Mariners Report Cards: Grading the 2021 season for Chris Flexen
Last offseason, the Mariners made a couple of signings to bolster their pitching staff. With most analysts, fans, and people around the game not expecting the Mariners to compete, it made sense that they would go after some lesser-known pitchers. Whether it was a former M with some injury history (Paxton) or a player who was coming back from Korea like Chris Flexen.
Flexen had spent his first few years in the majors with the Mets. Instead of continuing to work through the struggles, he and the Mets decided to part ways, and Flexen went to pitch in the KBO with the Doosan Bears. It seemed to be the exact situation for Flexen to focus back on baseball. He pitched incredibly well over there, to the tune of a 3.01 ERA in 116.2 innings. He also focused on his body, losing a good amount of weight.
Chris Flexen ended up being one of the best signings of the year
Yeah, not just one of the best deals for the Mariners, but one of the best deals in all of baseball. It makes it pretty easy to give him a grade on the season, but let’s look into his season a bit before we get there.
Chris Flexen would finish the year with a 3.61 ERA, good for the 22nd best number of any qualified pitcher in baseball. I know it’s stretching it a bit, but taking out his worst start actually gets him all the way down to a 3.24, which would be 17th in the MLB. He only had two awful starts all year (The Padres one where he went 1.2 and gave up 8, and the Astros one where he went four and gave up 7), and if you take them both out, his numbers go to 2.95, or 8th overall.
What I’m trying to get across here is that through 29 of his 31 starts, he was actually one of the better pitchers in all of baseball. He doesn’t strike people out (just 6.3/9), but he gave you six innings per outing and would give up just two runs. He would do that, on average, in 93.5% of his starts.
He did all that on just a $1.7 million salary. Next year goes up to $3, and 2023 will be between $4-8. If 2022 is anything like 2021, the Mariners will be paying him $8 million that season.
Flexen is never going to be an Ace. He would need to go deeper into games (21st in IP this year), have a better ERA, and strike out more people. That’s a big ask. It’s not what the Mariners expected from him, and neither should the fans. This year was the best-case scenario for Flex, so the grade is easy.