Before I begin, I apologize for not having written in this space for a little more than a week. As Joel Condreay wrote on July 30th, the Everett AquaSox had the 2013 NWL All-Star game this past Tuesday. As I am interning for the AquaSox in media relations, I had quite the busy past week. Now that I’m past that though, I’m going to try to contribute to Sodo Mojo again as regularly as I can.
Today, I want to discuss the Mariners’ starting rotation. For what seems like forever, the Mariners organizational weakness has been their offense. That probably hasn’t changed as a whole, but at the major league level, the Mariners pitching, both the rotation’s back end and the bullpen, has lost them games in recent weeks. While the bullpen appears to just be a consistency thing that can be worked out with more experience for guys like Danny Farquhar, Yoervis Medina and Carter Capps, the rotation has legitimate flaws that the Mariners need to fix in order to approach .500.
A lot of the Mariners issues stem from not being able to fill the final two or three spots in their rotation with guys who deliver quality starts more often than not. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are legit top-end guys, and at 11-5 with a 2.39 ERA and 10-5 with a 2.75 ERA, they both are in the Cy Young discussion. But beyond them, the Mariners rotation has been inconsistent at best.
Joe Saunders has pitched in the third spot for all of 2013, and he has defined the term “hit or miss.” He’s an even 10-10 with a 4.58 ERA and his game logs are erratic, to say the least. For his first nine starts, Saunders was predictable; he shined at home and tanked on the road. But then, in his tenth start, he got blown up by Texas at home and in his eleventh start, he pitched well against San Diego on the road. All bets were off on how Saunders would pitch after that.
Since that start against Texas, Saunders dropped his ERA from 6.09 to 4.58 and went from 3-5 to 10-10. He strung together four starts where he allowed a combined six earned runs and went 2-2 from June 3-19 and went 6.1, 6.1, 7.0 and 8.0 innings in those games. But on June 25, Pittsburgh lit him up for six runs in 1.2 innings. After that, he had another four good starts, combining for just five earned runs allowed and going 6.2, 7.0, 7.0 and 5.1 innings. His next two starts were poor though, as he allowed five earned runs in both outings. It’s fair to say Saunders is inconsistent.
Those numbers definitely indicate a major league level starter, but aren’t strong enough to serve as a number three starter on a good baseball team. If the Mariners had two more Joe Saunders, they might be OK, but the four and five spots make Safeco Joe look like Steady Eddie (not Guardado, he was a mess).
These are the names and stat lines of the players who have attempted to fill the final two spots of the Mariners rotation this season to varying degrees of failure:
Aaron Harang: 19 starts, 5-10, 5.79 ERA in 102.2 IP
Brandon Maurer: 10 starts, 3-7, 6.75 ERA in 58.2 IP
Jeremy Bonderman: Seven starts, 1-3, 4.93 ERA in 38.1 IP
Erasmo Ramirez: Four starts, 3-0, 7.25 ERA in 22.1 IP
Blake Beavan: Two starts, 0-2, 6.13 ERA in 39.2 IP
Hector Noesi: One start, 0-1, 5.64 ERA in 22.1 IP
As you can see, no real bright spots in the bunch. Harang is the only pitcher in the bunch who showed a semblance of replicable success. He has two complete game shutouts this season, but those have been overshadowed by his more regular poor performances. He has allowed six or more earned runs in a game in six of his 19 starts, and that includes three of his late five starts. Yesterday, The Blue Jays rocked Harang in two+ innings, and the 35-year old veteran looked pathetic in the process. After giving up a five-spot in the second, he came out for the third inning and promptly allowed back-to-back home runs. Way to dig deep, man.
Bonderman was an interesting experiment that produced one or two decent starts and mercifully ended when it did. Beavan and Noesi are brutal to watch when they’re bad, and probably don’t have much of a future past AAA. The two interesting names on the list are Maurer and Ramirez.
Ramirez returned from injury in July and has made four starts. He’s allowed at least three runs in every appearance yet somehow is 3-0. Felix would kill for that run support. Is Ramirez really succeeding? His record says yes and his ERA says now. I’d lean yes, because he was very sharp in his last start in Baltimore, but he’s got to get his ERA down.
Maurer was rushed t0 the majors in April and understandably struggled. After he lost to the Padres on May 28, he was sent down and didn’t resurface until two months later, when he came out of the ‘pen against Boston. He pitched OK then and pitched terribly against Baltimore. But yesterday, he looked good in 3.1 innings and didn’t allow a run in an outing for the first time since April 25.
All of this boils down to the Mariners needing to DFA Harang. He doesn’t help the Mariners win tough games, and he is a fly ball pitcher who thrives on luck and is naturally inconsistent. With Maurer showing positive flashes yesterday in Harang’s stead, the Mariners can feel OK about sliding him into the five spot until September. He needs experience, whereas Harang needs to retire.