As the trade deadline rolls around, the Seattle Mariners find themselves in a particular situation. Only 2.5 games back of the wildcard, it isn’t unreasonable to think they can’t make a push in the final 68 games of the season.
One role that is going to be crucial to making the playoffs is their starting pitching. The Mariners staff has been hammered by injuries with Marco Gonzales, Justin Dunn, and Justus Sheffield all missing time at some point in the season. Luckily, Kikuchi and Flexen have been very solid staples in the rotation for the first half.
Are there viable starting pitching options that could help the Mariners for the second half? With Kikuchi being an All-Star, I decided to take a deep dive into Flexen’s numbers to try and find a comparison that would possibly be more cost-effective. What’s better than having one Flexen in starting staff right now? Two Flexen’s.
There is an option out there that the Mariners could snag from a minor league team
A quick look at Flexen’s season shows that his home and road splits differ drastically. According to FanGraphs, Flexen owns a 1.76 ERA in 61.1 innings pitched at T-Mobile. On the flip-side, he has a 5.92 ERA in 38 innings pitched elsewhere. This can most likely be attributed to Flexen’s HR/FB ratio. At T-Mobile, 5.1% of Flexen’s fly balls leave the park. That number increases to 12.0% on the road, meaning that more than double the number of fly balls hit off Flexen leave the yard when he is not at T-Mobile.
Now it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty. The final goal was to find a pitcher with similar batted ball statistics as Flexen such as xBA and xSLG, but with a higher strikeout rate and lower flyball rate (which theoretically will result in better numbers in hitter-friendly parks). All while keeping in mind this player needs to have a reasonable chance of being acquired by the Mariners.
xBA and xSLG are a little different than your typical BA and SLG numbers. xBA and xSLG take into account the batted ball characteristics such as exit velocity and launch angle. This provides a little more insight into how the ball is being hit off of pitchers, instead of purely looking at the result.
A deep rabbit hole led me to Zack Godley. Godley has had a rough few years, but in the past has proven himself as a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher for the D-backs.
Admittedly, in recent years almost nothing jumps out about Godley. He’s almost essentially pitched himself out of the league. However, the Mariners have been able to revive multiple pitcher’s careers (Such as Sewald and Graveman). Who’s to say they won’t be able to tap into Godley’s potential as well?
According to Baseball Savant, in 2018 Godley had an xBA and xSLG of .253 and .399 respectively.
Compare this to Flexen’s 2021 xBA and xSLG of .253 and .412, you can see that when Godley has it going he induces the same quality of contact that Flexen is inducing this year.
In 2021, Godley has pitched in AAA for both the Brewers and Indians organizations. In his 37 innings pitched he has recorded a 9.18 K/9 and a FB% of 27.3%. Compare this to Flexen’s 5.89 K/9 and FB% of 34.8, we can see that Godley strikes out more and induces fewer fly balls. These could both be indicators that he could perform better at road ballparks since he will be getting more outs that are not fly balls that have a chance to leave the park.
Looking at the type of contact Godley induced in the past, his current K/9 and FB%, and the fact that he is currently a 31-year-old pitcher in AAA, this could have the potential to be a low-risk acquisition that could eat up innings for the Mariners in the second half. Seeing how injuries have gone for the Mariners staff in the first half, one thing I know is for certain. You can never have too much pitching.