ESPN’s Jayson Stark: Mariners’ value of on-base percentage has been key to offense’s success

May 10, 2016, 2:50 PM

In ESPN’s latest MLB power rankings, the American League West-leading Mariners cracked the Top 10 for the first time this season, jumping up from No. 14 last week to No. 7 this week. Senior Writer Jayson Stark had a vote in the rankings, and he explained to 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” on Tuesday why the 19-13 M’s cracked his top five.

“When you think about, who in the American League outside of the White Sox has been definitively better than the Mariners so far? I’ll say no one,” said Stark.

He’s got a point there. The 23-10 White Sox are obviously on a roll, but the Mariners won six straight series before splitting a four-game set over the weekend with Houston. They even got head start on another potential series victory with a 5-2 win over Tampa Bay on Monday.

Three things to watch this week with the Mariners

Consistent offensive production has been an issue for Seattle in recent seasons, but they entered Tuesday with 140 runs, good for third in the American League. And there’s a reason for that, according to Stark, that has to do with how first-year general manager Jerry Dipoto’s approach to constructing a roster differs from previous GM Jack Zduriencik.

“Jack Zduriencik just never valued on-base percentage. He liked the thump. He liked to bring in those sexy names, but the lineup pieces didn’t fit the way they do now,” Stark said. “I still question whether this team is going to lead the league in homers or however it’s gonna wind up, and whether the offense’s too centered around the ball leaving the park, but don’t you think the lineup pieces fit together much better than they did in the past?”

Best middle infield in baseball?

The two players making the most noise recently for the Mariners just happen to be their double-play combination – second baseman Robinson Cano and shortstop Ketel Marte. Stark said the duo is in the conversation to be baseball’s best middle infield, along with Houston’s Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa and Boston’s Dustin Pedroia and Xander Boegarts.

Cano, who is hitting .301, leads the MLB with 33 RBIs and is sitting in a tie for the MLB lead at 12 home runs, he appears primed to not only be an All-Star for the seventh time but contend for the MVP award.

“Robbie’s playing at as high a level as anybody’s seen him play in Seattle, and you can argue this is as good as he’s been even if you go back to his Yankees years,” Stark said.

The 22-year-old Marte, meanwhile, was the star of Monday’s win, registering his first-career four-hit game, including the game-winning three-run homer. After a slow start, he’s turned it around to score 16 runs and push his slash line to .297/.323/.398.

“He’s really a fun player,” Stark said. “Switch hits, can really run, great baseball IQ and energy, range – you guys know he’s made more plays outside his zone than any shortstop in baseball this year? One thing you’d say is you’d like him to be a little more selective at home plate, but he’s a really dynamic player.”

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ESPN’s Jayson Stark: Mariners’ value of on-base percentage has been key to offense’s success