The Seattle Mariners have a deep bench of scapegoats from which to choose when divvying out the blame for the 2013, and the bullpen has taken its share of the flak.
The Seattle Mariner’s Bullpen in 2013 recorded 16 wins and 33 losses, accounting for roughly 30 percent of the season’s 162 win/loss decisions. It’s fairly common for relievers to not have sterling win/loss records, but if you take away the bullpen’s line from the team’s 71-91 record the M’s starters had a win/loss line of 55-58 —which really isn’t that horrible. With this in mind and considering the team finished 30 games under .500 it’s reasonable to assume that this season the M’s had an average starting rotation and a thoroughly untrustworthy bullpen.
As a unit, the bullpen posted an ugly 4.58 ERA in 505 total innings pitched, managed 9.53 strikeouts per nine innings, and 3.99 walks per nine innings.
While the strikeout rate is nice, unfortunately the ERA, win/loss record, and walk rate are all mediocre at best when compared to the 2012 bullpen, which had a win/loss record of 20-25, a 3.39 ERA, a 8.88 K/9, and a 3.69 BB/9 in 454 innings pitched.
On paper the 2012 unit was considerably better than the 2013 unit, but surprisingly this year’s pen was good for 3.6 wins-above-replacement, compared to a 2.4 WAR in 2012.
This higher WAR can probably be attributed to the pen pitching 51 more innings this season than in 2012, and because that the majority of this year’s relievers were either rookies or relievers seeing extensive use for the first time in their careers.
Carter Capps, Lucas Luetge, Chance Ruffin, Stephen Pryor, and Yoervis Medina were all 24 years of age or younger at the beginning of the season and while Medina was particularly impressive in his 68 appearances (posting a 2.91 ERA), it’s understandable that some of these guys experienced growing pains.
Capps was not particularly impressive, posting a 5.49 ERA in 53 appearances, but with the electric stuff that he has, he could still turn into an overpowering reliever in the near future.
Pryor looked promising this year, but after injuring his arm and undergoing surgery it remains to be seen how or if he can effectively return.
In terms of closers, Tom Wilhelmsen was a disappointment, but the M’s appear to be in competent hands with Danny Farquhar on the mound in the ninth.
The M’s probably don’t need to overhaul the bullpen for 2014, as the young relievers will presumably improve, but there are things that need to be done to improve the pen’s performance.
The best thing that Seattle General Manger Jack Zduriencik can do to improve then pen in 2014 is to assemble a stronger starting rotation.
The pen, stocked by young and or unproven arms, was simply overworked this season. Too many times this year the pen was called on to begin pitching in the fourth and fifth innings because of poor outings by starting pitchers.
Most of the relievers saw extensive use this season because, and that experience should be a terrific benefit for them going into 2014; if the starting rotation can more consistently post quality starts, it’ll take some of the pressure off a young — though very talented— stable of relievers and their performance should improve.
One thing Jack Z has done well in his tenure in Seattle is find washed up pitchers and turn them into effective relievers; Tom Wilhelmsen (despite his recent implosion) and Oliver Perez both represent low risk projects that have paid-off well; if Zduriencik can repeat and find another low risk/low cost arm to fill out the pen, the unit should be better in 2014.
The M’s don’t need to splurge on finding bullpen help — they have arms with considerable potential and experience and they should be better in the coming season.