Mike Zunino will enter camp as the starting catcher for the Seattle Mariners. Last year was an interesting one for him. Looking at his slash line of .199/.254/.404 leaves a lot to be desired. How could a team hoping to make the playoffs keep up with a hole like that in the lineup? It really depends on how you look at Zunino’s presence in the lineup.
Yes, those numbers are quite horrible. And pair them with a 3.6% walk rate and 33.2% strikeout rate and they seem even worse. In order for his slash line to improve he’s going to have to get both his walk and strikeout rates back to where they were in his 2013 season (8.3%, 25.4%). But that might not be his ultimate goal.
Along with those other numbers we saw his flyball rate shoot from 38.7% to 49.5%. Seems clear that average and on base percentage was throw out the window for the home run. Looking at his FB/HR of 15.7% it worked… sort of. Zunino was able to hit 22 home runs and produced and had an above average isolated power and FB/HR ratio. While his numbers weren’t huge they were able to help out the Mariners offense. His power gave the Mariners pop at the bottom of the order, something that was crucial to a top heavy lineup.
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The long ball wasn’t the only thing keeping him on the field, though. He played great defense behind the plate. He ranked highly in several defensive categories including putouts, assists, and runners caught stealing. Certainly his defense will be welcomed back but will his offense hold up?
While I’d prefer him to have a higher average and OBP I think the power route is a better strategy for Zunino. I don’t think he could get his average and OBP high enough to justify sacrificing his power. Ideally, he’d be able to get those numbers up while keeping the power but that might be asking for too much. However, his slash line is still quite embarrassing. Hopefully this year he can make strides and improve if only even slightly.