Despite having lost the series to the Detroit Tigers this weekend, the Seattle Mariners have managed to have a more than decent season so far. Chalk it up to reasonable and aggressive hitting, as well as modest pitching performances.
Modest is a euphemism. The Mariners need to begin working on their performances on the mound before they can take on American League heavyweights such as the Red Sox and Yankees, who lead the league in runs scored. Especially now that Robinson Canó, one of the Mariners’ leading offensive producers, will hit the disabled list due to a hand fracture.
Though the M’s will not square off against the Yankees and Red Sox until mid-June, they have faced their west side counterparts, the Astros and the Angels, but to no avail. Both series against the leading American League West teams were lost, the only series losses up until this weekend’s loss to the Tigers.
In the series against the Astros, the Mariners allowed 21 runs to score while only scoring 6 runs against them. Against the Angels just two weeks later, Mariners pitchers once again allowed 21 runs to score, while scoring 11 against them. These numbers are cause for alarm.
The Mariners pitching staff has, to put it frankly, been less than adequate. Other than James Paxton, all of the Mariners starting pitchers have above league average ERAs. Off of Mariners pitchers, opponents have hit 53 home runs, just four home runs less than the Baltimore Orioles, who lead the American League in home runs allowed with 57. On the other end, it is a positive that Wade LeBlanc, Marco Gonzales, and James Paxton have FIPs lower than league average, and that’s what gets people like me through tough losses, looking at the positives.
Once of the best things to come to the hill for the Mariners this season is James Paxton. Though he suffered a couple of strenuous outings against the Indians and the Twins to start the season, Paxton managed to bounce back in stellar form. On May 2nd, against the Athletics, he threw 7.0 innings while only allowing 5 hits and striking out a career high 16 batters and allowing only a single walk.
The truest of celebrations occurred just a week later, when the Mariners faced the Blue Jays. On May 8th, in his native Canada, James Paxton needed only 99 pitches to throw a no-hitter, the fifth in franchise history to come from a single pitcher.
Paxton also currently holds one of the highest K/9 average in the American League with 12.65 strikeouts per nine innings, second only to Gerrit Cole’s 13.66 average. Paxton is also one of the American League’s 17 starting pitchers with HR/9 averages of less than 1.0. His 2.96 FIP is currently ranked 7th in the American League and his 1.3 fWAR ranks him at 8th in starting pitchers on the season.
In spite of some command issues and more than a few aggravating losses, Marco Gonzales also has some points of interest in his numbers. He currently holds a 1.77 BB/9 average, ranking him 7th in the American League amongst starting pitchers. He also has the highest groundball percentage among Mariners starters with 42.4%. Unfortunately, he has the highest starting BABIP in the American League with .405.
When it comes to relievers, Edwin Díaz also has impressive numbers. Say what you will about closers, but in the role, Díaz manages has been exquisite. He has one of the highest strikeout percentages in the league with 44.7%, second only to the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman. His opposing batter average is a mere .094 and his BABIP is .143, both ranked second in the league. He and James Pazos are in the top six when it comes to relievers with the lowest WHIP. Pazos also has one of the lowest walk percentages for relievers in the American League with 1.8%, ranking him 5th, while Juan Nicasio is ranked 3rd with a BB% of 1.3. Chasen Bradford also deserves recognition, with his groundball rate of 55.8%, ranking him 12th among relievers in the AL.
Even with all of the positive numbers that surround the Mariners pitching staff, it is important to note that these numbers do not exist in a vacuum. It may be cherry-picking to look at these stats and say that the Mariners have been doing well because of them, but truly, there is plenty of work to do with the team’s pitching.
And that is the issue with the Mariners so far. They seem to be in limbo. Other than Paxton, they have not managed to have a standout performance in their pitching. Every positive that comes into play brings with it larger set of negatives. It may be interesting to compare pitchers to the rest of the league, but when it comes to their performance on the mound, the Mariners need to work toward better strategies for getting batters out.
Keeping the ball on the ground would be the most important place to start. The Mariners have the second lowest groundball percentage while having the highest home run to fly ball rate. The White Sox are the only other team with a lower ground ball rat. They also happen to own the worst record in baseball with only 10 wins in 37 games.
Make of that what you will.