Mariners turn bullpen, and Los Bomberos is flourishing

By Jordan Shusterman
Fox Sports MLB Writer

In Detroit last month, several members of Mariners Bullpen went out to dinner. for right hand Paul Seewald, it was familiar in a sense, as a group of Seattle relief workers gathered for dinner about 14 months ago during their annual visit to the Motor City. But then Sewald realized something.

“I looked around,” Seewald told Fox Sports. “And literally just Flaming Beige, the bullpen catcher, and I were the only two people who were there a year ago.”

As has become common in the Jerry Dipoto era, the Mariners roster has actually changed substantially over the past calendar year and for the better.

The 2021 Mariners were like a mirage. He won 90 games with a margin of minus -51 runs but an off-the-charts fun difference — thanks in large part to a 33-18 record in one-run games — making for a wild season, though not one that felt particularly sustainable.

In return, Dipoto made significant upgrades to the roster this past winter and again on the trade deadline, which has placed the Mariners in excellent position to end their post-drought more than two decades.

But the development – ​​and change – of Bullpen in particular is one that deserves a closer look. A large part of the team’s success in close matches a year earlier was based on a bullpen that Delivered continuously when called, While it was hardly filled with household names, it was filled with hidden gems like Seewald, Drew Steckenraider And Casey SadlerWho were constantly slamming the door when his name was called. Rafael Monteiro, anthony missewiczWill West, JT Chargois and Kenan Middleton Each made 30+ performances. Kendall Graveman Up until his trade for Houston was downright effective.

As Seewald observed, for a variety of reasons, from trades to injuries to poor performance, none of those people are still around. And yet: “We were the top five bullpen in the league last year. And now we are the top five bullpen in the league again with completely different guys,” said Seewald. “When you think about it that way, we’ve replaced last year’s really great pitchers with better pitchers this year. It’s been really fun to watch.”

This year, the Seattle Bullpen has a slew of new faces and perhaps more importantly, a new nickname: Los Bomberos. Fireman.

Sewald can lead the team in saves with 19, but andres munozu – One Who introduced the nickname Bomberos Bullpen? – Has been a clear headliner. The 23-year-old right-handed batsman was acquired San Diego Austin returned to the 2020 trade deadline as part of NOLA. He demonstrated his electric heater in 23 innings with the Padres as a 20-year-old in 2019, but spring training the following year required Tommy John’s surgery which took him off the radar for a while.

Now fully back from TJ, Munoz has picked up right where he left off with one of the most dynamic fastball-slider combos in baseball—one that bears close resemblance to the former Mariners. edwin diazoo, Manager Scott Servais has deployed him in any instance of a high-leveraged position, no matter what the innings, and Munoz has delivered time and time again. He is currently ranked ninth fWAR. all relievers in and has a 39.3% strike rate which is only behind the Diaz above.

It’s hard to match Munoz’s high-octane arsenal, but there’s no shortage of the pure stuff in this bullpen. Eric SwansonThe splitter Diego CastleWhy sinker? Matt Festaslider of And arguably the crown jewel of them all, the rookie Matt BrashoThe funny breaking ball of.

A starter at High-A, when Sewald was out for dinner in Detroit last year, burst onto the scene in 2022, especially since going into the bullpen full-time. He also throws loudly like Munoz, but that’s it. his sliderwhich features more horizontal movement More than any other in baseball that has the attention of his teammates—and pitching ninjas:

“The 90-mph slider with a horizontal speed of 20 inches is rather unfair,” Reliever pen murphy Said of his teammate’s extraordinary pitch.

“It’s crazy,” agreed Festa. “What do you have to do with this?”

Brash started the year in the Seattle rotation but struggled with strike-throw enough to inspire a demotion and eventual transition to a relief role that has worked wonders. After posting an ERA of 7.65 in 20 innings as a starter, the 24-year-old has an ERA of 1.50 in 24 relief innings, including 12 consecutive scoreless outings till August 17.

Brash’s integration also flowed seamlessly into a bullpen that was slowly finding its way through the heat – like the rest of the roster.

dramatic though brawl with angels June 26 is often cited as the turning point of this Mariners season, with the turnaround actually starting weeks earlier. After falling 29–39 on June 19, Seattle broke a five-game winning streak before losing the game that had sparked controversy. A few days later, a new streak began—a 14-game heater that took Seattle to the All-Star break.

In June, chances of breaking Seattle’s historic playoff drought plummeted less than 5%, Now, with just a few weeks to play, FanGraphs predicts a drought with a 99% chance that it will break.

from 21st JuneThe Mariners have gone 51–23, a nearly 112-win pace in 162 games, and have the second-best record in MLB behind only the Dodgers (58–19).

Here it is stated that Relief Corp Stacks Across the league since then:

3.5 FWAR (3rd)

2.48 Epoch (First)

3.28 FIP (Second)

27.2% Strike-rate (sec)

80% Strand Rate (before)

.188 BAA (1st)

1.03 whip (second)

As good as the 2021 unit was, Los Bomberos has set a new standard. And while this year’s group has arguably surpassed last year’s pure talent, they have also benefited greatly from what is clearly lacking in the 2021 team: elite pitching.

Mariners starting pitchers have posted a 3.35 ERA since June 21, the fourth-lowest in baseball, and have been particularly unreliable as of late.

Having such a reliable starting rotation helps teams win baseball games—it allows the reliever to relax and enjoy each other’s company for the first half of the game without worrying about coming off earlier than planned. Is.

“The fact that we don’t have bullpen days twice a week makes it a lot easier for us,” Seewald said. “There’s not much panic there.

“We think we really have four innings to go around and mess around and talk.”

“Like four innings, there’s a real thing for everyone,” Festa said. “I can’t keep my mouth shut, so I’m always talking. Me and Swanee have a lot of fun.”

Eventually, relaxation and conversation turn into focus and preparation.

“We are very comfortable with whatever situation comes upon us,” Festa said.

“Our Bullpen Coach [Trent Blank] Works really well,” Murphy said. “If there’s a situation where he feels he needs to inform us about something that might come up during the game, he’s about to alert us.” I am very good. We’re in a pretty good sense of rhythm when a few names are called.”

This is what Murphy referred to Blank, a key member of the Mariners’ pitching development group since joining the organization in 2019.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s with our first rounder or our 30th rounder: We really believe we can make everyone better,” Blanc said after the promotion. For Bullpen Coach and Director of Pitching Strategy for the 2021 Season,

Building a bullpen isn’t just about getting the guys who throw the hardest or who have the worst things like Munoz or Brash. It’s also about finding players who can easily Get out, the way Murphy—a former 33-round pick who didn’t begin pitching full-time until his senior year of college—has performed in his breakout rookie campaign. The 28-year-old has posted a 2.68 ERA and ranked 0.91 WHIP in 58.1 IP 12th lowest of all eligible relieversSewald (0.77) and Swanson (0.88) with two out of 11 less than that.

“Throwing hard is sexy. And don’t get me wrong, I like hell wish I could throw 95-100,” said Murphy, whose fastball average is about 89 MPH but who has the ability to suppress hard contact. Among the best in the whole league, “I think it’s about creating unique looks and more than anything else to keep people off balance. You can do that with 90.”

Seewald echoed this sentiment: “As we have seen, [velocity] It’s not the only thing that matters. It gets you away with a few mistakes, but depending on the angle, I can throw pitches right in the middle at 91 and be as effective as someone who throws a 96 in the middle.”

Both Murphy and Seewald have thrived as Mariners by relying on unusual release points to compensate for the relatively below-average velocity for a late-inning reliever.

“Unique is the most important thing,” said Seewald. “Penn and I have something very unique, step into our bodies, throw from a low angle, throw the ball up [deliveries] … but it’s funny, he has a cut-ride, I have a run-ride. Our pitch features are completely different, even though our delivery is very similar. If you told a 2004 pitching coach that we were both on the same team, they would think you had the same two pitchers. Why would you want the two of them together?”

Since this isn’t 2004, the Mariners have found a way to maximize these two similar-but-different deliveries in the same bullpen, even if they’re not throwing a billion mph.

That’s not to say that Seewald can’t appreciate how hard big league pitchers are throwing these days. “that game we played against yankees when [Luis] castillo pitted against gerrit cole, I, [Scott] afros and [Matt] Festa was the only three pitcher who threw a fastball under 95. In a 13-innings game! The development of velocity is insane.”

Actually, the numbers from that August classic are astonishing, Nine different pitchers combined to throw 202 of a total of 367 pitches in a game above 95 mph, with only Sewald (94.7), Festa (94.0) and side-armor Efros (91.9) in that range. below max.

Beyond Velocity’s historic performance, that game was one of Seattle’s signature victories of the season—a profound performance they could hang with a powerhouse team such as Yankees In an epic battle for 13 innings.

The Mariners’ apparent goal, entering 2022, was simple: to end the drought. More than two decades is a long time without postseason baseball.

The Mariners are a solid offensive team, led by a generational talent Julio Rodriguez And just enough other impact batsmen in the All-Star ty france and home run machine Eugene Suarez To make the anti-pitcher sweat.

On the mound, however, Seattle boasts an incredibly deep group of pitchers that matches with almost any league. This is the group that ensured that the Mariners would eventually play postseason baseball games again.

Better Yet, This Is the Group That Gives the Mariners the Best Chance Victory Postseason baseball game again.

Jordan Shusterman is half of @CespedesBBQ and baseball writer for Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_,

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