BY Steve Rudman 10:42AM 04/21/2015

Sans Felix, Cruz, Mariners would be April flops

If not for two outstanding outings by Felix Hernandez and the eight home runs by Nelson Cruz, the Mariners would rank among April’s biggest flops.

A Cy Young Award candidate two years ago, Hisashi Iwakuma is off to a slow start with a 6.61 ERA. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The Mariners took their 2014 postseason quest to the final day of the regular season before the low-budget Oakland Athletics nudged them out for the second wild card spot. With an offense that ranked among the American League’s dregs, the Mariners reached the playoff precipice mainly because they featured some of the best starting pitching in the majors — and in their own history.

The Mariners led the American League in team ERA at 3.17 while setting club records for the lowest starters ERA at 3.48 and bullpen ERA at 2.59. Among the 15 AL clubs, Seattle also ranked first in fewest runs (554), earned runs (512) and hits allowed (1,240). The Mariners also set a club mark for team WHIP (walks + hits / innings) at 1.173. At 1.182, the starters recorded the third-lowest WHIP in the DH (since 1973) era.

Manager Lloyd McClendon figured on a carry-over this year, but so far production has been horrific. Eliminate Felix Hernandez from the discussion and McClendon is burdened with one of the AL’s worst pitching staffs.

The Mariners rank 15th and last in runs allowed (69) and 12th in ERA (4.65). Deduct Hernandez’s outings, and the Mariners would be tied with the New York Yankees for fewest quality starts in the league with three. As it is, they are only 10th with five.

“Obviously, when you don’t pitch well, that’s a reason to be concerned,” McClendon told MLB.com Monday night after his club staked Hisashi Iwakuma to a 2-0 lead, couldn’t hold it, and lost 7-5 to the Houston Astros when reliever Danny Farquhar allowed two runs in the eighth.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about it. We’ve got to get it straightened out, because we’re much better than we’ve shown to this point. When you score five runs in a game, you should win a ballgame.”

Without Nelson Cruz’s spree of eight home runs in his past nine games, plus  various contributions from Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager (the heart of the order went 15-for-27, a .555 BA, with 12 RBIs the past two days) the Mariners would be one of baseball’s biggest April flops, especially after all of the World Series predictions.

Iwakuma, third in the Cy Young vote two years ago, has a 6.61 ERA in three starts mainly due to lack of fastball command. James Paxton is at 5.40, also after three, and Taijuan Walker, who pitches Tuesday night opposite Houston’s RHP Collin McHugh, is at 17.18, underscoring again how useless spring training stats are (Walker went 4-0, 0.67).

This is why McClendon has cause for worry: The Mariners are allowing 5.3 runs per game through their first 13 contests. Only one other edition of the club — the 2004 team that lost 99 games — allowed more in April since the occupation of Safeco Field in mid-1999:

Year Manager Gms. W-L Win % Runs RPG Final Rec.
2004 Bob Melvin 23 8-15 .348 124 5.39 63-99
2015 Lloyd McClendon 13 5-8 .385 69 5.30 TBD
2007 Mike Hargrove 20 10-10 .500 103 5.15 88-74
2000 Lou Piniella 23 13-10 .565 112 4.86 91-71
2006 Mike Hargrove 26 11-15 .423 126 4.84 78-84
2002 Lou Piniella 26 18-8 .692 120 4.61 93-69
2011 Eric Wedge 28 13-15 .464 122 4.35 67-95

Among the club’s listed, only Lou Piniella’s 2000 team reached the postseason. Even Piniella’s 2002 team, his last in Seattle, missed the playoffs despite winning 93 games. The 2007 Mariners ended with a winning record, but finished six games in arrears in the AL West race.

The inability of the starters to go deep into games — Iwakuma has yet to work beyond six innings, Walker hasn’t gone beyond four, and Paxton went 2.2 in his last outing — will  begin to impact the bullpen, as McClendon said Monday.

“This is not going to work for an entire season,” he said. “We need to get consistent starts and more days off for the relievers right now.”

The Mariners enter Tuesday night’s game with a .385 win percentage. They have never made the postseason without an April win percentage of at least .565.

 


YourThoughts

  • notaboomer

    i think it’s a pitching coach problem. should have fucking stuck with bryan fucking price as fucking pitching coach.

    • RadioGuy

      It’s just a game, notaboomer. Life goes on whether the Mariners win or lose.

      • Bayview Herb

        amen, radio guy. I also was a radio guy for while. KLAY talk radio.

        • RadioGuy

          You worked for Clay Huntington? The stories THAT guy must’ve had to tell. Wish I’d met him before he passed…a true Tacoma sports icon.
          I finally get what notaboomer was referring to about Bryan Price. Mea f—–g culpa. And it’s STILL just a game.

          • Bayview Herb

            The biggest complement I ever got was then the producer told me that Clay had remarked that I was as good as the syndicated shows like Limbaugh (without the opinions of course.)

            Are you still in the business? You can find me at bayviewherb@gmail.com

          • RadioGuy

            Yes…sort of. I’ll send an email because we’re already off topic here. I will say that what Limbaugh does is “good radio” because he hasn’t forgotten things he learned as a DJ…with him, politics are the steering wheel, not the engine.

          • Bayview Herb

            Yes, but he pumped me up with showmanship which immediately preceded my drive time show. Plus I always tried to make the listeners be the show rather than myself.

  • Bayview Herb

    Well, lets see. Last year we had the best pitching staff in the league with the worst hitting. These have reversed with the pitching gone south and the hitting keeping us going.

    • Tian Biao

      ah yes, Mariner-land, that strange parallel world where nothing ever happens as expected.

      • Bayview Herb

        We need scary music to accompany this theory. Also, notaboomer might want to expand his vocabulary, since is obvious he isn’t old enough to be a boomer or even an adult