What jumps out about Mariners’ Penn Murfee, who’s been one of MLB’s best relievers

Jun 14, 2022, 4:30 PM | Updated: 4:33 pm

Mariners Penn Murfee...

Penn Murfee pitches against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on June 3, 2022. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

(Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The Mariners didn’t break camp with right-handed reliever Penn Murfee in the bullpen. In fact, Murfee didn’t make his MLB debut until April 29.

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But since his debut, Murfee hasn’t just been an excellent arm for the Mariners. He’s been one of the better relievers in baseball.

Murfee has already accumulated 0.9 wins above replacement (WAR) while posting a 0.79 ERA and 0.662 WHIP in 22 2/3 innings while striking out 27. That 0.9 WAR is tied for sixth-most on the Mariners entering Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins.

Additionally, Murfee is excelling in terms of advanced metrics, as he ranks in the 93rd percentile or better in strikeout rate, expected ERA, expected slugging, expected batting average, expected weighted on-base and hard hit percentage, per Statcast. He’s also in the 86th percentile in average exit velocity allowed and in the 88th percentile in barrel rate.

When Mariners manager Scott Servais was asked Tuesday about Murfee during his weekly interview with The Dugout on Seattle Sports 710 AM, he first pointed to Murfee the person.

“First of all, I knew he was a very interesting guy. He’s around a little bit,” Servais said. “He’s really smart dude. He plays guitar, he reads a lot. He’s more than just a right-handed pitcher with a good slider, you know what I mean? He’s a well-rounded guy. I like having him around.”

Murfee’s path to the big leagues is also unique. He was a 33rd-round pick in 2018 – the MLB Draft now has just 20 rounds – out of Santa Clara after starting his college career as an infielder at powerhouse Vanderbilt. He switched to pitching late in his college career and now finds himself as an emerging reliever for the Mariners.

“He appreciates where he’s at, I think that’s the best thing,” Servais said. “He was not a high-round draft choice by any means. He had to pay his dues in the minor leagues and he realizes how fortunate he is and he wants to take advantage of it. He doesn’t take any day for granted. I just got in the clubhouse earlier today and he’s usually the first guy here every day. He likes being around baseball and his teammates.”

So what about Murfee the pitcher?

“He’s done a great job for us. The different situations we put him in, he’s handled it,” Servais said.

Many top relievers have electric fastballs, but Murfee sits at 89 mph with the heater, per Statcast.

“He throws a ton of strikes. He’s not gonna blow you away with a 95 mph fastball but he’s got a ton of deception,” Servais said. “The hitters do not pick him up. He’s able to ride the fastball uphill a little bit, get the ball up on guys and then he can throw that slider for a strike pretty much whenever you have to. He’s done a great job for us and you’re going to continue to see a lot of him.”

Listen to this week’s Scott Servais Show at this link or in the player below.

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What jumps out about Mariners’ Penn Murfee, who’s been one of MLB’s best relievers