DOUG FISTER: Doug Fister showed up in 2009 and began posting a swinging strike rate well above his skill set and past performances. I worried that if/when that crashed down to earth that he would start getting hittable and be forced to pitch more and more on the fringes of the strike zone. That would help relieve the burden of missing bats but would also make it more difficult to maintain his fantastic walk rate. So far in 2010, the swinging strikes have predictably collapsed but instead of being replaced by line drives smacked all over the field, they have turned into called strikes.
Only Carl Pavano and Andy Pettitte have had hitters swing less often at pitches in the strike zone than Doug Fister has had. Is his delivery or something about his pitches especially deceptive? I don't know but I hope so because that would seem more sustainable. He's going to need those called strikes because the missed bats probably aren't coming back. Regardless, the ground balls are way up and the walks have gotten even fewer which are great signs. GRADE: A-
FELIX HERNANDEZ: I love it when Felix posts ground ball rates north of 60%. He's such a dominant pitcher in the way that we're all used to watching, blowing a variety of pitches past people, that it's really fun when he mixes in starts like Opening Day. How many other pitchers can thoroughly neuter an offense that isn't the Mariners like that? Very few. The missed bats and overall control were both right on par with 2009. This is the same Felix we saw last year only with more ground balls. I am so glad he's sticking around for the long haul. GRADE: A
CLIFF LEE: Cliff Lee threw one start in April, but what a start! I don't have much to say about it other than to point out that he was so good in those seven innings that he registered almost as many runs above average as Doug Fister did in all of April. GRADE: Incomplete
RYAN ROWLAND-SMITH: It's worthy of a much longer post but in a nutshell, I don't think there's anything wrong with Hyphen. His overall strike and swinging strike rates are within normal ranges for him and his velocity is around the same marks as last year as well. He's allowed a lot of really solid contact so far with his elevated line drive rate and seven home runs but home runs are flukey and line drive rate is pretty unstable. I don't see anything yet to suggest there's been a fundamental change and so, given this, I advocate keeping a light grip on the leash. Erik Bedard isn't due back until the end of May at the earliest, so RRS should get the entire month to work his way through this. GRADE: F
IAN SNELL: Ian Snell has been missing more bats in 2010 than he did in 2009, but that never translated into strikeouts and the walks remained as bad as ever. There's some actual improvement and reasons for hope in his 2010 numbers, but watching him pitch I have very little faith in him being able to record strikeouts or throw strikes when he needs to. Snell needs to find his fastball again and perhaps the bullpen is the best place for that. GRADE: C-
JASON VARGAS: Vargas has far too small of a sample in past years to make much of a comparison on the areas where he's improved, but suffice to say that he's pitched legitimately well in 2010. Can he keep it up? If he keeps chucking that lovely change up there he might have a chance. Objectively I do not trust Vargas at all, but whenever he's pitching I feel relatively calm. I have no idea why. GRADE: B-
The bullpen has not been front loaded with lock down guys like I had hoped. Mark Lowe, Brandon League, Shawn Kelley (bless his departed soul) and David Aardsma have not plundered the cities and ravaged the women of opposing teams. That's disheartening. Jesus Colome, Kanekoa Texeira and Sean White have not been too bad considering their various expectations coming in. What we've seen so far is a bullpen that's performed remarkably homogeneously.
I am not pleased with their performance in April but it's still very early into the season and they've avoided being a trouble spot. I decided to just give a bullet point run down.