Seattle’s Rotation May Actually Decline in 2010

The Mariners are getting lots of props online for their winter moves.  I agree that this off season has made me as optimistic about the franchise as I’ve been in years.  I encountered an interesting statistic today, however, which dampens my expectations for significant improvement from 2009 to 2010.

Let’s play the popular guess-which-pitcher-this-is game.  Below are two pitchers from 2009:

Pitcher 1: 14-13, 231 innings, 245 hits, 43 walks, 181 K, 3.22 era, 1.25 WHIP
Pitcher 2: 13-9, 216 innings, 176 hits, 67 walks, 169 K, 2.71 era, 1.13 WHIP

Which pitcher would you rather have pitched for your team in 2009?  Given that wins and losses are not a great metric for pitcher performance, I’d guess most people would go with Pitcher 2.  Fewer innings, but significantly better ERA and WHIP.

Cliff Corcoran over at Sports Illustrated points out that Seattle traded for Cliff Lee essentially to replace Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard in the rotation.  On paper it’s a good swap.  But Pitcher 1 is Cliff Lee in 2009, and Pitcher 2 is Bedard and Washburn’s combined performance for Seattle in 2009.  No one expects Washburn to pitch in 2010 like he did for Seattle in 2009, and nobody expects much of anything from Erik Bedard (except, perhaps, for his mother).  But as good as Lee has been the last two years, it seems unlikely to ask him to replicate those Pitcher 2 numbers.  Combine that with the unreasonable expectation that Felix could do much better than he did last year, and it seems entirely possible that Seattle’s pitching production from its #1 and #2 starters will decline in 2010.