Here's a Thought: Grading the Seattle Mariners' Starting Rotation
My last article looked at the Oakland Athletics' rotation. I gave their group a B+overall.
Finally, the last team in my tour of the AL West rotations is the Seattle Mariners.
At the end of this article, I'll compare the Mariners to the A's, Angels, and Rangers, and see who has the best rotation.
I'll be posting a wrap-up article to this series hopefully later today, analyzing strengths and weaknesses of each rotation in relation to each other.
Who Will Start?
The top of this rotation is pretty set, with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. The back is a little bit tricky.
I'm going to say right off the bat that I'm leaving Erik Bedard off of this, since he won't be back for a couple of months at least. When he's healthy, he's an A-.
Yahoo!s prediction for the rotation without Bedard seems pretty likely. It goes like this:
1) Felix Hernandez
2) Cliff Lee
3) Ryan Rowland-Smith
4) Ian Snell
5) Doug Fister
I'll go with that.
Hernandez is in the discussion for best pitcher in baseball. There's only one grade he can possibly get, since I'm not handing out A+s.
Just beginning the downside of his career at 31, Lee is clearly behind Hernandez as the No. 2 on the staff. All of his pitches took a step back last year, but he's still a No. 1 on almost any other staff.
Rowland-Smith is a command lefty with four solid but unspectacular pitches. He's prone to getting hit around when his command falters, and he doesn't miss many bats, but the 27-year-old should be good for around a 4.00 ERA this season.
Snell is a former ace whose command has seriously regressed since peaking in 2007.
His fastball has lost a bit of speed, and he's largely ditched his impressive slider for a poor curveball as well.
There's still potential here, but Snell will be lucky to post a FIP of 5.00 this season.
A gigantic right-hander, Fister doesn't have the power stuff one would expect from a man who stands 6'8."
He does, however, have pristine command of the strike zone, walking 2.21 hitters per nine last year (and just .93 per nine in AAA ball).
Fister's a four-pitch righty with an 85-91 mph fastball, plus change-up, solid slider, and serviceable curveball. His pedestrian stuff leads to a fair amount of gopher balls, but Safeco should help with that, and Fister should be a back-of-the-rotation asset.
So the final ratings are:
1) Felix Hernandez: A
2) Cliff Lee: A-
3) Ryan Rowland-Smith: B
4) Ian Snell: C-
5) Doug Fister: B-
That's a B rotation, largely dragged down by Snell. If we assume that Bedard replaces Snell halfway through the season and stays healthy the rest of the way, it's a B+ rotation.
Quick comparison to the other three teams in the division (each team's starters listed vertically):
1) Hernandez A...Sheets B+...Weaver B+...Harden B-
2) Lee A-...Duchscherer B...Santana B-...Feldman B-
3) Rowland-Smith B...Anderson A...Saunders C+...Hunter B-
4) Snell C-...Braden B...Kazmir B...Lewis D
5) Fister B-...Gonzalez B+...Pineiro A-...Holland B
Total Grade Points: Oakland 45, Seattle 41, Los Angeles 40, Texas 31. (If we factor in a half-season of Bedard, Seattle ties Oakland at 45).