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Well, we have some adversity
That was not the ideal start to the 2023 Mariners season.
Last night I was thinking about what it’d be like to root for a Mariners team that never once was multiple games below .500. Just, never an issue. They come out hot and you spend the whole year never once worrying about getting back to .500.
I don’t believe we’ll have to worry about the Mariners climbing back to .500. It’d be crazy to worry—but climbing back above water is something they’ll have to do after losing three of four to the Guardians.
It would be imprudent to cast too many conclusions about four games, two of them in March—but I won’t fault anyone for feeling frustrated. That’s what we watch sports for, to feel.
This series mostly stunk and if you find yourself begrudgingly settling in for a season that is going to have its ups and downs and too many Tommy La Stella plate appearances then hey, right there with you.
While there’s no reason to feel downtrodden, it shouldn’t shock anyone to have it so fully illustrated that this team is not a juggernaut. It’s fine. There’s some good, there’s some bad and we happened to see more of the latter the last four days.
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Starting where the lineup does—Julio Rodríguez is a mere 135 games into his Major League career and already it’s a challenge to find the diction to translate his game to the written word.
On the cover of every magazine, expected to carry the weight of this organization on his shoulders, got the massive contract, MVP hype…and the dude is griddying his way into the 2023 campaign without a care in the world.
He is barreling almost a quarter of his swings so far (22.5 percent) and 15.4 of his plate appearances are ending that way. It’s a smallllll sample and is not at all predictive but Julio’s hit the ball about in line with how Aaron Judge did last year, when looking at those metrics.
I love his offensive game, I plan everything around his plate appearances—but the lasting image for me from the weekend was this shot of the catch today. It’s not some jaw-dropping webgem, but there’s something so aesthetically rich and classic with his saunter through the sunlight. A Norman Rockwell feel.
If defensive highlights are your thing, however, this was not the series for you.
It isn’t as if there are many teams who can afford to do this, but the Mariners can absolutely not afford to play poor defense and win games. Not going to happen.
They don’t have defensive studs all over the place, but they’re supposed to a play a quality, fundamentally sound and clean brand of run prevention. They did not do that.
This falls in the same bucket.
If you walk people, you will pay. Unless you are 2014 Fernando Rodney.
Penn Murfee is not prime Rodney. The non-competitive walk in extras today, the one that eliminated the crucial leadoff strikeout and pushed the tying run to third was brutal.
Marco and Robbie produced a downpour when they’re only marginally capable of dancing between raindrops. Nobody’s great at it. Walks kill you.
On Robbie, the injury is a very real one. The Mariners avoided that all spring, and to their rotation all of last year. Though he’ll receive a checkup in two weeks to see where he’s at and it’s described as a Grade 1 strain, guys who go down with flexor strains tend to miss serious time. If the Mariners have Ray back inside of a couple months, they should consider themselves fortunate.
Is this some regression to the mean on pitching injury luck, after almost none last year? For sure. But this is one area where the Mariners do have depth. Losing Ray for an extended period certainly knocks off some of the upper-percentile outcomes for this team but there were already plenty of scenarios where he’s the team’s fourth-best starter on the year.
The Mariners need Luis Castillo to be Luis Castillo and he was. Logan was Walter and I’d be surprised to see George Kirby disappoint tomorrow. Chris Flexen, for what it’s worth, was great in the makeshift bulk role.
While the Mariners have depth in the rotation, they do not in the lineup. Julio Rodríguez feels like the only sure thing as far as elite or even near-elite offensive production so they need all their good guys to be good or they will get beat. Cal was good—and gosh he’s so good—but they do need Ty to bop like he did on Friday and Geno to be a rock.
And they need Teoscar Hernández to be the All-Star player he’s capable of being if they’re going to take a step forward as a group.
If you’re reading this, you generally know where I stand on the potentially incomplete nature of this offseason and probably already saw me tweet this thought—but Teo scuffling would be less concerning if he weren’t the best offensive player the Mariners acquired this winter.
He hit the ball hard this afternoon and he started very slow last year, but I’m not stating anything remotely controversial when I say the Mariners are counting on serious production from his spot in the lineup.
They need Wong to be good, too. Kelenic’s at-bats look a lot better even if he’s still trying to find results and the right level on the passivity dial.
If they’re looking for much of anything from Tommy La Stella, they have some problems. He has some Andrew Romine vibes and I prefer not to think too much about that whole situation because it’s generally quite unpleasant.
Anyway, the guys they’re counting on to perform didn’t quite do so over this stretch of four games and sometimes that’s all there is to it. Especially against a good team.
As much as Opening Day showed what it looked like when they play their brand of baseball, the last four days underscored how it looks when they don’t.
It’s just four games, but they do all count. Even the ones in April.
If anything, the next three are now a little more interesting with the Angels coming to down. It’s George Kirby and Luis Castillo for the M’s with Ohtani looming on Wednesday.
You don’t need to have ‘em, but you want to have ‘em.
Go get ‘em.