We’re a little over a month away from Mariner pitchers and catchers reporting to Peoria for spring training. General Manager Justin Hollander is on the clock, as the team still has a few holes to fill. One of the voids is a bridge reliever to replace the recently departed Erik Swanson. We’ve explored external options like Matt Moore and Andrew Chafin, but for this exercise, we’ll focus solely on an in-house option who might help bridge the gap between the starters and Los Bomberos, Casey Sadler.
Yesterday was garbage day in town, and we have this tradition of cleaning out the fridge. I’m always surprised at what we find toward the back. We methodically pull each item off the shelf and place them on the counter in the trash or keep a pile. Secretly I’m always hoping we find something we forgot about or maybe something we needed this week, coffee creamer. Well, we slowly made a dent in the weekly task, and toward the back, there was a small carton of half and half.
In a nutshell, that’s Casey Sadler. People forget he spent last year around the team, rehabbing from a severe shoulder injury. He was plugged in on social media all year, serving as a cheerleader. But what most people don’t remember, and I don’t blame them, 2021 seems like a long time ago; Sadler was dominant. He allowed only three earned runs all season and his final 27 2/3 innings were of the scoreless variety. Additionally, his 0.67 ERA was the lowest among big-league pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched.
The seven-year veteran uses a five-pitch mix consisting of a sinker, curveball, four-seam fastball, changeup, and cutter. In 2021, he generated a whopping 63.9 groundball rate, which could be a boon in 2023 with gold glove defenders up the middle in J.P. Crawford and the newly acquired Kolton Wong. So it is pretty possible Sadler could return to his peak, if not surpass it, but let’s dig into his outpitch.
Sadler came to Seattle in 2020 as one of General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s bullpen reclamation projects. The pitching coaches and analytics department would invest time in him a la Paul Sewald, and the cutter would take off. He would use the pitch 40.8% of the time resulting in a 24.3% whiff rate. That doesn’t seem like much, considering relievers like Andres Munoz and Sewald rack up the swing and miss a little more, but Sadler isn’t necessarily that guy. He creates so much run on the cutter that it generates weak contact (3.7 barrel rate), or batters are surprised by the break. He isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done.
Considering the current roster, Manager Scott Servais needs a bridge between the starting five and his bullpen. Matt Brash filled that role last year, but Dipoto recently said he’s come to spring training to compete for the final spot in the rotation. As we all know, Erik Swanson is North of the border, and I don’t know if Matt Festa and Penn Murfee are ready for this role. They both had their moments last year, but if Sadler comes back in peak 2021, he is hands down the better reliever.
Heading back to the kitchen and my morning cup of coffee. I’m one of those guys who needs anything that resembles creamer. It could be half and half, milk, or one of the favored varieties like hazelnut. I don’t have a preference. This week I was equally surprised and delighted to find something to do the job. Equate that with the gap in the Mariner bullpen, and it sure sounds like Servais and Dipoto could run with a healthy Casey Sadler.