Saturday, July 28, 2007

How to fix the pitching staff: to Morrow!

Thank goodness the "good Felix" appeared last night - just in the nick of time. Ichiro, Vidro, Guillen and Beltre swung the bat well, and the bullpen locked down the win with two scoreless innings as the M's finally broke their seven-game losing streak with a 7-1 triumph.

Even team-killer Jose Guillen sensed the importance of the victory, which snapped a season-long losing streak. "That was a very important win for us", he said. "Guys were starting to panic, saying 'Let's go! We have to get a win'".

Although the offense was largely to blame for the recent cold spell, it has, for the most part, performed well enough to win games. Six of the nine regular position players are batting .269 or above as of this writing, the team is 7th in the A.L. in runs scored, 4th in batting average, 7th on OBP and 8th in OPS. No great shakes, but certainly adequate in most of the major metrics.

Let's turn to the pitching. Here's where the M's rank (A.L. only) in the major pitching categories: 11th in ERA, 11th in strikeouts, 9th in hits allowed, and 10th in WHIP.

With the bullpen having performed so well this year, clearly the starting pitching is the team's Achilles heel. Felix isn't consistent, Washburn is pitching more like a #3, Batista is, well, Batista and Weaver and Ramirez are ticking time bombs. Bavasi is scouring the major leagues as the trade deadline approaches for a big arm to add to the faltering staff, no doubt pondering whether someone like Roy Oswalt is worth Adam Jones. However, there's someone out there whose fastball touches 98 mph who would fit like a glove in the #4 slot, bumping Weaver to #5 and Ramirez to long relief. He's young, readily available and would cost the Mariners the grand total of 0 prospects or major leaguers, since he's already on the roster.

Remember the two scoreless innings of bullpen mop-up duty mentioned above? Hello, Brandon Morrow.

No, his arm isn't quite "ready" for 6-7 inning duty right now. On the other hand, neither is Dustin Moseley's for the Angels, yet with Colon on the DL, that's who will be replacing him in the rotation. Moseley doesn't deserve to walk on the same side of the street as Morrow from a potential perspective. Morrow's got the big arm, has started in college and is already used in 2+ inning stints, as evidenced by last night's game. Send him down to Tacoma for a few weeks to get his arm in shape. It's a complete waste to have him close out a 7-1 game when Green, Reitsma, Sherrill and Lowe are ready and waiting to serve in the set-up role.

Mac, send Morrow down - today - and elevate the others as you see fit to his role. Go with the hot hand if you like, or strictly by the book. Let's not waste Morrow's first-round talent now, especially when the Mariners have so many options at the moment. What they don't have is quality starting pitching beyond their top three, and that's precisely what he'd bring to the table.

Oh, while you're at it, bring Adam Jones up, too. He's the only seasoned prospect of his caliber still languishing in the minors in baseball. But that's another topic for another day.

I will boldly predict that this team will win the AL West if Morrow is made a starter within the next three weeks. The Angels have the upper hand, but are battling starting pitching problems of their own now and don't have the offensive depth we do. If it doesn't happen, and especially if they don't go get someone of Oswalt's caliber on the trade market, they won't. Simple as that.

Get it done.


At 9:19 AM, Blogger Patrick said...

With the control problems that Morrow has shown this season? Putting him in the rotation would be suicide UNTIL he gets his act together in regards to balls and strikes. I haven't seen enough of the "good" Morrow yet to clear him for the rotation.

At 7:45 PM, Blogger Walter said...

That's a fair criticism. However, it may be that, as a short reliever, he's pitching differently than he would as a starter. In his final college season, he walked 39 in 96 2/3 IP. Certainly not the numbers of a control pitcher, but roughly Miguel Batista territory - and he's our top starter from a wins perspective.

Besides, he'd ostensibly go down for three weeks or so in order to work on the very things he'd need to do to be successful as a major league starter. Control would have to be top of the list.


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