Do the Mariners Need More Pitching?

(Plot spoiler) No.


Q.  Do you need another pitcher after Bedard?

A.  Understand and agree about Bedard being a wild card -- that you want to build your staff without him, and take his stretch-run and playoff wins as gravy.

But I would definitely not overstate Bedard's risk.  He was great in June-July 2009 with the torn labrum.  If he can get the ball up to 90 mph at all, he's an All-Star Game starter; he just proved that last summer.


Q. Are you comfortable with the 2010 staff As Is?

A. Yes, because I was comfortable with the September 2009 staff as is.

Let's keep in mind: the M's second-half staff that ran a 4.04 ERA without Washburn and Bedard.  The best ERA in the league for 2009, other than Seattle's, was Chicago's 4.14.

Let me read that sentence again.  After Bedard and Washburn left, after the rotation was Felix-RRS-Snell-Jaka/Fister-French, the Mariners maintained the best pitching staff in the league.

Not one of the best.  The best staff, in terms of run prevention.

There is a lot of wind at the pitchers' backs in Safeco, and Wakamatsu/Adair are good at what they do. 


Q. So we can figure on the 2009 results again?

A.  Except that the staff has added Cliff Lee and Brandon League.

Wow.  The best staff, add one SP and one RP who might possibly be the best SP and RP in the game.  That's like the old joke, the 1987 M's are two players away ... Lou Gehrig and Walter Johnson.

The 2009 staff was two All-Stars away from .... what?  Guess we find out!


I agree that the 3-4-5 starters look funky.  But I am totally comfortable with Stars & Scrubs.  Felix+Lee, and then best-of-the-field with Wakamatsu managing them, in front of 3 CF's in Safeco ... absolutely.


Q.  What if you could add a pitcher?

A.  If Washburn wants to pitch here for $5m, hey, in Safeco he's a good pitcher.  So much the better.

But it's offense the M's need, IMHO...


Q.  The M's still need offense?  Even after adding Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins and 92 bench hitters?

A.  It's like the other old joke, my left fist is Instant Death, my right fist is Six Seconds Faster...

  • 2009 M's runs allowed - 692, by far #1 in AL
  • 2009 M's runs scored - 640
  • Next worst -  Kansas City Royally Feeb, 686
  • Next worst after that - White Sox, 724

As good as the M's defense was in 2009 -- the best in the league -- the offense was far more extreme.  In the other direction.  The M's at #14 were farther behind the weak #12 Sox, than the #12 Sox were behind "above average."

I've got nothing against putting the finishing touches on this Rembrandt of an epic run prevention unit.   But while your 46 defense is getting eight sacks a game, you've got Julius Jones running the ball and Seneca Wallace throwing it.


Q.  Hey, a run saved is as good as a run earned.

A.  Generally, but let's not get too Strat-O-Matic about it.

There comes a point in a real clubhouse when, as Earl Weaver says, "it's bad for morale when pitchers feel like they have to throw a shutout to win." 

A contender has to feel like it can score against the other team's TOR's.  If the hitters are embarrassed and ticked off and pressing because they've scored 20 runs the last two weeks, that's not a contender.  And the ballclub will lose confidence.

All that said, Zduriencik has added some sting to the offense.  If the only move from here is Aaron Harang, I'm okay with that.  :- )


Dr D


Taro's picture

Ideally Kotchman wouldn't be an M.. Otherwise I don't see where you add the extra position player. We look set there.
The SP after Felix-Lee is veeeery thin. RRS can't be counted on for innings and Bedard may or may not pitch in '10.
Safeco can't gaurd against Snell's BBs or Fister's HRs. We need one more guy to bump those guys back into one slot EARLY in the season and give us some insurance against RRS+Bedard LATE in the season.
SP>offense at this point. I'd like a 1B too ideally, but Z seems obssesed enough with Kotchman to give him $3.5mil gauranteed so we'll just see how that goes first. You can always trade for a guy like Pena mid-season. We need that SP NOW. Snell+Fister for 3 months is a potential disaster IMO.

glmuskie's picture

I've been scratching my head at the notion that the M's need another starter.  They've got Felix-Lee-RRS-Snell-Fister-Olson-Vargas-French.  That's 8 bodies for 5 spots.
Maybe I'm just being overconfident in Wak's ability to play whack-a-mole with their #3-5 SP's who don't get the job done.  Shuffling the most effective 3-4-5 in there seems like a pretty viable plan to me. 


if the M's can add Washbin (thanks Zum-Bro') for $5m, great.  If they can trade for Harang, double great.
But the M's K/BB ratio actually got better in the second half last year, from like 1.91 to 2.10 IIRC.  Fister, RRS, Nick Hill and others are going to throw strikes and not beat themselves.  That's what you want from BOR starters in front of a great defense in a big park.
Fister needs to prove that his gopheritis is not a fatal flaw, yes.  But you've got a pretty deep field there to pick two or three strike-throwers from.
Stars & Scrubs is not for the faint of heart.  :- )   You lock in huge profit in your top two, and then you swap out Scrubs until something works okay.  You trust the philosophy.
Good to have players on edge about the competition, too.

Taro's picture

Right, but this assumes you've got scrubs with a high % chance of panning out. RRS goes down and Bedard doesn't recover in time and your season is in serious trouble with a Snell-Fister-French BOR.
We need another starter. We can't have a 5.50 ERA Snell and Fister at the BOR in the 1st half. Give one spot to the scrubs, not two or three. 

Taro's picture

I'm not against the scrubs in particular. I just feel that none of these guys have a very high upside either than Snell (who is regressing), and I'm not comfortable dedicating 50% of the SP innings to this group.
Thats what would happen if Bedard is your last move. You can't have half of your SP innings to those guys when your team is built on pitching and defense. 
I'm ok with dedicating ONE spot for these guys. Two when someone goes down. I'm not ok with giving them 2 or 3.
Hill I like. His mechanics are awful though and he just hasn't logged the innings. Hes a reliever for me.

8 that none of them have shown a consistent ability to get deep into games.  Snell because his control is poor, RRS because his arm fatigues easily, apparently, Hill because his mechanics are poor and Fister because he periodically gives up 450 foot home runs.  I would be fine with Fister and Hill battling it out for SP5 and then getting bumped when Bedard got healthy (or Snell getting bumped, depending on who sucked the most), but I'm not fine with guaranteeing Snell a rotation spot all year...that could be a very painful 120 runs allowed in 170 innings, HoRam/Weaver/Batista caliber suckfest.  And weve seen what that does to a bullpen after a while. my calculations we've only spent about 90 million dollars.  There's no reason we can't sign Washburn AND Bedard.


I don't like the Vargas/Olson/French trinity and consider all of them more DFA candidates than 5th starters. However, the M's have dozens of other pitchers at their disposal. It is very safe to assume that at least one of our minor leaguers is going to step up and be better than replacement-level, whether that's Cortes or Hill or someone out of the blue (remember Doug Fister was on practically nobodys radar until he was promoted to the majors). We may be thin at the upper levels, but there is still more talent available than just those three junky lefties. I'd feel perfectly comfortable entering the season with the roster we have if Bedard is added to the mix (which, according to PI, looks likely).

Taro's picture

I agree.
If Bedard isn't healthy you're in a potentially awful situation at 4 and 5 all season long. If RRS gets injured on top of that? 60% of your starts going to scrubs might cost you the race. People forget that many of us thought RRS was done last April. His mechanics aren't ideal and he has a history of getting knicked up and dealing with a dead arm.
If Bedard (once he returns) and RRS can stay healthy all season then the Team ERA is going to be unbelievable. You can't count on it though. You need that solid MOR starter, and you're going to need him in April.
We need one more guy, even if that guy is Washburn.


French, Fister, and Fodder isn't a poor scrubs grouping.  In point of fact, it is an absolutely, fantastically amazing scrubs group!  Why?  Because scrubs, BY DEFINITION, are not about "potential".  You NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER win the "scrubs" approach by "picking the good scrubs".  EVER.
You win the scrubs contest by having lots and lots of scrubs, and being able to quickly identify and develop the one Cracker Jack *SUPRISE* from the box when he shows up.
The scrubs game is roulette - and you do NOT win by placing all your chips on 17.  You win by having ENOUGH chips to place a bunch of bets at once -- because when ANY bet pays off, it KEEPS paying off.
The Marlins reload with specs like Hanley, Jacobs, Hermida, Having highly regarded specs doesn't hurt.  But, they make leap forward quickly when guys like Uggla step in an hit .800 as rookies.  Hermida remains a disappointment.  Anibel Sanchez can't get healthy.  Maybin and Andrew Miller haven't produced, (yet).  But, there's a DRASTIC difference in having one roll to make your point - versus getting 3 or 4 or 5 different attempts before you have no more dice to throw.  (as I crash my gamling metaphors near the exit ramp).
The obvious counter to this is -- "if ALL of your prospects are dead meat, numbers don't matter."  I would say - if *ALL* of your prospects are dead meat, then the odds of you developing anyone, regardless of talent, is the problem - and until THAT is solved, having "good" prospects versus "bad" ones isn't going to make any difference.  Pineiro and Meche didn't exactly light the world on fire in Seattle, did they? 
I think what pains me the most is that Morrow (24), continued to get tons of support about the possibility of him learning and growing into a decent pitcher right up to the day he left.  But French (23), Olson (25), Vargas (26), Snell (27) are doomed to be scrap heap trash for eternity.  And, I suspect, if Fister has a month with a 7.00 ERA, he'll get the same label from the masses. 
There were many who said Aardsma (27) in 2009 was just more spaghetti, and that he'd never solve his control problems.  Heck, he wasn't even MENTIONED in most of the "who will close" threads before the '09 season began.  Even today, the general talk of Aardsma is "dump him while we can."  Yeah, he could collapse.  But, if you actually look at his entire career, you can see the BIG change in 2009 wasn't his walk rate, (which had been in the 4s during both '06 and '07).  The BIG change was in the HR rate, which has gone, in consecutive seasons:  1.5 -- 1.1 -- 0.7 -- 0.5.  Does that LOOK like a fluke -- or like a trend? 
Anyone want to guess what Tom Glavine's early HR/BB/K rates were?  He had ONE gift immediately apparent -- he avoided the gopher ball.  But take a look at his first 50 inning stint:  0.9 / 5.9 / 3.6 -- That's almost 6 walks a game.  He started 34 the next season and finished with:  0.6 / 2.9 / 3.9.  -- he went 7-17.  Okay, he was only 22.  But you've got a young arm with a K-rate -- in the NL -- that makes HoRam look like Koufax.  It would take him two more years to climb up to SILVA level Ks.  Is there ANYONE who is going to look at a guy who posts a 1.0 / 1.9 / 4.4 line in his 3rd full season and go -- "Oh, THIS GUY is the one headed to the Hall of Fame?"  Anyone? 
Who is going to solve their gopher problem first?  That's really the simple question.  If ANY of the F-troop figures out THEIR game enough to reduce their HR/9 numbers to 1.0, (or lower), then given the best defense in baseball, (if it stays that way), almost anything is possible. 

Uncle Ted's picture

Here's a couple Hardball times articles on pitcher usage:
A few quick lessons I take from these articles:
1) teams should expect to get substantial innings from not just 5, but rather more like 8 pitchers.
2) the pitchers who make up the 5th block of 32 starts are generally pretty bad (above 6 ERA), and this should be the baseline for comparing your own bottom tier starters.
3) depth is very important and it is a worthwhile question to consider how we think our 5-8 best starters stack up against the rest of the league.
4) My completely non-studied impression is that the mere fact that I can list the 5-8 starters for you. (Snell, Vargas, Olsen, French) and that all of these are folks we know are capable of non-embarrassing MLB performances is actually a really good sign heading in to the season. It's even more encouraging that I can give you a list without mentioning any minor leaguers with no MLB experience (by which I mean that our actual best 5-8 could be significantly better than what I listed).  
Honestly, I'm super excited about Bedard.  Suppose that the best case scenario occurs and he returns in mid May and pitches the rest of the season.  We would then be in a position to earnestly claim that our team could have 3 of the top 5 pitchers in Cy Young voting.  That's pretty exciting.  
I should also add that it's pretty hard to question the aesthetic value of small ball, defense and pitching.  Win or lose, the 2010 M's might well be the most exciting team in the last decade.


Cool Papa is dead on when he tosses off Cortes as a possible sleeper.
Issues: maturity, high walk rate
Why to watch: the walk rate wasn't too bad until he repeated AA at age 22 and got worse.  It was in the 3 range in A ball, 4.2 the first time through AA, then 5.7 the second time through.  That says to me that it's related to the maturity issues, not so much skills.
Also, his final three starts.  He's moping along with two consecutive 6-walks-in-6-innings outings, then the last two weeks of the season, it's like the light bulb goes on:
5.0 IP, 10 K, 2 BB, 2 ER
6.0 IP, 7 K, 3 BB, 2 ER
7.0 IP, 7 K, 3 BB, 1 ER
or 18 IP, 24 K, 8 BB, 5 ER
Also, his carreer minors HR/9 is 0.7.
Here's a guy who could lay waste to AAA in the spring if he keeps his head on straight.  Maybe 1st Lt. Hill can put some West Point discipline into him and they can come up as a lefty-righty combo.
Doc's take from November:


Maybe rightly so, but . . .
Ryan Feierabend is only 24(!).  MLB debut at 21, seems like he was playing with Edgar and Olerud (not really).
But the guy was a 3rd-round pick, and just in 2008 he ran off 13 starts in Tacoma:
7-1, 75.0 IP, 2.04 ERA, 0.6 HR/9, 1.8 BB/9, 5.8 K/9
He's yet to show consistency in the bigs, and he's coming off a missed year from TJ surgery, but why not throw him into the big mediocre mess of lefties on the list? 
I would consider adding Varvaro, since it seems everyone but Fister and Snell is a lefty (including Lee, RRS and Bedard) (and that's another reason to keep an eye on RH Cortes), but it looks like they've decided he's a reliever only.


That would bear an article or four.  Personally, have always agreed with Sackmann's observation.  Fans want to add Joel Pineiro as a decent #3 or contender's #4, when his ERA might be 12th in the league...


I get the impression that Pedro Grifol thinks Daniel Cortes will probably be an All-Star in the majors if he stays healthy.
If so, the Betancourt trade would be a pretty weird one.
That's an interesting 'put, that his BB rate tanked when he repeated AA and, presumably, sulked about not being an org Golden Boy.  I can relate; that's the kind of thing that would put me "on tilt" if I were a ballplayer.

Taro's picture

Which is exactly why we need one more MOR starter.
If Bedard doesn't come back (still probably the most likely scenario considering the return rate on labrums), then you're in a position where you're handing 45-50% of your starts to scrubs.
Even someone like Washburn would probably be a 2 W upgrade to this roster. Those 2 Ws right now are HUGE considering how close the division is to each other.


Ask the 2009 Detroit Tigers, who won 86 to the Twins' 87 and stayed home, rather than taking Verlander, Jackson and Porcello into the short series...
That's where you start going over your decisions... hum, 2 less Washbin out-and-over fastballs and we're in the postseason...
If I'd brought Alex Avila up two weeks earlier, to slug .590 in Gerald Laird's stead, we're swigging the bubbly...
Thing is, you don't know in April that those sloppy decisions are going to mean -1 instead of +1 in Sept.  That's where I'm with you and Lou on 'taking the team you want to war, in April.'


I'd rather play scrub roulette and try and replicate Wash's 1.5WAR and keep the payroll flexibility for a midyear addition.  I just don't think the (potential) delta warrants the cost on Washburn and would rather maximize the resources in another way.  Now if we are trading Snell and a prospect for Harang, then that is a roll of the dice I can get behind.


Washburn's now making noises about retirement, he's so disappointed with the lack of interest.
The M's have plenty of payroll space, an apparent need, and a guy begging to come here.  They obviously haven't decided whether Wash can help them at all.


I think with the talent M's have now going with 6SP nad 5 RP would be better(like NPB).
With 5 day rest SP going 7 or 8 innings in avarage.
The young SP would be a trade bait too.

Taro's picture

I'm a fan of 6 man rotations.. Most guys do better with 5 days rest (NPB has it right IMO), so if you have the depth it may actually be worth it.
In the Ms case they'd need one more starter to pull something like that off.. Felix-Lee-RRS followed by 3 scrubs is too much.
If they add another starter it could make a TON of sense... all of our starters are better with 5 days rest. Lee and Bedard are WAY better with 5 days rest.  Felix is neutral. Snell is better. With two fragile guys in Bedard and RRS it seems to right way to go (if they get that extra SP).


The Mariners should consider doing the moral equivalent of the 6-man though.
Felix and Lee pitch every fifth day because their bodies can take it and we need those innings, RRS, Snell, Fister and Hill pitch in order every other they're not going every days.

Rob's picture

I hope that is NOT what the G.M. thinks.  What Washburn and Rob Johnson had going last year was pure magic.  Bring him back.  He's proven, reliable and productive here.  When Bedard comes back, our staff will be one for the ages.  We may not be Koufax and Drysdale, but Hernandez, Lee, Rowland -Smith, Washburn and Fister/Bedard with our bullpen, defense and timely hitting make us a team to be feared.  Pull the trigger on Washburn and let's go win this thing.

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