Rowland-Smith: What stands out about Mariners pitchers’ recent hiccups

Jun 29, 2024, 10:17 AM

Seattle Mariners Luis Castillo Bryce Miller...

Luis Castillo and Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners talk on June 14, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have built their lead in the American League West on the strength of their starting pitching, so it stands to reason that their rough recent road trip featured some issues in that area.

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Turns out it’s not limited to that road trip alone. The Mariners have been a much better team at T-Mobile Park, where they own a 28-12 record, compared to in opposing ballparks, where they’re just 19-25.

The pitching numbers certainly reflect that. Seattle’s staff leads MLB in home ERA (2.54), WHIP (0.92), opposing batting average (.195), and strikeouts per walk ratio (4.77). But on the road, the M’s are 24th in ERA (4.55), and 12th in each of WHIP (1.23), opposing average (.240) and strikeouts per walk (2.66).

“Their starting pitching is so rock-solid, but man, the splits on the road, it’s crazy,” MLB Network and Mariners analyst Ryan Rowland-Smith said Wednesday to Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob. “We’re talking a 2.50 starter’s ERA at home, and like a 4.50 – not even – on the road. It’s bizarre.”

Rowland-Smith, who pitched in the big leagues for five seasons, dove into a couple of starting pitchers who had shaky recent outings and, as you might expect, dramatic differences in their home/road splits. Here’s a look at his insight.

Luis Castillo

Seattle’s most experienced starter, the 31-year-old Castillo, had a tough June. He allowed at least four earned runs in three of his last four starts, and he made it to six innings in just one of those outings. At home this year, Castillo owns a strong 2.96 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, 10.2 strikeouts per nine inning and 6.11 strikeouts per walk. On the road, he has a 4.59 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 7.9 strikeouts per nine and 2.14 strikeouts per walk.

Rowland-Smith said “frustration” was evident in Castillo’s last start, which was in an 11-3 loss Tuesday to the Rays.

“There was a ton of frustration for a couple of reasons. No. 1, he was trying to land pitches and he was missing arm side again, and he was getting in bad counts. He was frustrated with the umpire and not getting calls, and he was also frustrated with the hitters just swinging a ton. You could just see it written all over his face.

“I think he’s going through something right now where he’s losing a little bit of that swing and miss, (is allowing) a little bit too much contact, and I think he has to just reel it in a little bit. Once you get that one big swing and miss, the fastball at the top of the strike zone, you’ll be OK.

Rowland-Smith added that Castillo’s fastball has been living around the 95 mph range lately more than the 97 mph where he’s most effective, but he is confident in the three-time All-Star’s ability to adjust.

“If there’s anyone in that rotation that you’re like, alright, I’m gonna give you five bad outings and you’re gonna figure out how to get back on track, it’s Luis Castillo, 100%. He just has a knack… If there’s anyone who can handle that, the dip in performance, it’s him. So he’s gonna be alright. As long as he’s healthy, he’ll figure it out and he’ll be good to go.”

Bryce Miller

Now onto one of Seattle’s least experienced starters.

Miller’s splits are even more drastic than Castillo’s. At T-Mobile Park, the 25-year-old righty has been dominant with a 1.82 ERA, 0.831 WHIP, 10.8 strikeouts per nine and 4.21 strikeouts per walk. Away from Seattle, though, he has a 6.28 ERA, 1.279 WHIP, 5.4 strikeouts per nine and two strikeouts to every walk.

Rowland-Smith sees Miller struggling to make due when he isn’t fully on his game, which isn’t all that surprising for a younger pitcher.

“I think with Bryce Miller sometimes when he doesn’t have it, his confidence goes down a little bit. He starts nibbling, he doesn’t attack as much.”

Miller had a dazzling start on June 12 at home against the Chicago White Sox, going seven shutout innings with just two hits and two walks allowed while striking out eight. Rowland-Smith used that start as a way to emphasize his point.

“That White Sox start… the way he talked about it was like, ‘Oh, man, I can feel the ball out of my hands, I’m getting that ride on the fastball, and I can just compete in the middle of the strike zone.’ And then compare that to his last start (at Tampa Bay) or his start in Cleveland – there’s a little more of, ‘Oh man, I don’t feel like I have that.’ And he’s probably checking it mid-inning, by the way, too. These guys have access to that now, which is crazy. And then he’s starting to get away from it a little bit, so there is a little bit of that that concerns me.”

Not that Rowland-Smith is too worried.

“I say all that, and I think with Bryce Miller, he’s one of those guys who is so adaptable that he’ll go through these ebbs and flows in the season, and by the end of it he should come out OK.”

Listen to the full Wyman and Bob conversation with Ryan Rowland-Smith in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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Rowland-Smith: What stands out about Mariners pitchers’ recent hiccups