Mariners welcome back solid pitching rotation
The Seattle Mariners were able to have a solid 2014 season due mostly to an excellent starting rotation and stellar bullpen. This coming season should be no different. The King is back (Felix Hernandez) and he’s brought most of his 2014 royalty along with him. Absent from the rotation this year is the AL Comeback Player of the Year, Chris Young, but this rotation should be haunting teams–one fastball at a time. The fifth starter in the rotation is a toss-up, for now, with Roenis Elias, Taijuan Walker, and Erasmo Ramirez fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation. Here’s a look at the rotation for 2015:
The King’s Court will be in session once again in 2015. Hernandez came up just short of winning the AL Cy Young, but it was an outstanding season nonetheless. He finished his 2014 campaign with a record of 15-6, while recording a career high 248 strikeouts and a 2.14 ERA. If he would have had some run support last season, Hernandez would have cruised past 20 wins. Expect him to surpass the 20-win plateau in 2015 and win the AL Cy Young award in a blowout. After all, the Mariners have added some power to their lineup.
You might as well just refer to Iwakuma and Hernandez as 1A and 1B in the rotation. Iwakuma is a solid No. 2 starter in the rotation, and could most likely be an ace and true No. 1 on any other team (except the Dodgers). He finished last season with a 15-9 record to go with a 3.52 ERA and 154 strikeouts, and only allowed 21 walks to boot. Expect Iwakuma to befuddle hitters once again in 2015, and finish above 15 wins for the second straight season.
This young left-handed pitcher was a September call-up during the 2013 season, and won his first six combined starts in 2013/2014. He was plagued by injuries in 2014, but still finished with a respectable record of 6-4, with a 3.04 ERA while striking out 59 hitters and walking 29. Due to Paxton’s youth, he still proves to miss the strike zone on occasion and raise his pitch count. If he is able to throw more strikes this year, his K:BB ratio will increase, as will his win total. Expect him, if healthy, to reach 12+ wins in 2015.
Probably the wild card in the pitching rotation for the Mariners this season. He is a hard-headed, left-handed pitcher that has had his ups-and-downs in his career. He has taken line drives off his head and lived to tell about it, but hopefully he will find the strike zone more this season. He finished 2014 with an 11-11 record, with a 4.22 ERA and 133 strikeouts. On the positive side, he only gives up an average of 13.25 home runs a season. Look for him to flirt with a +.500 win percentage this coming season.
I expect Walker to win the fifth spot in the rotation for 2015, mainly due to his fastball, which can be sporadic at times. The 22-year-old pitcher can bring the heat from his right hand, and has all of the potential in the world. He should be able to better his K:BB ratio this season, and can be just as dominant of a pitcher as Felix Hernandez. If he can produce in 2015, this Mariners rotation can be referred to as the “Young Guns.” Expect Walker to hit 10 wins this season. Whether or not he has a +.500 win percentage is totally dependent upon his accuracy. He should be able to tally 10 wins this season.
The Mariners rotation this year will provide the rest of the MLB with a magic lesson. Almost all of them have decent fastballs (Hernandez and Walker are way above decent), and they can pull a rabbit out of their hats with the nasty breaking balls that they can throw. This season should be a “now you see it, now you don’t” lesson to MLB hitters, and we can expect the Mariners to make the playoffs for the first time in a long time.
Dustin Brown covers the Seattle Mariners for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @SprtsWritingMan.