It seems like ancient history that Drew Steckenrider was a dominant late-inning reliever for the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners came in with high expectations for Drew Steckenrider this season after he posted a 5-2 record with a 2.00 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 2021, helping lead last year’s bullpen to rank among the best in the American League. However, Steckenrider hasn’t come close to meeting those expectations, and is currently sitting with a disappointing 5.65 ERA and 1.81 WHIP through 16 appearances so far this season.
The problem has been clear: Steckenrider simply can’t locate his fastball. Without an arsenal of heavy breaking pitches, Steckenrider has always relied upon the placement of his 94-96mph fastball at the top of the zone or above in order to be effective. Unfortunately, he’s consistently missed that spot this season, as shown below in a leverage situation against the Red Sox last week:
Last season, Steckenrider dominated by using his 6’4″ length to make his mid-90s fastball look more like upper-90s when it crossed the plate against hitters. When it was located properly, he couldn’t be touched, and he actually carried some of that ability into the earlier part of this season:
By no means is Drew Steckenrider a lost cause in MLB, but his time in the Mariners bullpen could be wearing thin. He signed a minor league contract with Seattle before the 2021 season, and while he’s on the hook for $3.1 million this season, he doesn’t have any further contractual obligations with the team.
Veteran Roenis Elias and rookie Matt Brash are both knocking at the door to join the M’s bullpen, so if Steckenrider doesn’t start hitting his spots with regularity, he may end up being the odd man out.