Last season, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Dominic Leone found himself as the answer to a very interesting trivia question.
After appearing in 57 games and finishing the season with a 1.51 ERA, he became the first pitcher to be a part of both bullpens in MLB history to have six relievers finish the season with an ERA under 3.00 with 50 or more appearances.
The 2021 Giants' bullpen became a member of that select club, with Leone, Zack Littell, Jose Alvarez, Jarlin Garcia, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee each finishing the season under those criteria.
The Mets were recently in San Francisco, and when Leone took the mound, the SNY broadcast mentioned this stat. I was shocked to find out who the other team was.
In 2014, many teams had great pitching and made the playoffs. The Detroit Tigers had that ridiculous rotation with multiple Cy Young winners, but were top heavy with that as their staff ERA was tenth in the AL. The Royals had a great staff, including three relievers with a sub-2.00 ERA, but finished third in the AL.
The team to finish with the best staff ERA in the AL in 2014 is the subject of this article, and the only other bullpen to have six pitchers finish the season appearing in 50 or more games with an ERA below 3.00, is the 2014 Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners finished the season with an 87-75 record under Lloyd McClendon, previously of stealing first base fame, but missed the playoffs as they often have recently. It was the fifth time they finished a season with an above .500 record during their postseason drought and missed the playoffs. That number has now stretched to eight.
Seattle had a nasty pitching staff in 2014, but their bullpen was the highlight. I am going to run through each of the six pitchers that met the criteria that season, and who better to start with than Mr. Leone.
DOMINIC LEONE: 57 APP, 8-2, 2.17 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 54.7 GB%, 168 ERA+, 0.6 fWAR
Leone made his major league debut in 2014 and instantly became a fixture in the Mariners' bullpen. A fast riser through the Mariners' minor league system after being drafted in 2012, Leone had his contract selected from AAA early in the 2014 season.
Making his debut on April 6, Leone allowed just two runs in April and sported a sub-2.00 ERA until mid-July. Seattle found a diamond in the rough in Leone, who developed a cutter by watching Mariano Rivera after struggling in college.
Leone finished the season with a 2.17 ERA, second on the team behind starter Felix Hernandez and first in the bullpen in 57 appearances. His ERA and GB% each ranked 29th in the league, and among rookie relief pitchers, Leone was seventh in ERA and 12th in fWAR, a great season all the way around.
His 168 ERA+ was not topped until 2017 with Toronto before his true breakout in 2021 with the Giants, where he currently pitches. He was traded from Seattle in the Mark Turbo trade to Arizona before bouncing to Toronto, St. Louis, Cleveland and now San Francisco where he is still a reliable piece of the bullpen.
JOE BEIMEL: 55 APP, 3-1, 2.20 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 86.8 LOB%, 166 ERA+, -0.2 fWAR
Joe Beimel was three years removed from his last MLB work after getting Tommy John surgery, and resurfaced in 2014 with the Mariners to have an extremely interesting and lucky season by advanced metrics. He also was the only player in MLB history to wear no. 97 before Ron Marinaccio did it with the Yankees in 2022.
Beimel had always been a serviceable reliever, but at age 37, he had the second-best ERA+ of his career, thriving as a situational lefty out of the bullpen. He carried a sub-2.00 ERA into his last two appearances of the season before a blow-up at Toronto on September 25 put him above the watermark.
His 2.20 ERA was third on the club and second in the bullpen behind Leone, and he was nails in tense situations as well as lucky, evidenced by his 86 LOB% and his FIP outperforming his ERA by almost two full runs. The LOB% was good for 15th-best in MLB.
Beimel pitched one more season for the Mariners before bouncing around on minor league deals, and at age 44 he made a comeback in the Padres' minor league system. He is not currently signed to a team, but has not retired yet.
YOERVIS MEDINA: 66 APP, 2.68 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 24.3 K%, 136 ERA+, 0.2 fWAR
Medina, the forgotten man amongst these players, broke out as a rookie in 2013 and was poised to continue that in 2014, which he did. The big righty thrived in the Seattle bullpen in 2014 as the main eighth-inning guy.
Using a looping curve and a sizzling fastball, Medina had the best season of his brief career, pitching to a 2.68 ERA and 3.45 FIP while striking out 24-percent of the batters he faced, fanning 60 during the season. His ERA was at 2.09 heading into September, and a blow-up month aside, the future was bright for him in the bullpen.
The highlight of his season came on August 23 at Fenway Park. Entering in the eighth inning up 7-3, Medina fanned 5 of the 7 batters he faced in the final two innings, including Kelly Johnson, Yoenis Cespedes and Mike Napoli in the ninth.
It's hard to believe, but this would be the last full season for Medina in the major leagues. He pitched in 12 games for the Mariners in 2015 before being dealt for Welington Castillo and pitching for the Cubs for a little bit. He has not pitched in the United States since 2016, and looks to be done with his career.
TOM WILHELMSEN: 57 APP, 2.27 ERA, 3.74 FIP, .200 BABIP, 161 ERA+, 0.1 fWAR
Wilhelmsen had already established himself as a reliable back-of-the-bullpen arm for the Mariners and continued that in a quite interesting 2014 season. After accruing 1.8 fWAR as the Mariners' closer in 2012, Wilhelmsen pitched in a variety of different innings in 2014.
His microscopic .200 BABIP was the main culprit for his impressive season, limiting hard contact with the use of his curveball that topped out in the upper 70s and a hard fastball. His ERA got to as low as 1.96 on September 5 before finishing the season with a 2.27 mark.
Coincidentally, his .200 BABIP was the best mark among all relievers in the league, and that contributed to his 86% LOB%, 15th-best in the league. He did a great job of limiting hits during this season, third-best ERA on the Mariners' pitching staff and second in the bullpen, tossing the most innings (79.2) among all relievers in the bullpen.
Wilhelmsen spent another solid season with the Mariners in 2015 before being traded to division rival Texas for Leonys Martin and Anthony Bass, where he got absolutely rocked (10.55 ERA in 21.1 IP), earning a release and a trip back to the Mariners where he found success again. He signed with the Diamondbacks in 2017, having another decent year before fading out of baseball after 2018.
DANNY FARQUHAR: 3-1, 2.66 ERA, 2.86 FIP, 7.6 BB%, 137 ERA+, 0.8 fWAR
After having an extremely unlucky (4.20 ERA vs 1.86 FIP) rookie season in 2013, Danny Farquhar blossomed into a bona-fide stud in 2014, cutting down his ERA and having a FIP closer to it. Trimming his BB% down to the lowest of his career, Farquhar was impressive in a set-up role.
While he didn't appear high in many major statistics, Farquhar set career-lows in a ton of stats during this season and reinforced himself as a reliable set-up option for the team. He carried a sub-1.50 ERA into May and finished a strong campaign.
Farquhar's 2.86 FIP ranked 38th in MLB and 15th-best in the AL, finishing second in the bullpen behind closer Fernando Rodney. His stats don't put him high in the league in anything, but he had ice in his veins in pressure-filled spots.
Farquhar never really came close to that level of success again, having another run of solid seasons with the Rays and White Sox before having his career cut short by a brain aneurysm suffered early in the 2018 season. It's a shame he had his career end so early, as he figured to be a solid piece of the White Sox bullpen in 2018.
FERNANDO RODNEY: 1-6, 2.85 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 48 SV, 128 ERA+, 1.0 fWAR, ASG
Now, the reliever you've all been waiting for, the archer himself. Fernando Rodney was the closer for the Mariners that season, so I should save him for the end. Two years off an impressive 2012 All-Star season with Tampa Bay, Rodney was dominant again as a closer for the Mariners.
Rodney was an All-Star in 2014 again, leading MLB in saves with 48 for the first time in his career and leading the AL in games finished. He blew just three saves all season, including allowing just two runs in both the month of June and the month of July.
While he was known for his arrow celebration, he and Logan Morrison would discuss after every game where the arrow landed, and the Mariners faithful became accustomed to seeing that throughout the year. He had the best FIP on the staff, and his 1.0 fWAR was tied for 15th with Zack Britton in MLB.
Rodney bounced around quite a bit after that, picking up another All-Star nod as a member of the Padres and Marlins in 2016. After 17 years in 10 different organizations and 20 postseason games, Rodney finally won a ring with the Washington Nationals in 2019. He signed with the Astros in 2020, never pitching. He is still active in the Mexican League, where he won Reliever of the Year in 2021 with the Toros de Tijuana.
It would be hard to mention the Mariners' bullpen from this season without at least singing praise to the other two arms they used frequently, who did not have bad seasons whatsoever. Lefty Charlie Furbush (top) and righty Brandon Maurer (bottom) each had great seasons despite not meeting the criteria.
Furbush: Charlie Furbush was absolutely solid as the main lefty out of the bullpen for the Mariners. Pitching to a 3.61 ERA, Furbush was a huge part of the supporting cast of this bullpen. He enjoyed the confines of Safeco Field as well, becoming nearly untouchable at home with a 1.82 ERA in Seattle as opposed to a 6.11 ERA on the road. He was having a great season in 2015 before injuries derailed his career, never appearing in another game.
Maurer: The odd man out in terms of ERA, Maurer, a flamethrower and converted starter saw his ERA drop when coming out of the bullpen to ridiculous levels. He had an ERA north of 7.00 as a starter in 7 games, and in 31 games out of the bullpen, had a 2.17 ERA. While he never found much success in the major leagues pitching in the Padres and Royals organizations, he was a large part of Seattle in 2014.
Even having a generational bullpen and great performances from Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Michael Saunders, the Mariners' lack of success was extremely puzzling in 2014. They had a solid lineup and a Pythagorean W-L record of 91-71 and a run differential of +80, but an untimely five-game losing streak down the stretch found them a single game behind division rival Oakland for the final Wild Card spot.
Despite all this, it's fun to reminisce on the impressive season the bullpen had for the Mariners. While they didn't get to shine in the playoffs, they absolutely etched a spot in major league history as one of the best bullpens of all-time.