The Mariners bullpen has been one of the most unlikely, yet dominant forces in all of baseball. In many ways we should be surprised, the performance of Drew Steckenrider fits in this category. He seemingly came out of nowhere, but if we look in the past we should not be all that surprised.
‘Drew Steckenrider first came up as a flame throwing righty with the Miami Marlins in 2017. He came out of the gates hard, posting a 2.34 ERA in 34 innings in his rookie season. He followed this up with a solid but unspectacular sophomore campaign posting a 3.90 ERA in 64 innings, a FIP of 3.62, and a K/9 of 12.16 in his first two seasons in Miami according to Fangraphs.
The following season Steckenrider experienced the first turbulence of his career, struggling with elbow issues and not being able to generate swings and misses. He saw his K/9 drop to a shade above 8, and his ERA skyrocketed to 6.28.
Now fast forward to November of 2020, following a season in which Steckenrider did not participate he was offered a minor league deal with the Mariners and a chance to compete for a roster spot. Much like Paul Sewald, Steckenrider had to scratch and claw for his chance on the roster. Jerry Dipoto delivered, banking that he had the ability to return to his 2017-2018 form.
To this point “Steck” has been nails for the 2021 Mariners. He attacks the zone with a mid 90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup. His fastball ranks in the 72nd percentile for spin rate, and he has used this to his advantage this year. Using the defense behind him and pounding the zone, Steck has also dropped his BB/9 to a career low 2.42.
Another important factor for his success has been the ability to keep the ball in the yard. Steckenrider is keeping other teams in the yard to a tune of 0.69 HR/9 per Baseball Reference. In other words, if you aren’t walking guys and aren’t letting them leave the yard on you, there is a much higher chance for success.
Drew Steckenrider is yet another example of Jerry Dipoto finding a hidden gem. A high leverage specialist that recently lowered his ERA to 1.90 on the season, good enough for 1.1 WAR according to Fangraphs.
Steckenrider has gone from a little known reliever, to a future piece of this bullpen. Even knowing how fickle relievers can be it is nice to see a core bullpen forming in Seattle, and little did we know he would be right in the middle of it.