2009 Mariners SP tRA for April 2009. Source StatCorner.com
At the conclusion of April, the Mariner rotation had tallied 21 runs above average according to tRA, a figure that ranked second in baseball. Since there's just five members, I am going to break it down individually. Please note that grades expressed both herein and in the prior report express absolute grades. They are not curved based on expectations. Curved grades will be presented in the final installment.
ERIK BEDARD: He's healthy and he's back to looking like a pitcher worthy of the acclaim he got after 2007. He's missing fewer bats and getting less ground balls, but he is also making up for that with fewer walks as well. Bedard posted a 142 tRA+ in 2007. He's at 143 so far this year. I've been in love with Bedard's personality since we traded for him and now I get to be in love with his pitching too. I dearly hope he stays around because this is a lot of fun. GRADE: A
FELIX HERNANDEZ: He's been Felix, but a good version of Felix. Namely, the version that hasn't corrected anything we asked for him to correct, but instead has flashed command of his fastball. Which I am fine with. Our whole pleadings with Felix have been based under the premise that it was going to take a long time for him to gain the command of his fastball that he thought he had. Felix has never thrown more strikes and never missed more bats than he has so far this year. If/when he pulls the ground balls back up, it's the trifecta. GRADE: A
CHRIS JAKUBAUSKAS: Filling in for the injured Aussie southpaw, it's hard to have asked more from Jakubauskas. A converted outfielder, Jakubauskas seems to come with the self-awareness that he does not possess the best stuff in the world and so he compensates by throwing strikes and not centering them. Among starting pitchers with at least 50 expected outs, Jakubauskas ranks 15th in percentage of pitches thrown for a strike. He's got control and his fairly neutral, trending toward ground ball profile helps him stay away from home runs as well. It's not great, and it may prove to be short-lived, but this is where you love to find back end starters. GRADE: B
RYAN ROWLAND-SMITH: We only got to see one start out of Rowland-Smith before he hit the DL with some minor arm issues. It wasn't the most fantastic start ever, fraught with pitches out of the zone and some lucky pop ups. That said, he did get a good number of ground balls and avoided yielding a home run. He looks close to returning and hopefully he can get back on the road to being a useful member of the back of the rotation. GRADE: Incomplete
JARROD WASHBURN: Washburn rattled off three consecutive solid starts to open the season before getting lit up in his final April start. 18 strikeouts to seven walks is good to see though and three home runs allowed over 26.1 innings is good for a fly ball pitcher. Washburn stands to gain the most from our outfield defense this season and so far he has both done that and improved himself a little as well, which is a huge relief after three consecutive season in which he has gotten steadily worse. With his tRA+ going from 97 to 91 to 83 as a Mariner, it seemed like a low to mid-6 tRA was coming. So far though, he's holding on. GRADE: C+
A C+ being our worst grade? That's pretty good.
2009 Mariners RP tRA for April 2009. Source StatCorner.com
Coming into the start of May, the bullpen ranked 11th in baseball, at 1.6 runs above average. Many thought the pen was going to be as big of a liability as our offense. Suffice to say that they have managed to survive and even excel at times despite their tendency to raise our collective blood pressure.
Despite facing just under half as many hitters as the starters in April, the bullpen walked just one fewer batter. That's not terribly surprising and the reason they've garnered the nickname The Ministry. They rank 25th in free passes allowed per batter faced.
However, they also have had a slightly lower strikeout rate than the group of starters, which is both surprising and disappointing. In fact, they rank 25th in the league in strikeout rate. We knew to expect lots of walks from this collection of power ground ball arms with spotty control, but we hoped they would make up some of that with high strikeout totals.
Other totals include ranking 24th in line drive rate, 21st in ground ball rate and 3rd in home run rate. Big time uh ohs. That home run rate is the least stable of all of these indicators and coupled with the poor showings in the most pertinent categories makes me want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that I never earned a minor degree in Statistics or did all that baseball analytical research. I fear for our bullpen.
Still, it's not all bad news. Shawn Kelley has been solid coming up straight from Double-A. Mark Lowe looks the best he has since 2006. Even Miguel Batista has managed to be useful, soaking up innings and not being bad. There's going to continue being a lot of fluidity at the back of the pen as this is not a group of consistent and known products, but that weakness is mitigated by the tremendous, almost Egyptian-pyramid-building-slave-level amount of depth we have in relievers. As long as Wakamatsu and Zduriencik are proactive about shuffling guys in and out of roles as they thrive and struggle, we should be able to avoid the bullpen being a drain on our team's bottom line.