Signs of life from the weak links
As currently constructed, the Mariners lineup doesn’t look terrible. Six players who have had over 100 plate appearances currently post a WRC+ of 100 or better. Unfortunately, only two players currently have a WRC+ above 120 (Ty France at 124 and Jarred Kelenic at 136).
Anyone who has read my articles in the past two seasons knows how much of a believer I am in the WRC+ metric and how crucial it is to making a legitimate run. History has shown that you need four cornerstone level hitters (WRC+ above 120). In nearly the past decade, 28 of the past 34 teams to play in the LCS round have boasted 4 cornerstone level hitters. The Mariners got work to do, but we may be seeing signs of life.
With the Mariners back at home, they've laid the wood on a decent Marlins team that can pitch as well as anyone. Eight runs, ten hits including three bombs on Monday carried the Mariners to a 8-1 victory. The early runs allowed rookie Bryce Miller to settle back in after some rough outings, and he looked like a star yet again. On Tuesday night, a 9-3 victory, the bottom of the order carried the M's to 7 of their 8 hits, including 3 homers. George Kirby, with a quick 5-0 lead was able to pummel the strike zone and looked like a star after some rough outings.
The last two games have shown us what the Mariners are capable of, when they're connected and clicking. Seattle would love a Jonathan India at 2B or a Michael Conforto at DH, but they also have to get better in house. Jose Caballero has been a two month revelation for the M's. He's hitting .253 with an OBP of .407. He's 26, flirting with a WRC+ of 120, and is making a lot less than Kolten Wong's $17 million dollar salary that's rotting on the bench.
Mike Ford was arguably the best hitter in all of AAA baseball when the season started, but he was forced to stay in Tacoma while AJ Pollock, Cooper Hummel and others failed to deliver. After forcing the Mariners hand, he's backed it up with 4 home runs in 24 plate appearances, while hitting .253. It's a very short sample size, but it's already more production than what Seattle has seen from the DH spot.
If Seattle can get even remotely close to average hitting from Ford and Caballero, that should help lengthen the lineup, eliminating multiple lost innings that the Mariners have seen due to some brutal numbers at two positions.
Signs of life from the stars
Last night may not have been a great night for the Mariners three hopeful sluggers in Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez and Geno Suarez, but there have been some real signs of life that they're going to have a great second half. After brutal starts that saw all three of them leading the league in strikeouts, they've each had varying degrees of resurgence.
Teoscar Hernandez, the biggest addition to the offseason, is quietly surging. After an ugly start and whispers of him being a potential sell off trade candidate, Teoscar is hitting .350 with an OBP of .422. while the home runs don't feel like they're there, he's still on pace for a respectable 27 home runs.
Eugenio Suarez is a player very similar to Hernandez. Hot streaks and major power surges turn on a dime filled with strikeouts. Geno is Mr. Good Vibes, which is a blessing and a curse. When he's playing well, the Mariners look like a true contender. The vibes and swagger are there, and they're completely sucked out of the stadium when he's cold. Currently sporting a WRC+ of 89, Geno is hitting 42% worse than last season.
In the last 7 games, Geno has been hitting around .300 and has looked a little bit more comfortable at the plate. Part of Suarez's allure is his power, and we may not see 2022 level numbers, but with Geno seeing the ball well, the power and good vibes have to be just around the corners.
The face of the franchise is due
Julio Rodriguez is the face of the franchise, but that doesn't make you immune to a little sophomore slump. After a historic rookie season, Julio's 2023 OPS+ is nearly 40 points lower than in 2022. The strikeouts and ugly numbers in crucial situations need to improve, but Julio is also due for a major hot streak.
The uneven play likely has to do with the incredible pressure put on him, as well as teams countering what they say from him in 2022. Julio will need to find ways to counter back, and I believe he is close. A hot streak by Julio may just sneak him into the all-star game, but more importantly more wins for the Mariners. Ty France has been pretty dang solid this season, and Seattle needs to get Julio on base so Ty can bring him in.
One interesting stat to keep an eye on, the Seattle Mariners are now 25-17 when they hit a home run. As the weather continues to warm up, this could be a huge stat going forward for Seattle. There's too much power on this team to not continue to mash. If the Mariners continue to play at that 96 win pace, then we're in for a potential run, and the start of this Marlins series may just be the start.
This is hopefully the start of a good trend, and potentially one that could carry the Mariners not just into a good spot at the All-Star break, but also a potential return to October.