Yesterday the Mariners suffered yet another blowout loss, this time at the hands of the Angels. Yusei Kikuchi was shelled for the third straight start and was pulled in the fourth inning. His replacement was Tayler Scott, making his major league debut. There were a couple notable things about Scott’s appearance. As many reporters noted, Scott became the first South African player to pitch in the major leagues. What went mostly unnoticed was the fact that Scott was the 33rd player to pitch for the Mariners this season.
33 pitchers is a lot for one team to use in a full season, and a ludicrous number to reach by early June. The Mariners have already exceeded last season’s total of 32 pitchers. Only six teams used more than 33 pitchers all season in 2018. Mariners fans may remember that 40 pitchers took the mound for the Mariners in 2017, tying the major league record. That year, the Mariners were devastated by injuries and the pitching was a complete mess as a result. Ariel Miranda led the team in innings with 160.0, and posted a 5.12 ERA. Yovani Gallardo’s 130.2 innings ranked third on the team, while his ERA was even worse at 5.72.
Typically, if a team has used a large number of players, it is because of injuries. However, the Mariners haven’t dealt with a lot of injuries to the pitching staff this year. It’s not good when many players are getting hurt, but it’s even worse when they aren’t performing well enough to stay with the team. While few ailments opened up spots for some pitchers, it’s mainly been ineffectiveness that’s caused Jerry Dipoto to shuffle the bullpen frequently. Trader Jerry has already made four trades for a relief pitcher this season, searching for anyone who can potentially contribute. Another four are no longer with the organization. Just three relievers have stayed for the entire season so far: Roenis Elias, Brandon Brennan, and Cory Gearrin. A staggering 11 players have thrown five or fewer innings for the Mariners in 2019, and that excludes the two position players who took the mound.
I’d be surprised if the Mariners didn’t surpass 40 pitchers in 2019. The Mariners are eight pitchers away from setting a new record, but there are almost four months left in the season. Given Dipoto’s penchant for trades, I expect some more wheeling and dealing to occur. A few more minor league call-ups could secure the record.
The absurd amount of roster shuffling that has taken place this season has done little to improve the team, though that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had any purpose. Building a bullpen is a difficult process, and is often overlooked despite being an essential part of any team. If a few relievers can prove to be reliable, it would be huge for the Mariners’ future. Dipoto might find a relief pitcher worth keeping just once every ten tries. But if he keeps rolling the dice as he has, he’ll stumble across some good pitchers, making his efforts worthwhile in the end.