Consistency Of Rotation Key To Resurgence

In his second in a series of report cards, contributor Eric Yang looks at the Mariners' starting rotation and is frustrated by the lack of consistency.

The Seattle Mariners started the 2008 season in hopes of winning a division title and going deep in the playoffs. However, the team has had many problems thus far and it's made Mariners Nation anxious and confused. It has been a struggle so far and any fan can see that. There is no easy solution to these problems, but as the season is more than a third old, grades are out for the starting pitching.

Starting Rotation: C+

The Mariners' starting rotation has been the best asset so far this season. With the likes of Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez heading the rotation you can almost never go wrong. Bedard was injured and missed a few weeks when put on the DL. He has a good record and ERA, but his velocity is down. His hip perhaps? We may never know until it acts up again or he starts to show it more on the field. Last season he was clocked at 90 to 92 and could rush it up to 95 when needed. So far this season he has only got up to 93 on the fastball. If he can continue to pitch this way and add more velocity, then he is the least of the worries on a staff that has struggled as of late.

Hernandez is still only 22 years of age and much is expected from him. He no longer needs to be the ace on this squad and that itself relieves some pressure. His record is not an indication on how good he has pitched. Bad run support and bad managing have affected his win-loss record. The King needs to just be himself and everything will fall into place. He has some of the best stuff of any pitcher in either league---he just needs to go out there and prove it.

Now, moving on to the free agent addition of Carlos Silva: He signed a four year, $48 million deal to come to Seattle from Minnesota. He was better than expected in his first month as a Mariner. In May, however, he is coming back to earth with a few bad starts and lack of run support which is one of the main reasons why the team is where it's at. Silva also had the worst start of his career on Friday night against Detroit. Silva has to revert back to April when he had a good record and outstanding ERA or else the team may sink even further. He risks being called a free agent bust if no improvements are made.

The Mariners put 16-game winner Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn in the number four and five slots of the rotation after getting Bedard and Silva this winter. Washburn may not have Batista`s control issues, but another problem lies in front of him. Velocity, plain and simple, is down from when he was an Angel. Back then he threw at least 91mph, now he throws barely 87 and on most nights is at 84 and below. Location is an issue too, but the lack of velocity is concerning not only to fans, but the front office as well. Lower velocity equals fewer strikeouts and more balls being hit hard into play and that's not good for a pitcher who induces fly balls. He has had a bit of a calf injury, and perhaps that has contributed to his problems. He was skipped in his last turn in. He has not pitched as well as the team would have liked for two years now. If he doesn' get his act together, then he may be demoted to the bullpen to work out his issues.

Batista has been the worst starter overall this year. He won 16 games in 2007 and was the team's win leader. This season he has struggled mightily, particularly in the early part of the game. In at least two of his starts, he hasn't made it out of the first inning and walked more than innings pitched. He is the best candidate to go to the bullpen since he has been there before. If the team wanted to replace him, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and many prospects await at AAA Tacoma.

Although the pitching has been more consistent than the rest of the team so far it has to get even better if the Mariners want to have a chance to win the AL West. Pitching wins ballgames in the regular season and in the playoffs. But in order to get to the playoffs the rotation has to be better and not let the team fall even further behind. In the end, Bedard and Hernandez will be leading the M's as far as they can, and Silva reverting back to form will be key to getting back in the hunt.

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