Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chariots of Feierabend

The Mariners are my fantasy baseball team - literally and figuratively.

I own plenty of them: Ichiro, Willie Outquist, Miguel Batista, the rights to Mark Lowe and Ryan Feierabend and until a recent trade, Kenji Johjima. Over the years, my team has been peppered with Mariners, which may in part explain my lack of success the past four seasons or so. Figuratively speaking, Bill Bavasi has employed a studs-and-scrubs building strategy, with poor previous results but a modicum of success this season (37-32). So did I, and so have I.

The Mariners have a can't-miss #1 starter, a lethal bullpen and not much in between. I have a can't-miss #1 starter, two lights-out closers and not much in between.

Both the Mariners and the McLaughlin Group ("Wrong!") could use a reliable, innings-eating 5th starter that throws strikes and keeps the team in the game until the 6th/7th innings. Cha Seung Baek was called up to be that guy, but (not surprisingly) has had mixed results, as evidenced by his 5.74 ERA and 1.5 WHIP. So who is riding to the rescue, replacing Baek in the rotation for the M's starting this Friday and may end up replacing one of no-name starters on my fantasy team as well?

Welcome back to the show, Ryan Feierabend.

Feierabend has a fair amount of pundits believing he's got a future in the big leagues. Check out this article from about a year ago in Prospect Insider:

"Then 19, he posted a stingy 1.16 ERA in July and a solid 3.44 mark in August. He’s continued with that success throughout this season, with few exceptions, and it’s probably about time we start talking about him as a legitimate prospect and a serious candidate to break into the M’s rotation within the next two seasons".


n the 48 2/3 innings, he’s allowed just 13 extra-base hits, including four home runs (he’s surrendered more than two XBH in a start just once). That’s 13 hits of two bases or more in 191 batters faced. That’s impressive for anyone at any level.

He’s tough on lefties (.232 avg, 1HR in 103 batters faced) and has a wicked pick-off move that often times ends up with the first baseman gunning down the runner at second base.

He’s allowed a .173 average to the first batter of the inning and has just three wild pitches all season. he does have areas of concern, such as performing with ducks on the pond and getting tougher with runners in scoring position and two down."

Jamie Moyer with a fastball, anyone?

Granted, that's hyperbole to the nth degree. Feierabend may well have similar inconsistent tendencies that Baek displayed. On the other hand, until Jeff Weaver's soul-selling shutout the other night, he had the longest outing for a Mariners starter this month at 7 1/3 innings. The league is hitting a relatively-modest .279 against him in 16 innings. It isn't a statistically-relevant sample size, but given the studs and scrubs strategy, we'll take it. Just for fun, here are the batting averages against the other M's starters so far this year:

Hernandez: .305
Washburn: .269
Batista: .299
Ramirez: .335
Baek: .292
Weaver: (trivia buffs, take note - this number is identical to Ty Cobb's lifetime BA): .367.

Given the high numbers across-the-board and the disasters that Ramirez and Weaver have been, Feierabend's 4.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and relatively-low BA against portend well for an extended stay in the rotation. Let's hope so. The offense appears generally good enough to produce most nights, the defense is one of the best in the league and the bullpen is top notch. Bavasi's patchwork, crazy quilt rotation is the gigantic Achille's heel of this team.

The Mariners aren't likely to contend for the playoffs this year, but an 84-88 win season would do wonders for the psyches of success-deprived Seattleites everywhere. It might even spare Bavasi and Hargrove from the hangman's noose. Sorry about that, M's fans.


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