Maurer to Super-Setup?
Squeaky wheel gets the grease, Dept.


Q.  Did he just start relieving?  His game logs show April appearances out of the bullpen.

A.  Yeah, on rehab.  But this time they sent him down, stretched out and ready to start ... and he closed the game.  Got the save, no less, albeit in a double-header.  

  • On May 29, he got tater'ed again as a Mariner starter.
  • On May 30, SSI once again pulled out its prescription pad and wrote the R/X for Maurer to the bullpen.
  • On June 3, Maurer appeared for the Rainiers... as a reliever.  
  • On June 6, Maurer closed a game for the Rainiers.
  • You know that it was purely SSI's extremely convincing "Starter's Rhythm" argument that was the catalyst for the M's decision, and that Maurer's 7.52 ERA starting had little or no bearing on the matter.


Q.  Is this an SSI consensus now?

A.  Last year we round-table'd it, with few SSI clients agree'ing with the Doctah.  However, that was before Roenis Elias, James Paxton, and Chris Young.  That development seems to have been the real Tipping Point, for the Mariners, too.  The previous tongue-in-cheek section notwithstanding.


Q.  How good could he be as a reliever?

A.  Almost as good as this drop-dead gorgeous Luke Hochevar comp we poached from "".    

Drop-dead gorgeous from the standpoint of Hochevar's stats, that is.  Far be it from Dr. D to get giddy about a pet idea of his suddenly flowering into reality.  (He hopes!)  But hey.  It's nice to find a back article that, ahem, is still as much fun as --- > G-Moneyball's 2009 reviews of the 7th-round junior college draft-and-signs.


Hochevar was miserable in the rotation from the years 2007-2012, inclusive.  Let me read that sentence again.

Then, in 2013, Hochevar "tried" the bullpen and INSTANTLY, we say, instantly: 

  • 5-2, 1.92 ERA
  • 70 IP
  • 82 strikeouts
  • 17 walks
  • No saves to speak of (as Maurer won't be taking Rodney's innings)
  • 13-14% swinging strike rate, after 8% in the rotation

Hey.  Tell me just exactly what Luke Hochevar has, that Brandon Maurer doesn't.  Um, had.  Pay no attention to the injuries suffered by him, Bard, and Feliz.  Mauer?  Never happen.

:: or will ::


Q.  Can you tell which SP will emerge as the next Goose Gossage, Daniel Bard, or Neftali Feliz?  What's the formula?

A.  Here is an article from this year's spring training, "SP to RP Conversions."  James reveals that MLB franchises think about this all the time -- they WALLOW in the excruciating decisions about, "Which converted pitcher will give us a sudden star?"

But they have no formula.  About all they can do, is consult

I love Brandon Maurer against you, one time.  It's intuition.  


Q.  What's the coefficient of confidence on the intuition, this time?

A.  The intuition tells me this much for sure:  If I have to watch Brandon Maurer rush that downswing, one more time, against Albert Pujols, I'm gonna yakk.

You've got nothing to lose here.  "SP" Brandon Maurer is not going to get right, any time soon.  Not with that sports motion.

But, no, there are no guarantees.  Supposing you did have a 50% chance of exactly Luke Hochevar - one of baseball's top 5-10 setup men.  Free.  Didn't we just spend a year and a day, trying to find setup guys in college?


Q.  90% of starters are better in the 'pen ... Hmmmm, James says 30% of them are VERY DRAMATICALLY better.  Why Maurer?

A.  As a reliever in Tacoma he's got 15K in 8 innings -- and he throws strikes.  He can afford to; flamethrowing RP's, they can afford to get much more of the plate.  It's stabilizing.

Maurer can just reach back and bury the 97 MPH fastball for strike one, just challenge with it, and ... first time through the lineup, you foul that back, y'feel me?  

That's if there's a mistake.  Brandon Maurer paints about 50% of his fastballs nicely.  It's the misses we're talking about.


So he can just attack, free and easy, with that horrible rushed Troy Percival delivery.  Staying ahead in the count, consistently.  (Friday night, he came in and threw 10 strikes against 5 balls.)

Then to put people away with two strikes, WHICH offspeed is he going to throw?  It's tough.  He's got three (3) quite distinct breaking pitches on 1-and-2 ... and a 97 fastball, too.

Hey, Lloyd has told us time and gain that Maurer has nuclear stuff.  Don't sell the stuff short; it's the max-max-MAX effort delivery that is the issue.


Q.  So you think he needs how much time in Tacoma?

A.  Like, none.

He might not be Hochevar instantly, but I'll bet you he is better than Yoervis Medina instantly.  I'm psyched.  If the M's follow through, as they should, they've added a big "Draw at the Deck" here.  Free!


Dr D







We've been waiting for Pryor to get back for about six billion years now...the Earth wasn't even a planet yet the last time Pryor was healthy. If Maurer blows away AAA as a reliever for another week or two...he should be in there.


As a starter, he's fallen apart whenever put under any sort of pressure. Relievers are often forced to come in in pressure situations needing to get a batter out. I'd be concerned that Mauer's only usefulness would be when his innings don't matter.


His last game was on the 16th April and the Rainiers have played exactly 50 games since then so I guess any day now? Can't find an article via Google mentioning a return date though.


counting games scheduled, it should be today or tomorrow -- counting games played, it's Tuesday.
If, as reported, he's been in Arizona staying in shape, he should be ready to get back at it very quickly.

glmuskie's picture

Maybe Spring training is an indicator of how well a starting pitcher would do in the bullpen - multiple short stints on the mound during different times in games against MLB batters, it's basically a bullpen simulator. Take a bad starter in the regular season who has had one or more outstanding Spring Trainings, see what you get.


Andrew Miller was an abomination as a starter, but is a good bullpen arm for Boston now with sky-high Ks.
Hochevar was a waste of space as a starter but immediately on transitioning to the pen became a force.  It's not about pressure - there's something about dudes who simply can't get it together in the rotation who feast off the simplified routine of the pen.
I've been reluctant to bullpen Maurer because a 200 inning starter is more valuable, but we rushed him and keep wanting to use him, and he simply cannot get it together against major league hitters while pitching out of the rotation.  There's nothing wrong with his arm - that's still golden.  We wanted Matt Thornton to be a starter, but once the White Sox made him a reliever and gave him a tweak on his landing leg he was a very good bullpenner for them.
Might as well use Maurer in a way that he seems, at least in early going, to take well to.  Let him be a bullpenner, see what happens. We don't have to let him close for us tomorrow, but I'd love to see Effective Maurer back in the bigs again if and when he comes up. Sometimes you don't have time to wait a few years and hope.  Maurer CAN be effective, and if it takes putting him in a more restrained role to make that happen, then do it.

GLS's picture

Didn't Pryor go down for another surgery on the shoulder?


While I like the idea of Maurer in the pen, I really think Maurer needs to get his confidence back. One save is a nice start, but I believe that Maurer needs more success before he will be ready to get back to the majors... even if it is only to mop up games.
Further, I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but the past 30 games - the Mariners WORST reliever over the past month is Farquhar... and I doubt anyone wants to get rid of him. Moreover, the entire bullpen over the last 30 games has given up 15 total runs in just over 63 innings... which is definitely a pace I could live with for the remainder of the year.


If he comes up, it'll be in long relief. And even if he were to be immediately inserted into Medina's role, I think he should remain a starter and pitch to as many AAA hitters as possible, refining his command and learning by repetition how to get people out. I just don't see the effectiveness of grooming relief pitchers. Give your best kids the most innings in the minors, and sort it all out at the big league level. Did Medina learn to pitch in the 8th inning in the minors? No. He went straight from starting to relieving. "Failed" starters make the best relievers because they were starters, pitching lots of innings, and pitching the because they are good. Contrast that with a specialist like Josh Fields, who, even as a nearly finished product from college, "labored" (I use that term very loosely) for years in AA Some nearly finished product he was. Brandon Morrow was more ready to relieve at the big league level. Do we groom pinch hitters in the minors? No, they are everyday players in the minors, and don't become specialists until they get weeded out in the majors. If Maurer is in Tacoma to learn how to relieve, it's a pointless move.


What Maurer did in his first start in Miami was devastating.  But he hasn't been able to do that consistently or, when he has it going, keep it going the third time through the lineup.
So rick has a good point: how does he learn to fool hitters the third time through if he never sees hitters the third time through ever again?
On the other hand, if you just take that off the table, then potentially he's a major weapon again, just not the one you were hoping for.  Seems like they're going the latter route, at least for now.
Pryor went back on the DL, but I do not think it was for a second surgery, yet.
Choi will be back soon, but they are in no hurry with Morrison, who can at least theoretically play OF, who has been hitting well in AAA, and who has a record of MLB success.  I don't see them rushing Choi ahead of him.
I don't think they view themselves as needing another LH corner bat. 


That's what earned him his call-up.  The problem we're having with Maurer is trying to get him to do All The Things while learning against major league hitters.  He should absolutely take a lap around AAA getting in a relief groove in the minors (with simplified focus) rather than blowing games in the bigs in a pennant / wild card race for us.  If he gets it ironed out in a few weeks in the minors then fine, bring him back up.
But Wilhelmsen did what you asked, had only a couple of relief appearances in the minors as they converted him out of starting, and has been learning the whole time against major leaguers.  And he doesn't get the results his stuff should get him. *shrugs* I don't want another Wilhelmsen, I want another Leone / Farquhar. I'd like to see Maurer recover his 9 K /


Then I suppose the M's know what they are doing. But I think the more batters Maurer has to get out in AAA, the better. A one inning stint every third day is less valuable to my way of thinking than 5 or so innings every fifth day. It offers a bigger data set to run through your mind on what does and doesn't work.


Maurer's problem is between the ears. Last thing they want is him doing is over thinking things. Relieving doesn't allow for much of that. You get the call, throw 15 warmup pitches, get in the game, throw your two best pitches at max effort for 20 pitches and hit the pine. You might get that call three games in a row and you might not get the call at all for three days. Might be exactly what he needs.

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