Seattle Mariners Season In Review: Starting Pitching


Continuing our series looking back at the 2014 Seattle Mariners season, we shift our focus to one of the main strengths of the club, the starting rotation.

The season started off with a lot of questions, as Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker both dealt with injuries in Spring Training.

By the time the club broke camp for the season, young Roenis Elias had made the jump from Double-A to make the club and the M’s had signed veteran Chris Young – who had just been released by the Nationals.

The M’s started the season with the rotation of Felix Hernandez, Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Elias and Blake Beavan. For the sake of this piece, we are going to focus primarily on Felix, Kuma, Paxton, Walker, Young and Elias.

Felix and Kuma

The one-two punch of the Mariners rotation took some time to develop this season. Felix was brilliant early on, but Iwakuma didn’t join the club until May. Both struggled down the stretch, Kuma more so than Felix, but both provided glimpses of how dangerous this club can be come October.

Felix: 15-6, 2.14 ERA, 236 IP, 46 BB, 248 K, .200 BAA, 0.92 WHIP

Iwakuma: 15-9, 3.52 ERA, 179 IP, 21 BB, 154 K, .244 BAA, 1.05 WHIP

The 15 wins for both Felix and Kuma, led the club. Felix was the American League leader in ERA, batting average against and WHIP. He was 4th in the AL with his career-high 248 strikeouts.

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Iwakuma looked for a while like he would never walk a batter. He posted a 10/1 K/BB ratio for the month of July and had only walked 13 batters all season, prior to September.

In the final month, Iwakuma appeared to flat run out of gas. He posted a 2-3 mark with a 7.61 ERA, with 8 BB and 27 K while the league batted .290 against him.

Felix struggled in August (2-2, 3.31) but dominated in September (2-1, 1.66 in 6 starts). Like usual though, Felix was on the short end of a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 defeats.

Felix led the AL (tied with Jon Lester) in quality starts (27) and had an MLB record 16 straight starts of 7 IP allowing 2 runs or fewer. Felix received an average of 4.29 runs in support per game. But that number is skewed by a few games.

Five times, the Mariners scored 10 runs or more for Felix this season (5-0). Ten times, the M’s scored two or less (1-9) for the King.

Paxton and Walker

Heading into the season, the names James Paxton and Taijuan Walker created a lot of cause for excitement amongst Mariners fans, a lot of pause amongst the doubters and they each had their names spread in trade rumors more often than Hector Noesi gave up homers.

The young duo appeared to be the future of the Mariners, solidifying their rotation for years to come.

But Walker started the season on the disabled list with shoulder ailments and Paxton left his 2nd start of the season with a strained lat and missed most of the season.

Here are their final numbers for 2014.

Paxton: 6-4, 3.04 ERA, 74 IP, 29 BB, 59 K, .223 BAA, 1.20 WHIP

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Walker: 2-3, 2.61 ERA, 38 IP, 18 BB, 34 K, .223 BAA, 1.29 WHIP

Walker was thought be high on the wish list of the Tampa Bay Rays as the trade deadline approached. The Mariners were thought to be looking for not only a bat, but a LHP as well to compliment Felix and Kuma.

Turns out, David Price went to Detroit and the Mariners got their lefty in Paxton, back off the DL. In fact, one of these pitchers is Price after the deadline, the other is Paxton. Can you guess which is which?

Pitcher #1: 11 GS, 4-4, 3.19 ERA, 27 BB, 46 K

Pitcher #2: 11 GS, 4-4, 3.59 ERA, 15 BB, 82 K

If you haven’t guessed, Paxton is pitcher one and Price is pitcher two. The K/BB ratio probably gave it away, but look at the record and the ERA. Identical record and Pax with an ERA 0.40 lower than Price.

I’m not suggesting that Price would or would not have done better had he come to Seattle instead of Detroit. But it does make NOT trading for Price seem like a reasonable move, considering the return the Tigers got out of Price.

Both pitchers should be ready to go for 2014 and ready to be in the rotation full-time.

Chris Young and Roenis Elias

There is not much I can say that hasn’t already been said about Young and Elias. Young is in line to win the American League Comeback Player of the Year award after his 2014 campaign. He pitched more innings in 2014 than he had in any season since 2007.

He ran out of gas at the end, as did Elias – in a less than obvious way – who made the jump from Double-A to the bigs this year, right into the rotation.

Young: 12-9, 3.65 ERA, 165 IP, 60 BB, 108 K, .234 BAA, 1.23 WHIP

Elais: 10-12, 3.85 ERA, 163.2 IP, 64 BB, 143 K, .248 BAA, 1.31 WHIP

Both performed admirably well. Here are some interesting splits for each.

Young had a 2.40 ERA at Safeco Field, a 5.03 ERA on the road. Elias was almost a half a run better on the road than at home.

In the month of September, Young was 0-3 in four starts with an ERA of 8.59. Elias had his rough stretch in July, going 1-2 in four starts with a 6.27 ERA.

Elias was undefeated in day games. Six starts, 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA. You taking note of that Lloyd?

Elias will more than likely be a part of the rotation discussion for next season. Young, probably not. But if he is, he will once again be a welcome addition to a pitching staff that needed some veteran guidance.

Even without an offseason addition, this starting rotation core appears to be on track to have another solid season, as they did in 2014.

Next time, we take a look at the Mariners bullpen.