The Mariners need bullpen help

Updated: April 13, 2017

Yesterday the Mariners held a 5-0 lead over the Houston Astros before seeing their starter Yovani Gallardo give up four runs to make it a little too close for comfort. After the fifth inning they went to the bullpen and then proceeded to see that group give up nine hits, two walks and six runs. The Mariners lost 10-5.

That is just one game, but the trend is definitely there. They had the epic collapse against the Angels on Sunday, a tough loss on an extra inning bomb given up by Chase DeJong (who wasn’t even supposed to be on the team) and have just looked hittable at times. The staff as a whole has struggled as you can see below.

Dan Altavilla .563 5.40 0.98 2.86
Nick Vincent .400 5.40 1.98 3.55
Edwin Diaz .400 7.36 2.71 3.14
James Pazos .333 3.86 2.77 3.77
Evan Marshall .600 0.00 0.58 0.58
Marc Rzepczynski .143 0.00 2.98 3.65
Dillon Overton .600 20.25 2.23 4.58
Evan Scribner .417 13.50 7.86 4.16
Casey Fien .333 11.12 7.40 4.19
Chase De Jong .333 40.50 26.98 12.18

The two things that really stick out on this are the ERAs that are very ugly compared to the FIP numbers and the BABIPs which are very unlucky. Last season’s league wide BABIP was .298, but the Seattle relievers right now are giving up a BABIP of .416. You have to think that will get better, it has to because it is an extremely unlucky number and the Seattle defense is actually pretty strong. This bullpen needs help, but it looks like it needs help in the luck department more than anything.

That is something that definitely passes the eye test for me as well. Last night’s game saw the bullpen give up nine hits, but only two of those hits were extra bases. If this team were giving up a ton of homeruns out of the bullpen there might be some real reason to worry, but this has mostly been a balls in play issue. In fact, only three Seattle relievers have given up bombs this year and two of them (Fien and DeJong) are no longer on the major league roster. I find that comforting and encouraging.

Things will get better. Edwin Diaz has hardly been used as his team has hardly been leading or tied in the late innings. More from him alone will improve this team. Dan Altavilla struggled last night, but he has been the star early and could be an important piece at the end of games as the season goes on.

The good news is that there is also help on the way. Last year’s closer and best non-Diaz reliever, Steve Cishek should be back in a month. He is what he is at this point, but what he is is above average.

The real wild card is Tony Zych. He should be back soon and he could be a real sleeper for this team. He’s only pitched 32 innings in the majors, but has shown elite velocity and a great fastball-slider combo. Some people see him as a future shutdown closer and we saw what adding a future shutdown closer did for this team last year.

If Zych can harness that potential, Cishek comes back strong and Diaz is what we think he is, this team might go from one of the worst bullpens early to one of the very best late. Call me crazy, but I think those three with Altavilla have a little 2015 Royals potential. Despite the 2-8 start, I still think this team has real playoff potential.

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