Why Mariners fans can trust Julio Rodriguez, Ty France will heat up soon

It's been a little chilly in Seattle but the weather should start to get a little hotter, just like Ty France and Julio Rodriguez are set to do
Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

Baseball can be a streaky sport. Players can play extremely well before regressing into statistical ineptitude and vice versa. Luckily, over a season of 162 games, the truth typically shows up in the numbers... eventually. A month into the 2024 season, Ty France and Julio Rodríguez are seemingly off to frigid starts. Neither one is logging even average numbers at the plate so far, but will we see them return to form soon?

Ty France

Seattle's first baseman had a lackluster 2023. After putting together a .703 OPS and 99 OPS+ over 665 plate appearances, he dedicated himself to having a productive offseason at Driveline, the same facility that helped J.P. Crawford become one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball.

If one hadn't been aware of that storyline dating back to the end of last season, one might have assumed that nothing had really changed. His current slash line of .267/.325/.320 is average at best and concerning at most. His slugging percentage of .320 is quite low, especially for a first baseman, and is lower than any other season in his career. However, there's more to this story than meets the eye.

He had a similar problem last year but Ty France seems to get the short end of the stick on his batted balls quite a bit. How can I tell? In 2023, he had an xSLG of .420 and the difference between that and his actual slugging percentage of .366 was the greatest of any qualified player on the team. This year, it's way worse. His expected slugging percentage of .467 is the second-highest on the team behind just Dominic Canzone. Furthermore, his xBA of .290 is also the highest out of any player on the team.

So why the big gap? There could be a lot of reasons for this but it's important to remember that expected statistics are based on intrinsic data: exit velocity, launch angle, and sometimes sprint speed. So it could be assumed that bad luck could be a factor. Is France getting scammed by excellent outfielder positioning and diving catches? Maybe. It's hard to tell because many of his batted balls with high xSLG numbers that end up as outs often seem pretty routine. Either way, he's got a hard-hit rate of 50.9% and quality of contact numbers in the top quartile, so don't count him out just yet.

Julio Rodríguez

Julio has always been a slow starter. A look at his monthly splits throughout his career illustrates this pretty clearly.



































If you're too lazy to read all of these numbers on a month-by-month basis, you can even divide the stats into two halves. In the first half of the season, Julio has averaged a .766 OPS. In the second half, he has averaged a .939 OPS.

He doesn't quite have the statistical case that Ty France has in the sense that the difference between his expected and actual statistics isn't as significant, but it seems that there are aspects to his game which are less tangible or require deeper analysis. Does he take longer to reacclimatize to live pitching? Do his swing decisions improve over the course of the season, or do they remain the same? Are his early season slumps instead due to a slower bat speed? All-in-all hard to say. (Regarding swing decisions, he does have a pretty high whiff rate of 32.3% but he always has a high whiff rate.)

Fortunately, there are things that he has continued to do well despite his hitting struggles. His defense has been immaculate this year, already accumulating four outs above average, second in baseball behind just Daulton Varsho. He's not loved as much by FanGraphs' defensive runs saved metric, but it's clear that his range and sprint speed are as good as ever.

Defense aside, his current OPS of .640 is actual well within his career average for the first month of the season. He's shown little glimpses of great hitting here and there but hasn't yet put it together. Once the summer begins to swing around, get ready to see more of the Julio we all know and love.