Mariners Bullpen May Have Gone From Question Mark to Exclamation Point
Last season, the Mariners bullpen just couldn’t seem to find their way. This season, with a few new additions, they look to be considered one of the MLB’s best.
Going into this coming season, the Mariners are looking to forget their bullpen struggles from a year ago. A year removed from being one of the best bullpens in baseball with a stellar 3.55 ERA, Seattle just couldn’t seem to figure it out this last year.
It didn’t seem to matter who they brought in or shuffled around; they just couldn’t get it right. From Karns to Wilhelmsen to Cishek, everyone seemed to have spurts where they seemed to consistently find ways to blow a lead or give up a crucial hit.
The Mariners did have a few bright spots last season, though. Those bright spots would be Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz.
The duo is hoping to make even more of an impact this season. These two, along with rookie Dan Altavilla and newcomer, Shae Simmons are in line to give the Mariners a great core of late game difference makers.
Vincent ended the season with a solid 3.73 ERA and WHIP of only 1.12. One thing many people may not realize about Vincent is that since 2008 he has the second most unhittable fastball in all of baseball.
Last season Vincent had the #1 most unhittable fastball, making hitters swing and miss an impressive 37.2% of the time. Although he may give up a few more HRs than we may like, there is no denying how great his top pitch is.
Although he may give up a few more HRs than we may like, there is no denying how great his top pitch is.
Diaz, on the other hand, is a young flamethrower with the confidence of a veteran. At only 22 years of age, he showed that not only is he the closer of the future, but he’s the closer of the present as well.
His amazing 15.33 K/9 lead to a 40.6% strikeout rate. Meaning he’s almost unhittable in his own right. Most of this is the result of his devastating 100 MPH fastball.
That, combined with the fact that he doesn’t walk many batters -he has a 5.87 K/BB ratio- should have him poised for another great season.
Going into the 2017 season, Altavilla looks to be in line to be the setup guy to Diaz; the Robin to his Batman.
Much like Diaz, Altavilla started off as a starter and was moved to the pen where he has thrived. At the end of the 2016 season, Altavilla was called up straight from AA ball to the big leagues and never looked back.
Over the course of 12.1 innings in 15 games, Altavilla posted an incredible 0.73 ERA, struck out ten batters and only walked one man. Also like Diaz, Altavilla is a bit of a flamethrower.
The right-hander’s fastball routinely hits the mid to upper 90s. He also does a good job of fooling hitters with a plus slider. If he can keep his confidence up and add possibly a changeup to his arsenal,
If he can keep his confidence up and add possibly a changeup to his arsenal, he and Diaz could be closing games out for quite some time.
This is the guy that I may be more excited about than anyone else.
Acquired this off-season from the Braves, Simmons comes in as a bit of a wildcard. He made his MLB debut in 2014 striking out 23 batters in 21.2 innings with an ERA below 3. What I found most impressive though was the fact that he held hitters to a .192 batting average.
Simmons ended up losing the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy-John Surgery. He came back strong in the 2016 season, though. In seven appearances he showed that he hadn’t missed a beat, only allowing one run.
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One thing I’ve continually heard from Braves fans is that he’s like a baby Craig Kimbrel. The hard-throwing righty has a mid to upper 90s fastball with decent movement that tends to overpower hitters. If he can be anything like Kimbrel, the Mariners may have found a new secret weapon.
If he can be anything like Kimbrel, the Mariners may have found a new secret weapon.
What To Look Forward To
Jerry Dipoto seemed to have one agenda in mind when putting pieces together for this new bullpen, and that agenda is throwing gas.
With their starting rotation all but locked up, the Mariners need guys that can come in and get outs quickly and efficiently. Although most of these guys are still very young, they seem poised to catch the baseball world by storm.
By the time the 2017 season is over, I believe the Mariners bullpen will be mentioned as an elite unit.
Last season, the bullpen woes all but sunk the Mariners and their playoff chances. This season, all the M’s need is a few of those games to go in their favor, and we could see playoff baseball back in Seattle for the first time in 16 years.