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Jerry Dipoto’s men on fire

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Detroit Tigers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Any offseason machinations from the Red Sox or Yankees are going to be heavily publicized. Acquisitions of similar players by both New York and Boston? That’s going to get a huge amount of play. With the acquisitions of Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman last offseason baseball’s glory franchises gave us a new/old idea: The Bullpen of Death.

In Seattle, Jerry Dipoto’s bullpen rebuild contained none of the star-power, and a fraction of the cost. Joaquin Benoit, Steve Cishek, Ryan Cook, Evan Scribner, and all the rest had, largely, two things in common: They were looking to bounce back from a sub-par 2015, and as such they were cheap to acquire. Oh, and one more thing: They didn’t throw very hard. In a game that all of the sudden seems filled with the 100+ MPH fastballs of Kimbrel, Chapman, Kelvin Herrera, Jake Diekman, and so many others, the Mariner bullpen featured a group of relative soft-tossers. Here are the average fastballs, per Fangraphs, of the Mariners Opening Day relievers:

Tony Zych (95.3)
Joaquin Benoit (94.1)
Mike Montgomery (94.0)
Steve Cishek (91.3)
Nick Vincent (90.2)
Joel Peralta (89.8)
Vidal Nuno (89.6)

It wasn’t an overpowering group, and the results were mixed. You can probably remember a game or two or five where the bullpen served you your freshly torn-out heart on a plate.

To the front office’s credit, they have been churning the bullpen all year. From my counting the Mariners have used twenty-one pitchers in relief thus far, and I defy you to name them all without cheating. While the team didn’t expend the resources or prioritize building a season-long lockdown bullpen, they have absolutely maximized the role’s inherent fungability.

The current bullpen is superior to March’s version, of that I’m almost certain. While the front office showed an unwillingness to spend the offseason premium for elite velocity, the reshaping of the relief corps has shown that, indeed, they are aware of its importance, and they are able to find it. Here are the current fastball velocities of the Mariner bullpen:

Arquimedes Caminero (97.7)
Edwin Diaz (97.1)
Tom Wilhelmsen (94.6)
Drew Storen (91.9)
Nick Vincent (90.2)
Vidal Nuno (89.6)
Jarrett Grube (Look the dude has thrown three fastballs in MLB, in 2014. They averaged 87.7. Let’s hope he’s not a huge fixture ok?)

The bullpen is not nearly as good as it looked on this homestand. A 0.70 ERA and 96.9% LOB% over the past week are as connected as they are unsustainable. However, I don’t see a reason to think, even now, that Dipoto is done churning. Clearly Jarrett Grube isn’t here for long, Steve Cishek will be back from injury, and there are still twenty days left to hawk over the waiver wire. I fully expect the Mariners will continue looking for useful arms, cast aside by teams who view themselves as going somewhere other than the playoffs.

Time will tell if the Mariners’ newest iteration of the 2016 bullpen will provide the rock steady bridge from the sixth inning to victory, but if it doesn’t, Jerry Dipoto’s front office has shown they are willing to adapt. They are looking for the right things, and they will not hesitate if an opportunity presents itself. It’s a combination of adaptability, confidence, and hard work. It’s something good organizations do. It’s something that playoff teams do.

gobiz