A Deep Dive into the Mariners Top of the Lineup Struggles

Fifteen games into the season, the Mariner's offense has been off to a sluggish start. That’s been mostly due to the five guys who were hitting 1-5 on Opening Day. JP Crawford, Julio Rodriguez, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, & Cal Raleigh are all hitting below the Mendoza line, and all have an OPS below .600. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: that’s bad. Today, let’s break down the advanced metrics on each player, and discover why they have each been struggling at such a high clip. 
Julio prepares for his at-bat
Julio prepares for his at-bat / Mark Blinch/GettyImages
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Cal Raleigh
Cal Looks Back After a Strikeout / Kevin Sousa/GettyImages

Cal Raleigh

Slashline: .196/.245/.326 (.571 OPS), 67 wrc+, 68 ops+, 0.4 bWAR, 0 fWAR

Cal has been off to a slow start as well, but his start has been most similar to his archetype as a player. Cal is hitting the ball hard, and swinging at everything. That’s pretty much been Cal Raleigh as a player his whole career. 

Cal’s average exit velocity of 92.6 MPH is currently a career-high, sitting in the 87th percentile. His barrel rate of 10.7% is in the 72nd percentile, despite being about 5% lower than his career high in 2022. He also sports a hard-hit rate of 46.4%, which is above his career average of 41.2%, and in the 72nd percentile for 2024. So he is hitting the ball hard and has a solid barrel rate. 

Now for the bad. Cal Raleigh has struck out on 36.7% of his at-bats this year and is in the 5th percentile for that stat. Easily the highest strikeout rate in the career for a guy who always has high strikeout rates. His whiff rate (30.9%) and chase rate (32.4%) aren’t much better, and his walk rate of 6.1% is also much lower than last year when he walked on 9.5% of his at-bats. The bottom line is that Cal has been swinging and missing, a lot, and that is why, despite solid barrel rates and exit velocities, his xBA (.182), and xSLG (.308) are actually worse than his current rates of .190 & .333! And you’ll be shocked to hear the biggest reason why. 

I feel like I’m starting to sound like a broken record here; Cal Raleigh cannot hit the breaking ball. He is being thrown breaking balls 37.4% of the time, more than 10% more than last year. He is hitting .200 against breaking balls, with an xBA of .102. He is whiffing at 38.9% of breaking balls, and until he is able to lay off those pitches, they are going to keep coming. He also does not have a single hit yet against offspeed pitches, though he has only seen 9 of them, so it is a very small sample size. 

Cal has always been a high-strikeout, high-power guy, so these trends are not super surprising or worrisome. He just needs to strike out 5% less and improve his barrel rate by 2-3%, and his numbers will likely revert to career norms.