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The Missing Mariners

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In the King’s absence, the Mariners are almost entirely a team of strangers.

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

Around noon yesterday, amidst a thousand other things meriting stress and sadness, I realized how much I missed watching Félix pitch.

Last night’s starter, Andrew Moore, is one of 17 different starting pitchers used this year by Seattle, and 40 overall (including Carlos Ruiz and Mike Freeman). The projected starting rotation of Félix Hernández/James Paxton/Drew Smyly/Hisashi Iwakuma/Yovani Gallardo has made 61/140 starts (43.6%), and 22 of those have been by Gallardo, who somehow managed to add two mph to his fastball and become less effective. When Smyly went down during Spring Training the mediocre rotation stumbled towards the pool’s edge like an overeager toddler. Injuries to Paxton, Félix, and Kuma plunged the Mariners face-first into the deep end, and they’ve never recovered. Injuries were expected, but the number of injuries and their severity has likely proven insurmountable. When I thought about this season, injuries were my greatest concern. The Mariners’ position in the standings would suffer, obviously, but more pressing on a daily basis is the deleterious effect injuries have on the enjoyment of the game. Odder still, is the experience of watching strangers play for your team.

All of this comes back to Moore, who toed the rubber steadily last night for 6.0 IP and 2 ER. Of the 17 starting pitchers used this year, Moore is one of just four to be drafted/signed and developed exclusively by the Mariners (the other three being Paxton, Félix, and Kuma). He’s one of just eight pitchers out of the 40, adding Edwin Díaz, Emilio Pagan, Dan Altavilla, and Thyago Vieira to the mix. Taken in June of 2015 with the 72nd overall pick in the second round of the draft, the “homegrown” Moore has been in the Mariners organization shorter than Nelson Cruz. Of the 60 players Seattle has used this season, just five (two hitters, three pitchers) have been in the organization for over five years. You can likely list them without any assistance from Baseball Reference.

Fangraphs

Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino have lived their ups and downs over the past half-decade and we have lived it with them. This article is not a lamentation of trades and free agency and The Modern MLB. I am the loudest Mitch Haniger fan outside of his nuclear family. Jerry Dipoto’s trade-happy tendencies do make Kyle Seager’s “transactions” section on his MLB page amusing, however.

MLB

We have seen Seager grow into what he is today, as we were able to watch Brad Miller and Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin rise and fall and thrill and struggle. It is not that that is the better way, but in a season of injuries and newer and newer faces, the absence of those I know well has been a struggle. We will have time to grow into Ben Gamel, Haniger, Segura, and “homegrown” Guillermo Heredia, but it is a slow build.

On the pitching end, the tale is more woeful.

Fangraphs

Since 2005, when Félix entered the league, these three are the most successful starting pitchers the Mariners have had, cumulatively.

Fangraphs

An average of 74.2 IP for these three is devastating for the team’s performance, obviously. We watched Paxton grow from a sapling into the Big Maple. Kuma transformed into the Old Bear and helped carry the 2014 team within an inch of the playoffs. No player is more tied to modern Mariners fandom, nor this community, than King Félix. They’re all absent, and it hurts. As the team shuffles into another weekend home series with the Angels, they must win to maintain hope.

It is noon on an off-day and I miss watching Félix pitch.