Jerry Dipoto Show: Mariners’ playoff hunt, Ty France’s consistency, starting pitching’s run
The Mariners won the series against the last-place Texas Rangers and are still right in the thick of things in the American League Wild Card race as they keep winning while some other teams have scuffled.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant for the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on Thursday to discuss his team’s recent play and why Seattle’s upcoming stretch of games is key when it comes to its playoff chances. Here’s a bit of what he had to say.
“This week is a very pivotal one for us”
Entering Thursday, the Mariners were just three games back of the second American League Wild Card spot as they won seven of their last 10 games.
“Scoreboard watching” is very common this time of year for fans who are keeping tabs on playoff races, and Dipoto is among the many who are keeping a close eye on what the other playoff contenders are doing on a day to day basis.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t watching because that’s what baseball fans do,” he said. “I know who Oakland is playing right now, I know who the Yankees are playing right now, and I know who the Blue Jays are playing. We watch what they’re doing in more than just a casual drive by of the scoreboard.”
Dipoto thinks his players generally do the same, also, but they know when to focus on the task at hand.
“They’re aware. They may not focus on it (because) they know at game time they’ve got to focus on what they do and control their own destiny,” Dipoto said. “This is what got us into baseball in the first place is how fun it is when you get down into a playoff race and watching what happens back and forth with each passing week.”
The Mariners wrapped up their series with the Rangers on Thursday, and next up are five critical games against division rivals who currently hold playoff berths.
“This week is a very pivotal one for us with Houston and Oakland coming up next,” Dipoto said. “A lot of our future – at least as 2021 goes – is going to be defined in these next six or seven days.”
Ty France is Mr. Consistent
The Mariners’ 2020 trade deadline deal with the San Diego Padres appeared to be centered around top outfield prospect Taylor Trammell and young reliever Andres Munoz, but so far, infielder Ty France has been the the key return for Seattle.
After slashing .302/.362/.453 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 23 games for the Mariners last year, France has been phenomenal in his first full year for Seattle. In 111 games entering Thursday, France is slashing .283/.355/.435 with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs while playing exceptional defense at first base.
France party 🕺 pic.twitter.com/Z5rzKDJzhB
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) August 17, 2021
France leads the Mariners in batting average and on-base percentage and is second on the team in hits and doubles and is third in RBIs. He also rarely strikes out, with just 77 on the year in those 111 games.
Dipoto used one word to sum up France’s 2021 campaign.
“It’s been so consistent,” he said. “(If you take away the) period of time where he was battling a wrist injury that was probably worse than he was letting on, Ty France is about as steady as it gets. He shows up every day and it is one good at-bat after another. And he has great team at-bats. In those moments where you need to get a runner over or get a runner in or you really need to start a fire, he’s generally been that guy for us.”
France is a big, strong guy and hits in the cleanup spot, but power in the form of home runs isn’t a big part of his game. Might we see that develop more as France’s career continues?
Au revoir 👋 pic.twitter.com/agWBe3Jiof
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) August 15, 2021
“We just expect him to be a good hitter and the rest kind of falls into place,” Dipoto said. “If you have a good approach and you are strong and you have a feel for barreling the ball, the power will come.”
Dipoto said that power used to be looked at strictly through a home run lens, but now, the Mariners look at isolated power and “the way a hitter creates impact” when looking at a hitter’s power.
“In those areas, Ty’s actually quite good,” Dipoto said. “In a more sabermetric view of power, Ty looks like a middle of the order hitter. The fact that he has a dozen homers isn’t reflective of how good we think his power is.”
What a run for the starters
Simply put, the Mariners have been exceptional on the mound in the month of August, and that’s been carried by the starting rotation. Dipoto, who has been in Seattle since late-2015, was asked if this is the best run by his starters since he came to town roughly six years ago.
“It’s been a number of years since we’ve had this kind of consistency in our starting rotation,” Dipoto said. “That has been the big push for us. We’ve made some timely hits, we’ve made some great plays, but I think the key for us has been the pitching, and particularly the starters. I can point to really all of them. It’s been a collective effort.
“Flex has been consistent from Day 1, he’s shown up every fifth or sixth day all year. Obviously we got a boost from Logan Gilbert. We went through a 10- or 11-start stretch where we won every one of his starts. The arrival of Tyler Anderson and his addition and the resurgence of Marco Gonzales, it’s really been fun to watch. These guys give us a chance every day and our bullpen continues to throw strikes and do what they do.”
Listen to the latest Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.