How serious is Mariners’ slump? Observations from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi
It’s safe to say that with such high hopes for this Mariners season, a slump the magnitude of which they’re currently fighting through was not something anyone wanted to see them go through this early in the season.
Ahead of Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Mariners were 12-16 after losing six straight and 10 of their last 11 ballgames (they won in dramatic fashion Sunday to improve to 13-16). It’s been a sharp turn left from where they were less than two weeks ago when they opened a road trip against the same Rays with an 8-4 win to improve to 11-6 on the young season.
Offense has been the main issue, with Seattle scoring at least four runs in only three of those last 11 games. And making matters worse, even when they scored seven runs on Friday night, a game that included an exciting two-run, pinch-hit, go-ahead home run by Jarred Kelenic in the eighth inning, top reliever Paul Sewald then gave up a three-run homer with one out in the ninth, leading to an 8-7 M’s loss.
A day prior to that emotional defeat, baseball insider Jon Morosi of MLB Network joined Seattle Sports Station’s Wyman and Bob for his weekly appearance on the show and delved into the Mariners’ struggles. Listen to the full segment in the podcast at this link or in the player below. After that, we’re break down a few of the bigger points Morosi touched on.
Mariners missing a leader
One person the Mariners have been without throughout essentially their entire slump is Mitch Haniger, a former All-Star who led the team in home runs last season and is their primary cleanup hitter when healthy. Unfortunately for Seattle, Haniger hasn’t been healthy much this season, first missing two weeks on the COVID-19 injured list, then returning for all of one at-bat (a single) during which he suffered a high-ankle sprain. He’s been reported to be wearing a boot to protect the injury and there has been no word of when he may return.
Morosi spoke about the possible impact of missing Haniger, who has been vocal about wanting to lead the M’s to the playoffs.
“I realize he wasn’t off to a great start, but we talked about this a lot in spring training about how young this group is and how Mitch Haniger is sort of the player that keeps everything in harmony,” Morosi said. “He is the link of that lineup… so when when you miss that veteran on what is already a young team, you’ve got guys like (Jesse) Winker who are coming in trying to make a big impression on his new city, and then you have the two young guys in the outfield (Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez), there are a lot of people now that you can tell are just kind of searching for it.”
Morosi wonders if Haniger’s absence is causing the younger players being asked to shoulder more of the offensive load to press.
“They want so badly to succeed,” he said. “… Baseball is the one sport guys where you can’t play better by trying harder, and often it’s the worst thing to do. I think this is where the youth of this team and not having Haniger in the lineup I think shows up a little bit.”
Is offense just a Seattle problem?
The Mariners went into Sunday averaging 4.14 runs per game, which is 0.06 more than the current league average, but the number was that high only because of what Seattle did before its current skid. That being said, the M’s aren’t the only team searching for more production out of a lineup.
“I’ve been traveling a lot,” said Morosi, who serves as a reporter on FOX MLB broadcasts in addition to his MLB Network duties. “I’ve been in a number of different ballparks this season. A lot of teams need offense. A lot of teams are short on offense. We’re seeing a lot of low scoring games. Is it the weather? Is it the ball? Is it the shifting? Is it the quality of defense?”
There’s one reason the Mariners may be struggling more than other teams, though.
“A lot of things are working against hitters right now, but I also think that the Mariners are a team that is quite susceptible to the swing and miss. You’ve got three players who already have more than 30 strikeouts – (Eugenio) Suárez, Rodríguez and Kelenic – and there’s a lot of swing and miss in this lineup right now. So when you can’t really bring in the situational runs and have those really key at-bats late in the game when you’re losing close games, it can start to wear on you.”
The previous time Morosi was on Seattle Sports for his weekly visit, he spoke at length about how the Los Angeles Angels are proving to be a real contender in the American League West in a year where the Mariners were hoping to leap over the Houston Astros. The Angels have stayed on pace, sitting at 19-11 after another win Sunday, while the Astros aren’t going away at 18-11 thanks in part to a sweep of the M’s earlier this week.
How concerned is Morosi for the Mariners’ chances to make a run in the division based on the first month of play?
“The Angels have impressed me more than the Mariners have disappointed me,” he said. “I think that the Angels, they’re just that much (more) of a better team than I thought. And if you want to say I’m sounding the alarm for Seattle fans, maybe I am because I think the Angels are really good. I just think Seattle needs to get a little bit of a jolt. One or two guys going in the lineup and it’s a very different story.”
You can hear Morosi each Thursday on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, which airs Monday through Friday from 2-7 p.m.