The Mariners are off to a good start in 2021 and are tied for second place in the AL West with the Angels. Seattle was able to win two out of three games against the Giants and it was an exciting series. So, let’s look into the five things I learned from the three games against the Giants.
Learning no. 1 – The Mariners 1-3 starting pitchers should be reliable
One of my biggest takeaways from the Opening Series was how good Yusei Kikuchi and Chris Flexen were. Yusei started game two for Seattle and threw six innings and allowed three runs. It’s not a Cy Young type of performance, but consistency has been a major issue for Kikuchi and he looked consistent in his first 2021 start. Additionally, Yusei Kikuchi’s spin rates were significantly higher than his 2020 averages and he struck out 10 batters on Friday.
Chris Flexen also had a nice start and got his first win as a Mariners pitcher. The 26-year-old threw five innings of scoreless baseball and struck out six batters. His four-seam fastball reached 94.8 mph, and his cutter touched 91.8 mph. Flexen’s cutter might have been the most impressive pitch last night for me. It was reminded me a little of Roy Halladay’s cutter.
Flexen’s spin rate on the curveball was also good. The highest rpm he hit was 2,786 rpm and he mostly was in the 2,600s rpm. For context, Trevor Bauer (a huge spin rate geek), his average rpm on his curveball last season was 2,936 rpm. Another example, Lance McCullers Jr.’s average rpm on his curveball was 2,787 rpm in 2020. Obviously, spin rate isn’t everything, but it is sometimes a good representation of pitch effectiveness.
And obviously, we can’t forget about Marco Gonzales. The Gonzaga product didn’t have the best start to 2021 but there is nothing to worry about. Based on the upward trend he is on, he is in store for another fantastic season and should be in the All-Star conversation. He got roughed up for five runs on Thursday but managed to keep the game close enough for a comeback victory in the late innings.
Although it’s a small sample size, having Gonzales, Kikuchi, and Flexen at the front end of the rotation could be a very underrated 1-3 this season. It isn’t a Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler 1-3, but the Mariners could be competing with some of the top teams if we see more of what Kikuchi and Flexen did this week.
Keep in mind, the Mariners still have James Paxton, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn coming up next week which is VERY exciting.