MLB

The M’s starting rotation deserves more of the blame

With much of the fanbase focused on the struggling offense throughout this 2-11 stretch the Mariners have been on, it’s allowed the weakest group on the roster to be pretty much ignored. Throughout their first 263 innings this season, the Mariners starters have pitched 3.99/4.60/4.13 (ERA/FIP/xFIP) and they’ve done it while the unit has collectively struggled with a home run problem. All of that means is that, according to Fangraphs, this is the fourth worst starting staff in the season’s first month.

It’s not just the back end of the rotation that has performed below expectations, don’t just blame Matt Brash’s issues with command, it’s been everyone on the staff except for Logan Gilbert. Here are their numbers so far.

ERAxERA*FIPxFIPK/9BB/9HR/FB
Robbie Ray4.383.724.304.147.543.1611.1%
Logan Gilbert1.363.450.751.84936.3%
Marco Gonzales3.915.987.154.766.047.6524.2%
Chris Flexen4.245.074.584.415.822.6511.1%
Matt Brash7.657.025.834.678.557.6525%
Minimum of five starts | *xERA = expected ERA
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Brash was replaced with George Kirby in the rotation, and Kirby absolutely dazzled in his MLB debut, but his five starts have plated a part in the M’s struggles throughout the first month of the season.

Gilbert has looked every bit the ace Seattle thought it was getting when it signed Ray to that five-year, $115 million contract. Instead of the guy who won the Cy Young award in 2021, the Mariners have so far gotten the Robbie Ray that existed prior to his award winning season; which is a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter that eats innings and doesn’t let the game get away from them…but he has also not been the ace Seattle thought it was getting.

As for Gonzales, the 30 year old has been okay for a No. 3 starter. But he’s been snake bitten by some bone headed defensive plays that have led to a melt down inning in half of his starts this season (three) and then in a different start he was taken out of the game after 1/3 of an inning due to a line drive off of his pitching hand. The really big concern with the southpaw is the fact that he is giving up a ton of walks. His ERA is as low as it is confounds me a bit because his strand rate (71.4%) is below his career norm — while his ground ball rate is slightly above it.

Flexen has been a bit of an enigma, but his implosion against the Phillies on Monday night brought his basic stats more inline with the advanced peripherals. However, if he can eat innings and keep his ERA in the low 4s to high 3s than he’ll be a solid No. 5 starter.

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The consistent under performance of the starting staff has played a major roll in the team’s struggles the last two weeks. When the starter gives up three or four runs in the first four innings that completely changes the complexation of the game and puts more pressure on the offense; which will change the way they approach their plate appearances. And with the M’s offense currently missing Mitch Haniger, JP Crawford, and Tom Murphy — nearly every day bats — on the IL at this time…it’s a lot for the offense to overcome.

This also leads to problems for a bullpen that is missing Casey Sadler and Sergio Romo — and Ken Giles, if he ever gets healthy. It stretches relievers and and insures that the middle innings guys are seeing more usage early in the season than was expected.

Overall, Seattle’s starting pitchers have struggled to find any form of consistency throughout the first four weeks of the season. As a result, there is a trickle down effect that has put more pressure on the line-up and bullpen. Because both of those units are battling the injury bug at the moment, they aren’t able to pick-up the slack.

If Kirby is able to be a serviceable major league starter, that’s great. But it’s sure starting to look like relying on Brash and the young arms in the farm to anchor that number five spot was ill advised.

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