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Mariners change bullpen, Los Bomberos are thriving

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To Jordan Shusterman
FOX Sports MLB Writer

In Detroit last month, several members of the Mariners’ bullpen went out to dinner. For right-handed Paul Sewald, it was, in a way, familiar, as a group of Seattle relief workers met for dinner about 14 months ago during their annual trip to the Motor City. Sevart noticed something.

“I looked around,” Sewald told FOX Sports. “It was literally just bullpen catcher Fleming Baez and myself, the only two people who were there a year ago.”

The Mariners roster has actually changed quite a bit over the last calendar year, as has become pretty normal in the Jerry DePoto era.

The 2021 Mariners have been something of a mirage. They had a run difference of -51 and he won 90, but fell off the charts. fun differentiation — It was a wild season, though it didn’t feel particularly sustainable thanks to a record of 33-18 in 1-run games.

Next, DiPoto made significant upgrades to his roster this winter and again at trade deadlines, putting the Mariners in a prime position to finally end their more than 20-year postseason drought.

But the bullpen’s evolution and transformation in particular are worth a closer look. Much of the team’s success in the close race a year ago was based in the bullpen. Consistently delivered when requestedIt wasn’t brimming with familiar names, but it was chock-full of hidden gems like Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and Casey Sadler. Rafael Montero, Anthony Misiewicz, Will Vest, JT Chargois and Keynan Middleton each made over 30 appearances. Kendall Graveman was completely dominant until the trade to Houston.

As Sewald observed, none of them are around yet, for reasons ranging from trades to injuries to underperformance. Still, “we were a top five bullpen in the league last year, and now we’re a top five bullpen in the league again, with a completely different set of players,” Sewald said. We just replaced last year’s really great pitcher with a better pitcher this year. It was really fun to watch.”

There are many new faces in the Seattle bullpen this year, and perhaps more importantly, a new nickname: Los Bomberos. Firefighter.

Sewald may lead the team with 19 saves, but Andres Muñoz has one. Who Introduced the Bomberos Bullpen Nickname — was a clear headline. The 23-year-old right-hander was acquired from San Diego as part of his holeback for Austin Nola on his deadline for the 2020 trade. He showed off an electric heater in his 23rd inning at the Padres in 2019 at the age of 20, but the next year’s spring training required Tommy his John surgery, keeping him off the radar for a while. I’m out.

A full return from TJ, Muñoz picked up where he left off with one of the most dynamic fastball-slider combos in baseball. It’s very similar to former Mariners closer Edwin Diaz’s combo. Manager Scott Servais placed him in a situation similar to a high leverage situation, regardless of the innings, and Muñoz delivered again and again.he is currently ninth All Relief for fWAR His 39.3% strikeout rate is second only to the aforementioned Diaz.

It’s hard to match Munoz’s energetic arsenal, but there’s no shortage of pure stuff in this bullpen. Splitter by Erik Swanson. Diego Castillo sinker. Mat festa slider. And arguably the crown jewel of them all, newcomer Matt Blush’s ridiculous curveball.

Blush was a high-A starter when Sewald went out to dinner in Detroit last year, but burst onto the scene in 2022, especially after moving full-time to the bullpen. He throws hard like Muñoz, his slider,feature more horizontal movement More than anyone in baseball who has the attention of his teammates and PitchingNinja

“A 90 mph slider with 20 inches of horizontal travel is pretty unfair,” reliever Penn Murphy said of his teammate’s outstanding pitching.

“Insane,” Festa agreed. “What are you supposed to do with it?”

Brash started the year in Seattle’s rotation but performed phenomenally, struggling to hit enough to prompt relegation and eventually transition to the relief role. After posting a 7.65 ERA over 20 innings, the 24-year-old posted a 1.50 ERA over 24 innings.

Blush’s integration flowed seamlessly into the bullpen, which had slowly made its progress as the summer progressed — just like the rest of the roster.

dramatic brawl with angels June 26th is often cited as the turning point of this Mariners season, but the turnaround actually began the week before. After falling 29-39 on June 19, Seattle rattled off a five-game winning streak before losing a game in which a brawl broke out. A few days later, a new streak began — a 14-game heat that carried Seattle to the All-Star break.

Seattle’s odds of breaking historic playoff drought dropped in June only 5%Now, with just a few weeks of play, FanGraphs predicts there’s a 99% chance the drought will be over.

After June 21stThe Mariners are 51-23, on pace for about 112 wins in 162 games, the second-best record in MLB behind the Dodgers (58-19).

this is their way Rescuers pile up Since then, across the league:

3.5 fWAR (3rd)

ERA 2.48 (first time)

3.28 FIPs (sec)

27.2% strikeout rate (2nd time)

80% strand rate (first)

.188 BAA (first)

1.03 WHIPs (seconds)

Like the 2021 unit, Los Bomberos set a new standard. And while this year’s group has arguably outperformed last year in sheer talent, they’ve also benefited greatly from something the 2021 team clearly lacked: elite starting pitchers.

The Mariners’ starting pitcher has posted the fourth-lowest 3.35 ERA in baseball since June 21, which is particularly staggering these days.

A reliable starting rotation like this not only helps teams win baseball games, but it also allows them to relax and keep each other company in the first part of the game without worrying about relief pitchers arriving ahead of schedule. You can also enjoy

“The fact that we don’t have bullpen days twice a week is a no-brainer for us,” Sewald said.

“It really feels like you have four innings to hang out and mess around with and talk to.”

“Everyone is really talkative about four innings,” Festa added. “I can’t keep my mouth shut, so we talk all the time. Me and Swannee have a lot of fun.”

Eventually, relaxation and conversation turn into focus and preparation.

“We are very comfortable in whatever situation we face,” Festa said.

“Our bullpen coach [Trent Blank] He’s doing a really good job,” Murphy said. I’m just starting to get a pretty good rhythm of when certain names are called. ”

It’s fitting that Murphy referred to Blank, who has been a key member of the Mariners’ pitching development group since joining the Mariners in 2019.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first round or the 30th round. I believe we can make everyone better,” Blank said after his promotion. To bullpen coach and pitching strategy director for the 2021 season.

Building the bullpen isn’t just about getting players like Muñoz and Brash who throw the strongest or have the most nasty stuff.It’s also about finding players who can simply go outThe 28-year-old has a 2.68 ERA, a 58.1 IP, and a 0.91 WHIP. doing. 12th lowest among eligible relieverstwo of the 11 lower than him are Sewald (0.77) and Swanson (0.88).

“Throwing hard is sexy. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could throw 95-100,” Murphy said. the best in the whole league“I think it’s all about creating unique looks, and most of all, keeping the man off balance. That’s possible at 90.”

Sewald echoes this sentiment when he says: [velocity] That’s not all that matters. You can get away with a few mistakes, but depending on the angle, you can throw the ball in the middle with a 91 and it’s just as effective as someone throwing a 96 in the middle. ”

Both Murphy and Sewald have had success as Mariners, using unusual release points to compensate for the relatively subpar velocity of the relievers in the second half.

“Being unique is the most important thing,” says Sewald. “Pen and I are very unique, throwing across the body, from a low angle, and throwing the ball up. [deliveries] …but the funny thing is he has cut rides and I have run rides. Our delivery is very similar, but the pitch characteristics are quite different. Pitching in 2004 If he told the coaches that we were on the same team, they would think you were the same, he had two pitchers. Why do you want to put the two together? ”

It’s not 2004, so the Mariners have found a way to maximize both of these same but different deliveries in the same bullpen, even if they’re not throwing billion miles an hour.

That’s not to say Sewald doesn’t understand how hard pitchers in the big leagues are throwing these days. “That game we played the Yankees when [Luis] Castillo faced Gerrit Cole. myself, [Scott] Efros and [Matt] Festa is the only pitcher who threw a fastball under 95. Speed ​​evolution is crazy. ”

Indeed, numbers from that August classic amazingNine different pitchers threw 202 of 367 total pitches over 95 mph, with only Sewald (94.7), Festa (94.0) and Sidearmor’s Efros (91.9) falling below that threshold. I was.

Beyond a display of historic speed, that game was one of Seattle’s signature wins this season, with a deep demonstration of being able to take on a powerhouse team like the Yankees in an epic 13-inning battle. did.

The Mariners’ clear goal going into 2022 is to end the drought. Twenty-plus years without postseason baseball is a long time.

The Mariners are a solid offensive team, led enough by the generational talent of Julio Rodriguez and the other impact bats of All-Star Ty France and home-run machine Eugenio Suarez to make opposing pitchers sweat. increase.

But on the mound, Seattle boasts an incredibly deep group of pitchers that match nearly all across the league. It’s this group that almost guaranteed the Mariners to finally play a postseason baseball game again.

Even better, it’s that group that gives the Mariners the best chance. win The postseason baseball game is back.

Jordan Shusterman is half @Cespedes BBQ Baseball writer for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @j_shusterman_.

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