The bullpen seems a little bit like a scape goat for the Seattle Mariners’ problems in 2013, but the facts are going against them. After Tom Wilhelmsen came blazing out out of the gates, a bad June moved him out of the closer’s role and moved Seattle into a closer by committee. Despite the insistence of some that the save is an overrated stat, the committee never seems to work. Whether it may be nothing more than an issue of confidence, teams do better with one guy in that role. The closer by committee had its biggest failure since being implemented June 12th in the 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh yesterday. Facts are facts: It was the sixth time this season that the Mariners lost a home game that was tied entering the eighth inning, tying the Mets for the most such losses in the majors. Flip those six games and Seattle is over .500 at 40-39, and we are having a different conversation.
For the season, Seattle is a top ten team in Quality Starts (45). The starters have shined enough this season that the bullpen hasn’t been asked to eat the innings they would if the staff didn’t go deeper in games. Although Seattle has saved eighteen of their thirty-four wins, Seattle has blown ten saves this season. Wilhelmsen won’t be taking back the closer’s role anytime soon, it would seem. The last pressure situation that Eric Wedge put him into he allowed an eighth inning home run against the Angels that tied the game and gave him his fifth blown save; Seattle eventually won the game in extras. He seems to be falling into Brandon League territory, and he might be traded at the deadline for a team that wants relief help. League was a deadline deal trade last year when Seattle traded him to the Dodgers for two minor leagues.
Why doesn’t closer by committee work? I think someone needs to be the guy, it’s a mental mindset that they need. In the late innings, the Mariners have gone a lot since Wilhelmsen’s demotion with Yoervis Medina. The rookie had a win and a save, and he hadn’t given up a run since that fateful Astros game that shifted the composition of the bullpen. Yesterday though, Medina allowed an inherited runner to score and gave up another run on a wild pitch after a strike out sealing the Mariners’ fate in a 4-2 loss to the Pirates. Oliver Perez has the best stats of any Mariner reliever, but Wedge might be hesitant to give him the closer’s role because he would lose using Perez, a lefty, in situational spots. Like Medina, Perez has a win and a save since Wilhelmsen left the closer role. Seattle is 5-7 since going to the committee with two saves. They need better production from the bullpen, but we’re all waiting to see where it comes from.
The Mariners hope to wash out the aftertaste of a two-game sweep at the hands of the Pirates but welcoming in a team lower in the standings from the N.L. Central, the Chicago Cubs. Hisashi Iwakuma will go Friday looking to snap a season-high two game slide followed by Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman. Seattle is 2-3 on their current eight-game home stand. The Cubs are beginning a nine-game road trip, playing the last of three with Milwaukee today. Chicago is a strong 8-3 against A.L. teams this season; Seattle is 3-5 against the N.L