The Evolution of The Mariners Latest Closer, Edwin Diaz

Sep 8, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) reacts after the final out against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Texas 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 8, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Edwin Diaz (39) reacts after the final out against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field. Seattle defeated Texas 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

The Mariners, Edwin Diaz, is the latest sensation to come from within the M’s organization. His success has been a combination of raw talent and his ability to adapt to adversity.

When news broke that Edwin Diaz was going to be called up from AA Jackson, excitement blanketed the Mariner faithful. In a year where the Mariners have defied expectations at the plate and the in the standings, Diaz’s arrival was one more reason to believe this team was special.

For years down at the minor league level, scouts had recognized Diaz’s abilities. The Puerto Rican born right-hander was turning heads with his above average fastball. It was the kind of pitch that gave Diaz, what scouts call “electricity”. Even then, his low-nineties fastball had a zip to it that kept scouts eyeing the Mariners latest treasure.

As each year passed he showed tremendous growth by tweaking his mistakes (ie. walking too many batters). His minor league numbers show his transformation from a walk-prone flamethrower to a far more accurate marksman.

His initial BB/9 with Mariners Arizona league team was 8.05, albeit in a small sample size of nineteen innings. Right before his call up, those numbers shrunk four-fold to a highly respectable 1.55.

His major adjustment was early proof that, if facing a challenge, at any level, he had the gumption and willpower to overcome it.

Fast forward to mid-August of this year. Diaz had spent his first two months with the Mariners as

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a bullpen specialist. When he threw his fastball in the late innings, opposing batters could rarely touch him.

His 50 strikeouts in 25.1 innings was the fastest to that mark in over a century.

As he continued to dominant, the talk around town was that Diaz would be the Mariners new closer, and in early August, that’s exactly what happened.  Sure, he had some hiccups along the way, but it was his back-to-back struggling outings in the heat of the summer that would test him like never before.

When the Los Angeles Angels come to town, the Mariners know it will be a heated divisional match-up. Even with the Angels virtually out of contention, they continued to fight, and did so ferociously against Diaz. Pounding him for three hits in ninth- the most he’d given up in any appearance- they cut the deficit in half.

Diaz would use his strikeout prowess to nearly get him out the jam. While it was Kyle Seager’s diving play would secure the save, Diaz stepped up too.

Two nights later, Diaz and the Mariners were in a similar predicament. Facing the Milwaukee Brewers, Diaz walked himself into trouble with two outs. His three walk in the ninth were the most he had allowed all year. Diaz did managed to use his his superb talent to tightrope out of the situation with a K. There was a kink in his Armour though after the two near-blown saves. Something needed to change.

Both Diaz and Manager, Scott Servais, spoke of the shaky two games, but there was hope. Hope, because Diaz was able to wisely and maturely figure out the issue and set a path for change. His adjustment: to rely more on his slider.

Diaz is a young man that he not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk. When he recognized that the overuse of a not always accurate fastball was hurting the team, he worked on his slider. Back in June he relied on his fastball 80% of the time. Now he has brought that way down to 60%. So far, the results of that change are impressive.

Since that speed bump (and a much needed rest) Diaz has continued his domination. Minus that walk-off shake-up versus the Rangers, Diaz has been nearly perfect. In his six innings since his first hurdle (excluding that Rangers appearance) Diaz has allowed two hits. He has also walked just one batter compared to eight strikeouts. Now, that’s more like the Diaz that Mariners fans are used to.

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Diaz’s adjustments (and consequent success) after facing adversity a few weeks back, speaks to his character. His raw talent matched with his innate ability to modify his game, has been a core reason of his season long excellence and and continuing growth. The future is bright for the Mariners evolving new closer, Edwin Diaz.