Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge is very fortunate that he has an experienced bullpen going into the 2013 season. Every pitcher that is slated to be in the bullpen saw time at the MLB level last season. Wedge is lucky enough to three very good lefties that can he can rely on.
In the 2012 season the Mariners bullpen had an ERA of 3.39, compared to the starting rotation’s ERA of 3.93. The lefties in the bullpen dominated hitters, limiting left handed hitters to a batting average of .226 and striking out close to nine batters per nine innings.
The Mariners have three talented left-handers available for the 2013 season: Lucas Luetge, Oliver Perez and Charlie Furbush.
Luetge, a rule-5 draft selection from the Milwaukee Brewers, did not allow an earned run until his 25th appearance on June 19, after making the club out of spring training. Luetge may be the only soft-tosser in this bullpen, with a fastball the only averages 89.3 MPH. Luetge was primarily a situational reliever, pitching to the best lefties in the opponents’ lineups, and held left-handed hitters to .186 average.
Oliver Perez used to be one of the better starting pitchers in MLB when he was with the New York Mets, but problems with control now have Perez pitching in the Mariners Bullpen. Perez pitched 29 innings for the M’s in 2012, and only walked three hitters per nine innings, compared to his career rate of 5.03 BB/9.
Health was also a problem for Perez before he was a member of the Mariners, but now that he is healthy, Perez has seen his fastball velocity rise to career high 93.7 MPH on average. This could be a product of pitching out of the bullpen and putting more effort into every pitch. Whatever it is, it’s working for Perez, who pitched primarily in long relief during the 2012 season.
Charlie Furbush was supposed to be a starter when was acquired by the Mariners from the Detroit Tigers in return for RHP Doug Fister in the middle of the 2011 season. Furbush made 12 starts and struggled in all of them, pitching to an abysmal 6.83 ERA. However, in 2012 Furbush was moved to bullpen and pitched incredibly well, as he limited hitters to a .171 average (.143 to lefties).
Furbush throws an above average fastball and a “nasty” slider, a pitch that was eight runs above average, and was murderous on left handed hitters in 2012. Furbush recorded more than a strikeout per inning he pitched (42% of K’s with slider). Furbush will be used as a setup reliever in the 2013 season.
The AL West is a division that is full of very good left handed hitters including: Josh Hamilton, Josh Reddick, Carlos Pena, David Murphy, and A.J. Pierzynski. The Mariners have the bullpen depth necessary to shorten a game and the ability to play matchup to neutralize some of the best hitters in the league.