The Seattle Mariners currently have the best record in one-run games in baseball and are on pace to set the all-time record for most one-run wins. Although this is a fairly impressive stat, the main reason for it isn’t being talked about enough. The main reason resides in the bullpen. He goes by the nickname “sugar” and has the Seattle Mariners on track to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. His name is Edwin Diaz.
The Path of Edwin Diaz
The Seattle Mariners took Diaz back in 2012, and it looked like he was supposed to be the replacement for Felix Hernandez at some point down the line. After being named the team’s minor league starting pitcher of the year in 2014 and 2015, it looked like he was going to be great, albeit as a starting pitcher. The team made a change in 2016 that had many fans worried and confused when they moved Diaz to the bullpen early in the season. However, fans’ worries were eased quickly, as Diaz was called up in June 2016. Within a month he had set the franchise record for consecutive strikeouts with 11. The first day of August that year, the Mariners handed the reigns of the closer role to Diaz, and he hasn’t looked back since.
The Case for the Top Closer in Baseball
When you look at the top of the saves list currently in baseball, there is a sizable gap between first and second. Aroldis Chapman has 23, and he is seven(!) behind Edwin Diaz, who is currently sitting at 30. With only three blown saves, Diaz is still sitting at over 90% for his save conversion rate, which is great. Like Chapman and many others in the role, Diaz has incredible stuff. Bringing a 98 MPH 2-seam fastball with him to the mound, Diaz has confounded hitters all year with that as his top pitch. He pairs that with a 4-seamer that can hit triple digits. Along with a slider around 90, Diaz’s repertoire is as good as anyone’s in the majors. This has him leading all closers in strikeouts, sitting at 68 in 42 innings, for a very respectable 14.57 K’s per 9.
Saves Record in Reach
Yes, Diaz is having a great year. It’s actually more than that though, as he has a realistic shot at setting the all-time record for saves in a season. The number is 62, set by Francisco Rodriguez back in 2008 for the Los Angeles Angels. Diaz should be looked at as a serious contender to reach that record. With 42 appearances in the first half of the year, and 33 save opportunities, a similar second half will put him in reach. As we turn the page on the first half and approach the All-Star game, more eyes should be watching the Mariners and Diaz as he puts together a serious charge at this record.
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