Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have both gotten off to amazing starts so far this year, and are pitching at all-star levels. As is always however, they are not getting enough run support to have an overwhelming amount of wins, and that combined with the fact they are on the Mariners, means they will not get much national credit. But locally, fans are starting to take notice. Iwakuma’s 1.67 ERA is third among American League starters, and Felix’s 1.90 ERA was sixth among American League starters coming into Friday, but his dominant performance against Toronto dropped it even further to 1.60. These stats beg the question, where does Seattle's pitching duo rank among other American League starting combos? There is certainly room for debate in the following rankings, but they are based off performance thus far this season.
Yu Darvish/Alexi Ogando (Texas):
-Darvish is having a great season so far, being top 10 in ERA and top 5 in WHIP, while leading the American League in strikeouts. Ogando is having a strong campaign as well, but there are some really good duos in this league, and Ogando drags down the group just enough to leave them out of my top five. Look out for Derek Holland, as well.
CC Sabathia/Huroki Kuroda (New York):
-These two are recurring members to this list, and are consistently very good. Sabathia’s numbers are slightly down from his previous seasons, but Kuroda has been stellar, posting top 10 numbers in both ERA and WHIP. CC’s slight decline from previous years is hurting this duo from cracking the top five, but they are still a fearsome group.
Justin Masterson/Zach McAllister (Cleveland):
-These are two guys that are probably relatively unknown to the public, but they are still pretty dang good pitchers. Both of them have better ERA’s than Sabathia, while posting similar WHIP and strikeout numbers. They are two young guys, who in a couple years could be really scary.
The Top Five:
5. Ervin Santana(3-1, 2.00 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 31 K)/James Shields(2-2, 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 39 K) (Kansas City):
Remember, this is off performance so far this season, and these two new additions to the Royals staff have had really good seasons so far, and have made Kansas City real players in the American League through the first month of the season. They have the third best record in the league and this is due in large part to the pitching and leadership of these two guys. They are both top 15 in ERA, top 10 in WHIP, and top 20 in strikeouts. This is astoundingly good, especially considering they are both new to the Royals this year. One knock on these guys is the fact that their team is winning, but they are not. The Royals have the third best record in the American League, but these two have only combined for five wins. Although this stat can be misleading, facts are still facts, and they combine for five wins, which is as many as one of the two pitchers the next group has. It was hard to put these guys fifth considering their numbers, but the next four duos have been virtually unstoppable.
4. Matt Moore(5-0, 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 38 K)/Alex Cobb(3-2, 2.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 27 K) (Tampa Bay):
Matt Moore has been absolutely unstoppable, easily one of the top five starters in the American League so far this season. This combined with Alex Cobb’s surprise success has been helpful to the offensively challenged Rays, especially because David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, who were thought to be the top two pitchers on the staff coming into the season, have really pitched horribly. This duo gets the slight nod over the Kansas City crew because of the “Ace Factor” (Matt Moore has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball) and because they were supposed to be the third and fourth best starters on the team.
3. Jon Lester(4-0, 3.11 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 33 K)/Clay Buchholz(6-0, 1.01 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 47 K) (Boston):
My Boston connection might factor in here, but nonetheless the Red Sox have reaped the benefits of these two so far this season. Lester has really bounced back after having the worst season since his rookie year last year. He has had one shaky start, but besides that has looked really strong, and the consistency has been a big thing for the Sox. Bucholz on the other hand has been the best pitcher in baseball through the first month. Not only is he the first pitcher to six wins, but he leads the league in ERA, is top five in WHIP, and is tied for third in strikeouts.
2. Justin Verlander(3-2, 1.83 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 41 K)/Anibal Sanchez (3-2, 1.82 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 50 K) (Detroit):
The Tigers rotation is so good that it was hard to pick just two pitchers to use as the dynamic duo. Anibal Sanchez has had the best pure numbers out of any of the Tigers starters, and they really have been good. He is towards the top of the list for ERA and WHIP, and second in the league in strikeouts. As good as he has been, and even though the numbers don’t show it, Verlander has been even more dominant, and that is no surprise. He has had a really good follow-up to his Cy Young and MVP season last year, and his top ten numbers in virtually all categories proves that. These two guys are definitely a cut above the last group, and they're on the better team.
1. Felix Hernandez(3-2, 1.90 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 44 K)/Hisashi Iwakuma(2-1, 1.67 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 37 K) (Seattle):
Whooooooooooo! Something Mariner fans can actually get excited about! The top pitching duo in the American League belongs to the Seattle Mariners. King Felix has been stellar as usual, being towards the top of the league in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. He has been unhittable as usual, but just hasn’t gotten the run support to rack up wins, as is always the case. It’s possible however that Iwakuma has actually been better than the King so far this season. His ERA is third in the league, and his WHIP has been otherworldly, leading the league at an absurd 0.69. The only statistical weakness these guys have is wins, and that can be completely attributed to lack of run support. This ranking system is to determine who the best one-two punch is in terms of pure pitchers, and wins doesn’t really quantify that considering the Mariners haven’t been able to hit nearly to the level of the other teams on this list (except for the Rays). However one wants to slice it, Felix and 'Kuma are, right now, the top duo in the American League.
Photo Credit: Sonics Arena
Although a final decision will not come until around May 13th, the debate surrounding the Kings and their potential move to Seattle could not get any more heated than it already has. From Kevin Johnson taking shots at the Sonics attendance to David Stern personally calling out KING 5 News reports, this dilemma has it all. Depending on one's opinion, some may think Seattle’s offer is better or some may agree with Kevin Johnson and believe Sacramento has what it takes.
When the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, it gave the team a fresh new start. Even though the fans in Seattle were devastated, OKC fans and general fans of the NBA were ecstatic. In the years leading up to the move, the Sonics were not playing well, but the future looked bright with Kevin Durant. This move gave everybody on the team a renewed energy and really jump started Kevin Durant’s career. Oklahoma City has made the playoffs every year but their first in town. The new mindset the move gave the Thunder cannot be underestimated.
This same type of clean slate demeanor can also work out for the Kings if they move to Seattle. Even though Sacramento currently does not have an overwhelming star on their roster like the Sonics did with Kevin Durant, a new ownership group could instill a winning and successful culture. Plenty of money would be able to be spent on a free agency class that features Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala. There are also many other potential starters available in this pool that the “new” Sonics would be able to make a run at.
The Kings currently possess a very young roster. DeMarcus Cousins headlines the group and has shown his potential at times, but his uselessness at others. With Tyreke Evans becoming a free agent this offseason, the team would need to make some bold moves to put a respectable team out on the court. Other players such as Toney Douglas, James Johnson and Cole Aldrich are coming off of the books and should give the ownership even more money to spend. Money, combined with the new brand and culture, could make Seattle a prime destination for free agents.
But this influx of money could come from various sources. Seattle sports fans have not been too happy with the Mariners over the past ten years or so. If one were to ask a Seattleite who their favorite team was, it likely would not be the M's. However, the Seattle Mariners may be the most valuable franchise in Seattle. They recently signed a $2-billion TV deal with DIRECTV for the ownership rights to a new Regional Sports Network. One smart move by the team and Chuck Armstrong was publicly saying they would be willing to work with the "Sonics" if they were to come to Seattle next season, and perhaps show their games on this new network in the future. This would provide immense profit to all teams.
Next fall could be one of the best in Seattle sports history. The Seahawks could be in the middle of a Super Bowl run, the Huskies football team could be in the midst of their best season in recent memory and the “new” Sonics could be beginning their inaugural season in KeyArena, with the construction of Seattle Arena underway. If the NBA is paying attention, this would be hard to pass up.
Photo Credit: Pat Sullivan/Associated Press
Franklin Gutierrez has been known to be a fragile player over the past couple years, not even coming close to playing a full season. But in his first two years in Seattle, he sat out only 19 games total, yet in his last two he has missed over 100. At this point, Seattle fans have simply begun to expect an injury from Guti, and this year is no different as he sat out a few games earlier in the season with some leg soreness and now, most notably, has been sent to the DL for a hamstring injury.
With Michael Saunders already on the DL, the Mariners outfield is all of a sudden lacking depth, something it had plenty of before the season. Losing two of three starting outfielders can do that to a team, and with Michael Morse being in the middle of a slump since his return from a pinkie injury, all members of the opening day outfield for the Mariners are either hurt or not performing. Injuries happen to every team, but what’s important is how the team responds to these injuries. Can guys step up?
The starting outfield will most likely be Endy Chavez in center with Raul Ibanez/Jason Bay in left and Michael Morse in right. Although Gutierrez and Saunders haven’t been able to keep the production consistent because of injuries, they have been two of the better hitters on the Mariners, so losing them is a big loss, especially considering who is coming in to replace them. Bay is a new addition, and after having a great year with the Red Sox (over 30 homers and 110 RBIs) several years ago, his production has disappeared. Chavez is a bit of a liability at the plate as well. He has bounced around the league and has not been able to maintain any consistent success.
Outfielders aside, the younger players need to start stepping up. Kyle Seager has been fantastic of late, and shows no signs of letting up, and even Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero have hit balls hard recently. But this isn't the minor leagues, thus, consistency is key. And right now, the Mariners don't have that.