King Felix has taken his throne, Jarrod Washburn and the improved defense have caused his stock to fly higher than Microsoft, and Erik Bedard—well when he's been healthy this year—has been lights out. This has given the Seattle Mariners an amazing starting three that is just as good, if not better, than any other starting three in all of major league baseball.
But as the old addage goes, you're only as strong as your weakest link. Well, the weakest link has been anything but the starting rotation.
The Mariners have a combined pitching WAR of 10.3, which places 10th in all major league baseball, and a RAR of 81.3, placing 11th.The Mariners have gotten amazing pitching from Jason Vargas, signs of life from Chris Jakubauskas, Garrett Olson, and Brandon Morrow, and since returning from the DL, Ryan Rowland-Smith has posted a FIP of 3.61 in AAA.
While there are only two more rotation spots avilable, this problem is the type that most GM's dream of, and with the need for starting pitching from top end teams, the Mariners have put themselves to be sellers and buyers in this exculusive market.
While having five good arms is great, there are currently only two spots avilable.
Let's review the current caniadates for the job:
Chris Jakubauskas—Chris came out to spring training this year and beat the door down throwing strikes. He impressed management so much that he won a bullpen job, and when Ryan Rowland-Smith went down was quickly insereted into the starting rotation. While he has been mediocre at best with a FIP of 4.68, and already being 31, the thought is that he dosnt have much left for improvement.
However, looking back on his minor league stats, he has continued to show improvement at each level. At 29, he posted an average-looking 3.73 FIP in AA. One year later, he was turning heads with a 2.86 in six games started, earning a promotion to Tacoma.
While he didnt do anything impressive, he did post a 3.45 FIP. He came out and showed he can compete at an MLB-level this year and with a curve that boarder lines above average. Also, he posted a 3.2 RAR while starting vs. 1.6 from the pen, indicating that he is more comfortable starting.
Garrett Olson—While not doing anything to blow anyone over (with the exception to the three straight outs with the bases loaded coming in from the pen vs. Texas last week), Olson has been consistent and shown that he is able to be a productive pitcher despite posting a FIP of 5.71.
He did post a FIP of 3.47 in AAA, and while he has struggled as a starter, his relieving RAR of 2.1 shows promise. While he has an outrageous 12.5% HR/FB rate, (2.5-3% higher than his career avg), it should eventually settle down around eight percent, and we will see his FIP drop and match his sparkling 1.27 WHIP. He pitches to contact and is susceptible to streaks. I believe Garrett is better suited for the bullpen but has shown hints of promise.
Brandon Morrow—Wow...I really should do this one last but hey, sometimes you just need to get this one out of the way. Brandon has not looked healthy at all this season and with his bullpen implosion, we saw yet another episode in the epic saga of "do we or don't we start him."
Brandon has the ceiling of a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. Some may be getting tired of the antics and drama that surrounds his situation, not to mention this season's poor statistical showing. We should flush the first half of this season down the drain and start all over once the AAA season is over and rosters expand.
Barely having even 50 innings pitched within the minor leagues we don't have an efficient sample of what he can really do on a pro level. While he's been poor in certain outings, he has looked brilliant in others. This leads people to suspect once we gain control of his pitches he will be another feared arm within the Seattle arsnel.
Jason Vargas— A throw-in to many of us during the J.J. Putz deal, Jason is showing us how valuable he really is. A former canidate for the rookie of the year in 2006, he lost all of 2008 due to injuries and has come back in a mighty way in 2009—posting a FIIP of 4.71 and worth a RAR of 4.1, with a WHIP of 1.35.
Vargas is reemerging as the pitcher people thought he could be back as a Florida Marlins prospect. While he won't be anything better than a No. 4 pitcher, Vargas has shown to be an excellent addition to this team and at 26, still is hitting his prime years.
Ryan Rowland-Smith—A local farm hand from the land down under. RRS has worked his way into the hearts of many a Seattle fan. Despite the poor outing shown in Oakland, Ryan has shown he has the talent and tools to be a starting pitcher for this club.
He has regained his velocity (89-92 mph) down at Tacoma and since coming back from the DL has posted a 3.61 FIP and a WHIP of 1.32, showing his consistancy to throw strikes and keep runners off base. Last year, Rowland-Smith had a pitching RAR of 8.4, and while not quite being worth 1 WAR, there is potential for him to succeed within this rotation.
My final sumation is that our rotation should look like this:
Felix, Bedard, Washburn, Vargas, and Jakubauskas, with Rowland-Smith and Olson in the bullpen and Morrow spending time in AAA gaining control of his pitches. Once Morrow completes his assignment and shows his control, I believe he should bump Jakubauskas from the rotation back to the bullpen.
This situation should allow the Mariners to make a move this trade deadline and bring in someone not just for now at Shortstop, but for the future as well.