The Seattle Mariners' bullpen has featured many high and lows through the first portion of the season. Before the season started, General Manager Jack Zduriencik pieced together many minor league contracts with the “quad-A” type relieves floating around baseball.
It’s a week into May and now we can see why that was necessary. Injuries to the rotation and bullpen have diced up the bullpen and the team has now used 16 pitchers already this season.
Closer Brandon Morrow is the most missed Mariner in the bullpen since he went down with biceps tendonitis back on Apr. 24.
Brandon Morrow, this year, has amassed five saves in seven outings, and outside of his first appearance this season versus Minnesota Brandon has thrown seven strikeouts against four walks, hasn’t allowed any home runs, and shows plenty of promise as a closer.
Brandon Morrow isn’t the only one who has faced injuries this year, Starter Ryan Rowland-Smith, Shawn Kelley, and Roy Corcoran have all made trips to the disabled list. With that pitchers like Denny Stark, Jason Vargas, Garrett Olson, and Shawn White have been thrown into roles into the big leagues by circumstance.
Vargas, in one appearance, went 2.1 innings and got a win. Stark in three games this year has pitched 2.2 innings and now features a 20.25 ERA and a blown save. Olson in five innings of work allowed two earned runs and 3 walks with 2 strikeouts.
Sean White, however, in eight appearances has a 1.46 ERA, but that’s with 7 walks and 2 strikeouts. At least he has been lucky so far.
Needless to say our bullpen depth we thought we had before the season has done nothing but show why they were available for minor-league contracts. Other relievers such as Miguel Batista and Mark Lowe have fared pretty well, but neither have been dominating.
There have been surprises found in David Aardsma and Shawn Kelley (before his injury) as they both feature ERA’s under two, and they both have struck out 11 hitters in 12 and 11 innings of work respectively.
Surprisingly all the pitchers named here are all right handed throwers, besides Jason Vargas. The Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu decided to go with the best relievers from spring, and that meant the entire bullpen could share a glove if they wanted to.
The Mariners got through April on top of the division, but their bullpen woes cost them five blown saves this season already. Five games in baseball goes a long ways, and while no one is perfect (well usually) five games in one month is putting a ton of pressure on the starters to get further and hitters to dig the team out.
After one month it is easy to say that the strength in bullpen depth that was seen in spring, is nothing more than a pipe dream. The weaknesses in durability and control linger throughout the pitching staff, and those are two things that cannot be fixed by great defense.
The Report Card: (4 Relief Appearance Minimum through May 7, 2009)
Mark Lowe 0-0 – 12 Games, 3.86 ERA, 11.2 IP, 11K/4BB, 0 HRA | Grade: A-
Mark has done everything right this month and has shown to be dependable when needed. Outside of one rough outing, he has been a pleasure to watch.
David Aardsma 0-1 – 12 Games, 2.19 ERA, 12.1 IP, 11K/8BB, 1 HRA | Grade: B
David has been either a delight to watch, or the guy making you nervous and wanting to take a shot of your spirit of choice. Those 8 walks will make a manager tear his hair out, but he has shown up when he has been needed and has done a good job by grabbing three saves while Brandon Morrow sits on the disabled list.
Shawn Kelly 1-1 – 10 Games, 1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP, 11K/1BB, 2 HRA | Grade: B
When Shawn went down in grimacing pain last week after throwing a pitch my heart sunk three feet.
Not only did that mean we had to watch and emergency relief appearance from Denny Stark (which he pitched the game away in less than an inning), but as a player who has fought through injuries in his whole career it was just sad to see something happen while he was finding success.
Miguel Batista 1-0 – 9 Games, 2.57 ERA, 14 IP, 11K/7BB, 0 HRA | Grade C-
Don’t let the low ERA fool you, Miguel has been graced by amazing defense and appeared in a lot of less than meaningful situations. His control is all but gone, and he’s just roster fodder until his contract runs out this fall.
Roy Corcoran 1-0 – 8 Games, 7.27 ERA, 8.2 IP, 4K/9BB, 0 HRA | Grade F
Roy has found the disabled list after forgetting how to induce groundballs and pound the strike zone. Last year’s surprise has been this year’s biggest bust. Before Brandon Morrow elected for the bullpen Roy was a contender for the closer position. No thanks.
Sean White 0-0 – 8 Games, 1.46 ERA, 12.1 IP, 2K/7BB, 1 HRA | Grade C
Another reliever who has a backwards strikeout to walk ratio has shown what good luck looks like in a small sample size. A 1.46 ERA won’t last long when you allow a walk that often and you have no power to get the hitters out on your own.
Brandon Morrow 0-1 – 7 Games, 4.05 ERA, 6.2 IP, 8K/7BB, 0 HRA | Grade B
Brandon got rocked in his first appearance, but went very strong in the six after that before his biceps injury. While losing that game hurt, Brandon showing resilience on the mound after that really helps put the trust into him.
The Rest | Grade C-
Jason Vargas, Garrett Olson, Denny Stark, Chris Jakubauskas (before he filled in as a starter), Well they are long relief, emergency fill ins. What can you really expect from them? Some were okay, some did bad. However, it's hard to judge on just a couple appearances so we’ll save the kudos and rants for another day for these guys.
The bullpen as a whole grades as a low B-. There are some bright spots, and there are some murky dark spots. What team doesn't have that problem? It's early in the month, and when some of the bright spots like Morrow and Kelley come from back from the disabled list there should be some relief for the Mariners in sight.
However, ask me about that when Carlos Silva reaches the bullpen.