a strong bullpen. They were 25-20 with a Major League leading 2.59 ERA with batting average against of .219.

But relief pitching is rarely consistent from year to year and this year they are blowing it-literally. They are 21st in ERA at 4.06, and have won 3 and lost 9, the most in baseball. They are responsible for 9 of the 17 losses. And five of their last six losses have been by one run.

What is curious is one of the changes in the bullpen Seattle recently made. Joe Beimel replacing rookie Tyler Olsen was expected from the left side. But why was Yoervis Medina sent down for Mark Lowe? In 12 innings Medina gave up 11 hits and 7 walks. Though the walks are high he struck out 9 and had an ERA of 3.00. Hardly numbers to be sent down to Tacoma.

Consider that Danny Farquhar who has a 5.02 ERA, has two blown saves, and has a .278 batting average against. Medina .234. Dominic Leone has a 5.40 ERA in 8 innings along with six walks. So why was Medina chosen to be sent down? I wish I had the answer. Some guys get more of a chance then others; maybe Lloyd McClendon saw something he didn’t like in Medina. I know I see something I don’t like in Farquhar and Leone.

Seattle needs answers in the pen and need them soon. Felix has pitched great, Paxton and Elias are now pitching well, and Happ has had only one bad outing. They deserve better then they have gotten of late.

More changes could come soon. And that’s no bull.


What’s wrong with King Felix

Where is King Felix? The person on the mound the last three starts is not the King who was being talked about for the Cy Young Award.

After setting a major league record for most consecutive starts pitching at least seven innings allowing two runs or less he is pitching not like Cy Young, but Eric Bedard. Sorry Eric.

In his last three starts Felix has pitched 17. 2 innings, allowed 22 hits, 6 of which are home runs, and allowed 10 runs, a 5.09 ERA. His ERA has jumped from 1.95 to 2.23. He has given up 6 of his 13 home runs in the last three games, 4 came last night against Washington.

And what is worse is that the Mariners gave Felix an extra day of rest. This season when given the extra day he had been 7-0 with a 1.77 ERA. Heck yeah, give him the extra day. Perhaps the law of averages caught up with Felix, or perhaps that is not the real Felix. Has the real Felix been kidnapped by gamblers and a celebrity look-a-like put in his place? 

Something is wrong.

In the August 14th game against Detroit and David Price, though Felix only gave up 2 runs in five innings he threw 92 pitches. That is what Felix throws in seven or eight innings, not five. Against Boston in 5.2 innings it was worse. He threw 116 pitches. He only threw 103 in his seven innings against Washington, but he gave up 10 hits and four homers.

The answer could be he has hit a dead arm phase that all pitchers seem to go through. It could also be that Felix, who has not pitched well in August or September the last couple of years is tired. In 2012 he was 0-4 in August and September, in 2013 he was 1-6. A 1-10 record down the stretch that last two years does not bode well if Felix continues. So far Felix is 2-2 in August, now comes September.

Felix must regain his Cy Young form otherwise the Good Ship Mariner will sink into Elliot Bay.


What happened to King Felix Hernandez

A record of 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA sounds good, but the numbers, as often can be in baseball, are misleading.

In his first four starts King Felix was 3-0, winning his first three before a no decision. He pitched 28 1/3 innings, allowed only 18 hits and 6 runs. And he struck out 39 walking only 3. His ERA was 1.91. Those are kingly numbers.

But in his last four starts, he pitched 24 1/3 innings giving up 29 hits and 10 runs. He struck out 14 and walked 9. He was 0-1 with 3 no decisions. What is really worrisome is that in his last start against Oakland 6 1/3 innings and zero strikeouts. What? King Felix not getting a strikeout. That has not happened since 2008 against the White Sox when he tossed 5 innings.

Strikeouts and King Felix go together like strawberries and cream, like chocolate and peanut butter in a Reese Cup, like jam on toast, like maple syrup on pancakes. Can you tell it I am hungry?

The crazy thing is that his downslide occurred during the Mariners hot streak that saw them erase an eight game losing streak, winning 9 of 11 before losing the second game of the doubleheader in Oakland.

A couple of starts Felix was reportedly sick, struggling to get through innings. He even took himself out of the Houston start after five innings as he was too tired, too sick to go on.

In his next start against Oakland he was well, but still struggled, as mentioned with the zero K’s. It could be his strength is not yet back. It could be Oakland has already seen him twice and are making adjustments.

In the past Felix carried the Mariners, truly an ace. But the Mariners have displayed clutch hitting of late, especially in extra innings. Justin Smoak leads the majors with 19 two out rbis. He is batting over .350 from the 7th inning on. Seager, Cano, and others all contributing late inning heroics. And Roenis Elias is quickly becoming a reliable starter to go with Felix and Iwakuma.

If Felix can get back on track and the M’s clutch hitting continues the Mariners should have a nice season. But is Felix well?

The mystery of Hector Noesi and the Mariners

Hector Noesi had two games and one inning with Seattle and they designated him for assignment, then traded him to Texas. He gave up a game winning home run in his last appearance with the Mariners and he struggled in his previous outing. In the one inning over two games he gave up 2 hits, 3 runs and struck out two. He only faced 6 batters, yet the Mariners dumped the 27 year old pitcher.

He did have a poor showing in 2013. He was 2-12 in 22 games, 18 starts, and a 5.88 ERA. But in spring of this year he pitched 13 innings, allowed 9 hits, walked 4, struck out 3 and had a 2.77 ERA. Batting average against was .196.

Some pitchers have a couple bad outings but why the sudden departure?

Monday night in Texas Noesi pitched against the Mariners in relief, going 2.1 innings, 1 hit and 2 strikeouts. Since Seattle has Chris Young in the rotation, they have no long reliever, a spot well suited for Noesi. Seattle won the game 7-1, but the M’s must hope their pitching continues to pay big dividends and they can avoid going to the bullpen too early.

On the no mystery side, Roenis Elias (pronounced el-e-us) won his first game in the majors in beating Texas. In 6.2 innings, 104 pitches-70 for strikes; he struck out 5, walked 2 and gave up 1 run. He is now 1-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Yes he made the jump from AA to the majors primarily because of injuries to Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma. So far he shows he belongs. He is not being rushed. He is 25, will be 26 August 1, so he is not some 22 year old. And keep in mind he came to the United States as a refugee from his native Cuba in a boat with 26 people. The trip was 30 hours and 1,600 miles, landing in Mexico.

The Mariners signed him 2011. All he has wanted is to play in the major leagues, so anybody who can leave their country, travel 30 hours in a boat, and work his way to the big leagues, has what it takes to stay. Even if for some reason he gets sent down when Paxton, Walker, and Iwakuma return, Elias will be a phone call away.

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One thing Seattle Mariners must blow up for 2014-no bull

In order for the Mariners to make any progress next season they must blow up the bullpen. To borrow from Jimmy Breslin, can’t anybody here pitch this game.

It was probably a bad omen when Steve Pryor, a right handed set-up man, and possible  closer of the future, was injured and lost for the season.  He  tore his right latissimus dorsi muscle behind his right shoulder. Before he got hurt he pitched seven innings, seven strikeouts, 1 walk, 3 hits,, 0.00 ERA.

Latissimus dorsi muscle

Latissimus dorsi muscle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The adage says every picture tells a story, well so do statistics, and the numbers from the Mariner bullpen paint a hideous picture. If it were a movie it would be Freddie Krueger in “Nightmare on Royal Brougham Way” with no one starring.

I begin at the end with the closer. Tom ‘the Bartender’ Wilhelmsen was sailing along closing games, and then he lost it. What, besides his confidence perhaps, was lost is a mystery for pitching coach Carl Willis to solve. But despite his 4.00 ERA he saved 24 of 29 games. He has five blown saves coupled with three losses is eight bad games, okay real bad. But consider Danny Farquhar who took over the closer spot. He has saved 14 0f 18, and he too has three losses, so he has seven bad outings, only one less than Wilhelmsen, and pitching in far fewer games. He does have a 4.62 ERA, but he has lowered it substantially for it was north of 7.00.

In short the job is open next season. Perhaps even a free agent closer will be sought.

But to get to the closer you have to have setup men and middle relief and lefties, and all that jazz. The record of the bullpen is 15-30. As a team the Mariners are currently 19 games below .500 and the bullpen has cost, in many respects, 15 of the 19 losses. Of course the teams lack of run production is also a major factor.

Pitching and defense will win you a lot of games, but it will also cause you to lose a lot of games and that is the difference this year. Medina and Furbush have been reliable; Medina 64 innings, 46 hits, 67 strikeouts, 2.95 ERA and Furbush 61 innings, 40 hits, 77 strikeouts, 3.39 ERA. Oliver Perez has been okay, only 48 hits in 50 innings. with 69 strikeouts, but a 3.55 era. Still, we will take that.

After that it is an arson squad. Collectively the rest of the bullpen has pitched 180 innings, allowing 236 hits, with the lowest era of the bunch 4.65. They need to blow up the pen, bring in some free agent veterans to mix with some of the young arms. The pen needs retooling, and that’s no bull.

Mariners King Felix is wanted man in Texas

The first thing Ranger hitters do when Seattle comes to town is see if Felix Hernandez is pitching and if he is, then, unlike hitters on every other team, the Rangers lick their lips like the big bad wolf chasing the three little pigs.

Felix does not pitch well in Arlington. The most losses he has in a visiting ball park is five, except Arlington, where Felix, in 18 starts, has 9 losses and only 5 wins. That explains why Felix, who was on quite a roll of late, winning 7, losing 1, in 14 starts, struggled like a man in a straight jacket. Five, hits, five walks, five runs, in-yes five innings. This is not the King, this is Aaron Harang on a good day.

The Ballpark in Arlington home of the Texas Ra...

The Ballpark in Arlington home of the Texas Rangers during a game against the New York Yankees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Felix has not won in Arlington since September of 2010 and his ERA in the house of horrors is 4.45. Just as a pitcher can dominate one team over time, he can also be dominated by a team. Arlington is his jinx park. He probably hates taking the mound there the way some people hate going to the dentist, a dentist that has no Novocain and uses pliers to extract teeth.

Felix is not the type to shy away from trouble, he is a competitor. He probably wants to get back there and go at the Rangers again. He will get a crack at them in Seattle when they come to town the 26th through the 28th, but Arlington, thank God, will wait until 2014.

Next season Felix needs to sleep in his Arlington hotel bed with a horseshoe under his pillow; carry  four leaf clover in his back pocket when pitching; rub a rabbits foot in the dugout when the M’s are batting; or maybe just get Texas flu.

In the meantime, Felix, especially with a thunderous backing from his court at the Safe, must dominate the Rangers when they come to town next week. Give the Rangers some bad karma for the offseason.

Jeremy Bonderman recalled byMariners, a pitcher not to get excited about

I thought when the Mariners invited pitcher Jeremy Bonderman to spring training as a non-roster invitee, that he would not make the team. He was 30 years old, but had not pitched since 2010. When he was sent to Tacoma, I figured the M’s were desperate for pitching. As it turns out, they were.

In his first appearance in three years in the big leagues, Bonderman struck out the first  Twins batter he faced, and retired the next two for a perfect inning. Then the Twins realized who was pitching and pretended it was batting practice. Bonderman lasted 4.2 innings, 9 hits, one walk, and the one strikeout, giving up 9 runs. Both Mike Blowers and Dave Sims, the Mariner broadcasters naturally gave him kudos. Blowers said he saw a lot he liked. (Is he a Twins fan?) He liked the movement on Bonderman’s fastball, liked the movement on the curve ball, and apparently the Twins also liked his pitches, since they hit them all over the park.

Jeremy Bonderman

Jeremy Bonderman (Photo credit: Kevin.Ward)

Bonderman is a Washington native, coming from Kennewick and Pasco High School. He was a first round draft pick (26th overall) of the Oakland A’s in the 2001 amateur draft, but was traded to Detroit in 2002 as past of a three way trade, with the Yankees also involved.

He was with the Tigers as a 20 year old in 2003 and finished 6-19 with a 5.56 earned run average. One could write off the year as being young and learning at the major league level. He did have a couple of 14 win seasons, but his lowest ERA was 4.08 when he was 14-8 for the 2006 Tigers. His career record coming into this season was 67-77 with a 4.89 ERA. Not something to warm a Mariner fans  heart, especially when he has not been in the majors since 2010.

He started 11 games in Tacoma, going 2-4 with a 4.52 ERA. Bonderman will always be a mediocre pitcher and has no future for the Mariners. So why is he up? Because it is in his contract that he had to be brought up June 1st or be released.

But why when you preach about young kids, about the youth movement, why bring up a veteran with no future. And in the process release 24 year old Vinnie Catricala, the Mariners 2011 Minor League Player of the Year.  Vinnie has not fared well since then, hitting .229 in Tacoma in 2012 and .253 in Jackson this year. Maybe he, or Francisco Matinez, another third baseman, whom the M’s got from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade, recently traded back to Detroit, will not amount to anything. But why promote Bonderman, dumping two young players?

Bring up one of the young arms to see what he can do. We already know Bonderman and what we know is a high probably of a loss every time he pitches. Mariner decision making is often a mystery.