Another start, another 7+ innings of fantastic pitching.  RRS is starting to get monotonous :)  Coming into this season I was very excited to see the young Aussie, and just how much of the promise he showed in 2007/2008 would translate to 2009.  Well the first results were less than optimal.  He came into the year with a dead arm, and could only muster 86 mph or so with his fastball.  The decreased arm speed also seemed to make his offspeed pitches much more mushy.  The decisive Mr. Wak saw this for all of 3 innings and quickly gave him the hook all the way to Tacoma.

After a short DL stint to rest his arm, in Tacoma Mr. Dash re-found his form, and was soon cutting through AAA rosters like a hot knife through soft butter, and soon after that he was recalled to the M’s and continued pitching very well.  Over the last 77 innings not only has Rockin’ Rollin’ Smith found a way to pretty much shut down opposing offenses, but he has done it very efficiently lasting a little more than 6 and 2/3 innings on average.  Not only has RRS been a very good pitcher, but he is turning into an inning eating horse!

While I am very excited about this, I have seen one disturbing trend.  Where have all the strikeouts gone?  Back in 2007 Hyphen was running very high k rates.  10.8 K/9 in AAA and 9.8 K/9 in the majors.  Back then his arsenal seemed to consist mostly of an above average fastball (in velocity and location) and a legit “80” curve.  He could get strike outs with both, either fooling a hitter sitting fastball with the curve (either swung on and missed or watching for strike three called), or blowing a FB by a guy sitting curve.  However now he is sitting at 5.1 K/9 on the magical Shandler K/9 edge.  His arsenal also appears to have changed.  He still throws a pretty decent fastball, and now throws a very nice change up and a less biting slider/curve.  I have not seen the “Zito Curve” from him in a long time.

Having said all this it is time to ask some questions.  First off, are RRS’ current results sustainable with such low K’s?  Take last night’s game for example.  8 innings of 1 run ball, but only 2 K’s.  But, it wasn’t like the White Sox were hitting him hard.  There was only one hard hit ball all night (Beckham’s HR), other than that there were a bunch of 200 foot singles and nothing.  None of the outs even made it much past 300 feet.  When Dashy did get into trouble he was able to bear down and get a k or a double play.  This leads me to another question, is Rockin’ Rollin’ Smith making a Halladay like transition?  Eschewing K’s for greater accuracy and efficiency, allowing him to go deeper into games?

Interestingly while Hyphens K/9 has gone down the last couple of years, so has his BB/9.  In 2006 and 2007 RRS ran BB/9’s in the 3.5-4.75 range, however now he sits and a nice 2.3.  In fact his K/BB hasn’t really changed all that much (2.8 with M’s in 2007, 2.2 this year).

Anyway, I think that RRS has certainly cemented himself a spot in the 2010 and beyond Mariners rotation, the only question is if he is a Horse #2 lefty, that will spin 7 and 8 effective, but low K inning start after start, or the electric #3 lefty that only goes 5 or 6 innings every time out, but K’s 10 per? 

Gone are the days wondering whether he can stick as a #4/5 :)


So what do you all think?  This is my first front page post so be gentle ;)


shields's picture

...with a chance to be a solid 3.
Disagree with a couple minor things.  For one, "After a short DL stint to rest his arm, in Tacoma Mr. Dash re-found his form, and was soon cutting through AAA rosters like a hot knife through soft butter."   RRS scuffled a long time in Tacoma, and even when he started getting slightly better results his stuff still wasn't there.  If I remember correctly, it wasn't until his last 2-3 Tacoma starts that he was starting to look like a big league pitcher.
Also, the comment on the '80' curve... I agree that his curve seemed to have more bite in his first stints with Seattle, both out of the pen and as a starter, but by no means was it an '80' or even plus-plus.  Adam Wainwright, Javier Vazquez, Wandy Rodriguez-- if anyone is throwing an "80" curve these days it's one of those guys.  RRS' curve looked promising to me, and looks like a slightly above average setup pitch right now.  It's flashed better a few times this year, especially in his first few starts back.  He's 'tweeted' that he's long his feel for the pitch, so hopefully we'll see it rebound.
As far as sustainability, he may be due for a small uptick but not much.  I think he's a 3.60-4 ERA guy, and as Dr. D and more recently Dave at USSM have mentioned, RRS is throwing more ground balls than ever, which will help his sustainability.

OBF's picture

Thanks for the corrections.  Yeah I was mostly going on memory, so I was probably mostly just remembering those last few Tacoma starts.  
That curve back in 2007 was truly a Zitoesque curve (I guess a clarifying question would be if you thought Zito had an 80 curve back in the day).  You could tell the better a curve was coming, and he would still swing and miss, at times it was absolutly unhittable.
Yeah I saw that tweet.  I wonder if the new found promising change up is messing with his curve ball.  I am sure it is easier to stay sharp with just two pitches (FB, CU) then three (FB, CH, CU).  In fact Pitch F/X has him not throwing curves at all, it labels them as sliders.  Anyways, if he can get the Zito-like curve back to go with the decent FB and the very nice change then I think his upside is #2.  

glmuskie's picture

It seems that M's pitchers across the board - starting pitchers at least - are showing a trend of losing their strikeouts.  Snell, RRS, French, even Felix is making an effort to pitch more to contact, IIRC.
My guess is this is an org philosophy being emphasized by Adair and Co...  to pitch more to contact, keep pitch counts low, go deeer in games.
What, you want me to back up this claim with stats???  I'd prefer to make wild baseless hypotheses thanks.

OBF's picture

Another clarifying question...
How does one define #2 vs. #3 etc.
In my mind the defference between a #2 and a #3 isn't neccesarily stuff or even ERA (results) it is how deep in a game a pitcher goes.  With both a #2 and a #3 I see a pitcher who should limit run scoring fairly well and give the team a very good chance of winning, the difference for me is that a good #2 limits the run scoring while being effecient with his pitches and goes at least 6 and usually 7 somtimes 8 innings, thus saving the bullpen and keeping the run scoring down for longer.  This is why I see Snells upside as only a #3, I don;t see how eith his BB issues he can eve go very deep in a game.  I can see him dominating for 5 or 6 innings, but he will always be battling his own pitch counts.
That is why I wonder if RRS can possibly be a #2.  If he can keep the opposition under 3 runs AND go 7 or 8, THAT is a #2!
Another way we might be able to define a #2 is by the 15th through 28th best pitchers in the AL.  #1 through #14 are logically the #1's, so what do the "#2" Era's look like?  This year it is 3.82 - 4.54.  Your guess of 3.6-4.0 for RRS going forward fits very nicely in the upper part of that group :)

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

A subtle little problem with K/9 -- (actually any per-9 stat) -- is that the numbers can change with ZERO difference in pitching performance, if you get a significant difference in defensive performance.
If the DEFENSE makes 1 additional out per game, what happens over a season?  Well, that's 162 fewer trips to the plate for the opponent.  But INNINGS remains a relative constant.  In truth, Felix K/9 has risen in 2009.  He has 207.1 IP today, while throwing only 200.2 innings in 2008.  He's pitched almost an entire extra game (based on innings), right?  Except, if you look at batters faced, he's actually faced 7 FEWER batters at this point.  After 7 more hitters, Felix will have faced exactly the same number of batters in 2008 and 2009.  If he were to get 7 consecutive outs to start his next game, that would mean exactly 9 innings more pitched while facing exactly the same number of hitters.  If he had exactly the same number of Ks, his K/9 would actually drop.
The better the defense, the lower the K/9 for a pitcher who fans exactly the same number of hitters per batter faced.  Better defense makes pitching Ks *appear* to decrease.
Same holds true for walks, only in reverse.  More defense outs, means fewer batters faced, which means BB/9 numbers improve.  An improved defense will make an identical pitcher *appear* to improve his control, (and his HR/9 numbers should decrease also).
Most of the time, this slosh is small enough that it can be ignored.  But, at the extreme ends, (best or worst defenses), it can be significant enough to inflate or deflate perceptions of the pitcher.  Bad defense can PREVENT a pitcher from getting through 6 innings, while good defense can make a pitcher appear to be an iron man.
That said ... when a club enhances its defense, Ks, walks and HRs should ALL go down.  *EXCEPT*, the improved defense will tend to make pitchers throw with more confidence, which can lead to increases in Ks and HRs.  Bad defenses can make pitchers tentative, and lead to sky-high walk rates, but can potentially lead to fewer HRs.  The key here is the pitchers can (and will) react to the quality of the defense.  It's not always about TRYING to pitch to contact.  It can just be about not being AFRAID to pitch to contact.

OBF's picture

How come I can see the pic I added when I edit the article, but not when it is posted?
EDIT:  Nevermind, I figured it out ;)

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.