Seattle Mariners Should Remain Confident in Tom Wilhelmsen as Closer
The Seattle Mariners are in third place in the American League West, trailing the Texas Rangers by nine games. They are also five games below .500 at 20-25 and haven’t found the success that they would like to. However, there’s no doubt that they have shown some promise and could still make a run at the MLB Playoffs as the season goes on.
Seattle has enjoyed some hot streaks at the plate from Michael Morse and now Justin Smoak and have seen Kyle Seager show a good bat for most of the season. They have also enjoyed great starts from Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of their starting rotation. They have also, unexpectedly, gotten a lift from their bullpen, particularly Tom Wilhelmsen, who has found his way into the closer role.
The 29-year-old Wilhelmsen has appeared and 18 games and in 12 save opportunities this season. Overall he has pitched 19 innings and has been absolutely fantastic. He currently has converted 11 of those save opportunities, has a fantastic 0.47 ERA, and has an 0.68 WHIP to start the season, all of which are the best numbers of his young career.
This is just Whilhelmsen’s third season in the big leagues and his go-round as a closer. That doesn’t change the fact that he has improved a great deal. His strikeout rate has lowered from 9.87 Ks per nine innings last season to just 7.11 this year. However, he is walking just 2.37 batters per nine innings, far less than last year, and has improved his groundball rate from 48.3 percent last season to 52.9 percent this season. He’s also yet to allow a home run this year.
On Monday, Wilhelmsen blew his first save of the year, allowing an unearned run on two hits. However, the Mariners shouldn’t overreact or do anything drastic at all. Wilhelmsen has been this year’s “closer-that-came-out-of-nowhere” and has been fantastic for them. If they do get things turned around this season, it will be great for them to be able to bring in Wilhelmsen at the end of games.