The Seattle Mariners have started the 2022 campaign with a record of 13-17, good for third in the AL West. While the record is not ideal for what M’s fans are expecting, there have been positives so far this season. On the hitting side, while Jesse Winker and up-and-coming stars Jared Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez have struggled, two new offensive juggernauts have emerged. While the hitting is positive on the season, the pitching can be viewed as the negative so far. Acquiring the all-time leader in strikeouts per nine in Robbie Ray should have brought stability to the rotation, but it has yet to do so. Let’s dig into the pitching cons and hitting pros for more detail:
Cons – Starting Pitching
37.0 IP/4.38 ERA, lowest career K/9 at 7.5
Going into this season, the Mariners had hoped that Ray would bring his strikeouts and Cy Young ability with him. So far, Ray has been a league-average pitcher at best. Excluding his Chase Rate, he’s right around the 50th percentile for every other Statcast metric. Going back to his Chase Rate, he’s in the 17th percentile, meaning hitters aren’t going after those pitches out of the zone. For comparison, last year, Ray registered in the 70th percentile. He’s also down about two miles per hour on his fastball and changeup. A league-average pitcher is great for the end of the rotation but not for the pitcher slated to make $21 million this year.
25.1IP/3.91 ERA, near lowest in most Statcast categories
I love to look at the basic statistics for pitchers (IP, ERA, K, BB, WHIP) and then compare them to their advanced stats (Statcast, FIP, ERA+, etc.) to truly see how a player is performing. What I enjoy about advanced statistics is that a 3.91 ERA can be both a bad and a good ERA. In Marco’s case, he is a ticking time bomb. His Statcast categories are mostly below the 10th percentile, with his xSLG being the worst, in the 5th percentile. Gonzales typically is a pitcher that rarely gives up walks (career 5.8 BB%), but this year that has jumped up to 8.4 BB%. He’s also giving up almost double the Major League average of Barrel% at 11%. In traditional statistics, this can be noted by his league-leading eight home runs.
Pros – Unlikely Offensive Heroes
.319/.385/.474/.859 – five home runs, 22 RBIs, 1st in WAR for 1B in AL
Back in a previous post, I wrote, Fangraphs actually predicted France to be the Mariners’ best hitter, which was a surprise. With boppers in the lineup like Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Mitch Haniger, and practically the rest of the team, I wasn’t expecting Ty France to be at the top of the list this year. Never doubt the nerds, I guess. Back to France, he’s right near the top of xBA, while also rarely striking out and swinging and missing. France also gives the Mariners the ability to play first, second, and third base, which not many players can do.
.340/.435/.546/.981 – four home runs, 10 RBIs, 1st in WAR for SS in ML
Crawford has been another player whom the Mariners are astonished by so far. The career .717 OPS shortstop is known for his borderline Gold Glove level defense, but this year he’s jumped that OPS up to .981. Along with being the best SS in WAR by Major League standards, he’s also 4th in the league overall. He’s also striking out at a career-low 13% of the time, which is almost half the amount of an average MLB player (22%). Crawford achieves his numbers by staying on the ball, rarely hitting it to the opposite field (only 15.7% of the time, ML average is 25.4%). Nested in all of his hits are push bunts that third basemen and pitchers aren’t ready for. Although his speed is no longer top-level (53rd percentile), he’s still able to scrape out singles.
The Mariners So Far
I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Robbie Ray. Maybe the short Spring Training is leading to the drop in velocity. I hope it’s not an injury because I don’t trust the starting rotation of this team. Marco Gonzales, as an example, is due to implode at any start. Although Logan Gilbert has had a great start to the season, his numbers have him trending down. Matt Brash and George Kirby are also bright spots, but I don’t have enough for me to feel comfortable about the starters. Offensively, the Mariners are in a great spot. France and Crawford have held this team together while the other boppers have their bats cooking in the oven. Jesse Winker will turn it around soon, and the M’s will have back Tom Murphy and Mitch Haniger shortly. I’m all in for 11-10 games if it means the Mariners get the win.