Yesterday Wade LeBlanc pitched through illness significant enough to prohibit him from eating for the last few days. He was, as he has been, slippery as an eel in the Everglades. Filling in for Erasmo Ramirez, the Lich of Louisiana has been a revelation once again for the Mariners. Wade’s five innings were enough to secure his first statistical win of the season, but Seattle is 5-1 in games he’s started, all of which have come in May. His excellence, along with the rest of the Mariners’ lefty starters, have carried the team.
But Wade’s place in this young season is only partially preposterous for what he’s done. It’s also remarkable for who he’s outperformed. While his late signing made him peculiar, he is technically the only starting pitcher the Mariners signed to a Major League contract this offseason. It’s difficult to imagine LeBlanc’s success carrying over an entire season, but where he ranks is staggering.
Wade and the Free Agents
|Jaime Garcia||Blue Jays||2||3||0||9||9||45.2||8.47||4.14||1.77||0.305||69.0%||40.3%||15.0%||9.2%||5.52||5.38||4.94||0||-0.2|
|Miguel Gonzalez||White Sox||0||3||0||3||3||12.1||3.65||4.38||2.92||0.392||49.2%||38.2%||22.2%||7.4%||12.41||7.99||6.13||-0.3||-0.8|
It’s implausible to suggest that LeBlanc could, should, or would have been what he’s been. It is simply enough, for now, to acknowledge that he has, and that because he has, the Mariners are a far likelier team to break the playoff draught that’s haunted them. While I’m not going to heap much praise on the team for finding a cheaper option instead of paying for a likelier pathway to success, the cost for many of the available upgrades was more than financial. Unlike Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, or relievers Greg Holland and Wade Davis, LeBlanc did not cost the Mariners a 2nd or 3rd round pick in Monday’s upcoming amateur draft.
There’s likely only so much magic in Wade’s wily shoulder. 85-87 mph fastballs, no matter how well located, are increasingly rare for a reason - hitters are better than they ever have been at punishing mistakes and mediocre velocity. But Wade has danced on the ring’s edges all year, and whether it ends his next start or continues all the way through October, we all can be thankful for Wade LeBlanc.