Should the Seattle Mariners replicate the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen?

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 27: Kendall Graveman of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Astros. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 27: Kendall Graveman of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Astros. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Aaron Fletcher of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch.
SEATTLE, WA – AUGUST 22: Reliever Aaron Fletcher of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /

Reason No. 3: Ability to create favorable matchups and is less predictable

One of the main reasons why the Rays do what they do is to create favorable matchups by relying on analytics. When the opposing team has three lefties up to bat in the ninth inning, it might be better to bring in your lefty specialist, or a pitcher with a great right-handed changeup. It does not make sense to bring in a right-handed pitcher that is hittable by left-handed batters in a high leverage situation as such.

For example, Yohan Ramirez pitched very well for the Mariners in 2020 as a young flame thrower but the numbers show that against lefties he is more hittable. Right-handed batters had a .071 batting average, while left-handed batters had a .222 average. That is a major split and it would make sense to bring in a left-handed specialist like Aaron Fletcher, who did not allow a hit against lefties last season.

Although the three batters minimum rule is not favorable so much for pitching to matchups, the closer by committee is a very realistic system for the young Mariners bullpen. Even if it does not perform as well as we want in 2021, it will help foster pitching in different situations which takes experience to learn. The Rays struggled at first under the unorthodox bullpen system, but after a while of experience and bringing in the right pieces, it was one of the best.

Like the Rays early on, the Seattle Mariners had a pilot 2020 season and 2021 could be similar. So why not try the Rays bullpen system and bring in the best arms at the high leverage situations in a game whether that be the fourth inning, seventh inning, or ninth inning? The Mariners practically did that in 2020 already.

The closer by committee also helps create confusion, and or unpredictability. When teams used to face the San Diego Padres, they knew Trevor Hoffman was pitching the ninth. Or the Yankees, Mariano Rivera is taking the mound in the ninth. Yes, these guys were outstanding closers but it is rare to find gems like them and bringing them in costs money. But, when you have four pitchers that could potentially pitch in the ninth inning, it makes preparation much more difficult for the opposing team in terms of who to pinch-hit and who to scout. It becomes a game of chess where the pitching team can have an advantage in secrecy and game plan in high leverage situations.

But of course, with any good thing, there are always downsides. Here are some negative consequences of operating a Rays bullpen system.

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