mariners

Bartender heading back to school: Wilhelmsen to AAA

Get the Magic Back

Last year Tom Wilhelmsen was lights out for the Seattle Mariners, there’s no doubting that fact. Echoing the success of past Seattle closers, Wilhelmsen burst onto the scene as a closer in 2012 after being signed by the organization in 2011, a time prior to which he was just a bartender.

Posting a 2.50 ERA in 73 appearances last season, Wilhelmsen managed 29 saves on the year and quickly became a fan favorite.

Intimidating opposing batters with his fastball and pitching style that went right after them, Wilhelmsen was a major success in 2012 and many believed that even better years were still to come. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the way things have turned out.

Seattle’s most famous bartender did what just about every player on the Mariners‘ roster has done in the past 10 years: collapsed.

At times appearing to still have the magic from 2012, Wilhelmsen, for the most part, has been a major disappointment in 2013. Currently boasting a 4.37 ERA in 47 appearances this year, he just doesn’t have the look/feel of a dominating closer anymore.

Whether or not this has to do with the league adjusting to his style of pitching remains to be seen, but the biggest difference between 2012 and 2013 has been his command.

Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners

Wilhelmsen is heading down to AAA to find the strike zone.

Whereas Wilhelmsen walked just 29 batters in his 73 games last season, he has already accumulated 26 walks in 2013, a devastating number for a closer.

For, while hits surely do take some toll, walking the first two batters you face in an inning is much worse than allowing the ball to be put into play, especially when you consider you have seven guys behind you who can help get the batter out.

Alternating between being a closer and short reliever this season, Wilhelmsen has probably been the most inconsistent and disappointing aspect of a Mariners bullpen that isn’t exactly the cream of the crop. It appears as the front office has taken note of this as well, as the Bartender was reportedly packing up his locker last night while gearing up for a stint in AAA.

Heading down to work on his command, it has also been rumored by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times that Wilhelmsen could potentially be working on moving into a starting role as well, though this seems completely out of the picture to me.

To take a pitcher who was once unemployed, groom him as a closer and then convert him to a starter seems ridiculous, but that’s just my opinion.

To fill his spot on the roster, the Mariners have recently announced that Carter Capps would be heading back up to the bigs. Now I know this guy has some velocity and can be dominant at times, but it’s just not his time yet, and he’s proven that consistently throughout the season.

He’s been a bit inconsistent and still has to work on his mechanics and how to really pitch to big league hitters before I consider him a solid force in the bullpen.

What I would have liked to see, however, is one of the younger guys in AAA or even AA come up and get a late-season shot in the league. My pick for the call-up would have definitely gone to Brian Moran, who currently has a 2.72 ERA in AAA Tacoma and looks like he could be quite the setup/future closer for Seattle.

But in the end, for whatever reason, the organization wants to give Capps another shot while the Bartenders goes into rehab.

After so much promise just a week and a half ago, it’s tough to see how far the Mariners are currently sliding. Let’s hope they can figure themselves out and put together at least some shred of good baseball in these final two months.

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About Chris Anderson

NWSB Editor. Chris hails from Eugene, Oregon; home of the Fighting Ducks. If he is not viewing, writing about, or attending sporting events, Chris is running on the trails Eugene offers or out-and-about. Aspirations to exceed expectations. Connect w/ Chris today!
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