MLB Network’s Amsinger: 2 things Mariners need for playoff push
The Mariners will enter September as close to a postseason berth as they have been in any final month of a season since their playoff drought started in 2002, as Seattle comes into Tuesday owning the American League’s second wild card with a cushion of 2 1/2 games above the first team not in a playoff spot.
Will the M’s be able to close out the season with one of the AL’s three wild cards, and perhaps even the first one that comes with home-field advantage for the entire best-of-three opening round? If two things can happen over the next month for Seattle, MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger thinks the M’s will be in mighty fine shape.
“There are two things that I’m worried about. I need to see Ty France bounce all the way back. That’s No. 1. He is vitally important – vitally important,” Amsinger told Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Monday. “And man, would I love to see J.P. Crawford play the way he did in April and halfway through May down the stretch.”
France and Crawford both got off to huge starts this season for the Mariners.
Through the first 50 games, France owned a .355/.426/.513 slash line for a .939 OPS. In the 51 games since, however, he’s at a slash of just .210/.274/.357 for a .631 OPS. Injuries have been a concern, as he landed on the injured list with a strained elbow in July and has also dealt with a sore wrist and bruised calf. Perhaps more worrisome, though, are his recent struggles with chasing pitches out of the strike zone, which is uncharacteristic for the 2022 All-Star.
The Mariners surely hope France started to come out of his slump on Sunday when he ended a seven-game hitless streak, going 2 for 3 with a majestic home run, his 15th of the year.
Crawford’s 2022 season has gone similarly at the plate. He appeared on his way to a breakout campaign after the first month of play, slashing .333/.419/.533 for a .953 OPS with four homers, seven doubles and a triple through 30 games. It’s been a rough go in the 75 games he’s played since then, with him slashing .231/.306/.291 for a .597 OPS with only one homer. Crawford has also been banged up, most recently missing Sunday’s game with a pectoral injury.
“He (looked) like he came over the top of a mountain and you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, I didn’t know we had a superstar on our hands,'” Amsinger said of Crawford’s first month of the season. “He has cooled off since then. I would love for him to find that swing again, because if they’re all clicking, you don’t want to face the Seattle Mariners in October. You don’t want to face a lineup this young, this talented, with a ceiling this high. It would be dangerous.”
Here’s a look at a few other things Amsinger had to say about the M’s.
Mariners in the thick of the playoff race
Is the Mariners’ success in 2022 a surprise to Amsinger? Not exactly.
“It’s sort of what I expected. Did I think they were going to push the Astros in the West? No. Did I think they’re going to be a wild card team? Yeah,” he answered. “Did I think Julio Rodríguez would be the most valuable player on the team? I think he had to be for them to be a wild card team with Mitch Haniger missing as much time (as he did).”
Not only that, but Amsinger is a big fan of Seattle’s pitching, though he is cautious about how the bullpen will perform in the postseason chase because of its overall inexperience.
“The rotation has been steady – you add a Luis Castillo, now it’s one of my favorite rotations in the American League,” he said. “There’s still questions in the very impressive bullpen because these guys don’t have the track record that other weapons in bullpens from other teams have, but I still love their stuff. I mean, (Diego) Castillo can be electric, (Penn) Murfee, (Matt) Brash – when he’s right, he’s just uncomfortable. I love the kid (Matt) Festa. They got good stuff back there, they just don’t have the track record that makes you go, ‘Oh, they’re definitely going to perform at a high level come October.’ You’ll probably move a couple arms from the rotation into the ‘pen when you need to if you get that far.”
Amsinger added that when he looks at the Mariners, he sees a similarity to another likely playoff team, the National League Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals.
“I look at the Seattle Mariners – I know this is a high compliment – but the way the Cardinals are playing right now, 20-6 in the last 26, very impressive… Up and down, the Mariners don’t have the future Hall of Famers the Cardinals have, but in terms of style of play, I see a lot of similarities between these two teams. I think the Mariners are trending in a direction to be the American League St. Louis Cardinals. And trust me, that’s a compliment.”
The impact Julio’s contract will have on MLB
The other thing that has the Mariners in the news lately is their massive – and massively complicated – extension with budding superstar Julio Rodríguez. The deal has a dizzying array of options, clauses and incentives to it, and Amsiger sees the contract with the 21 year old as something that will be used as a blueprint for teams that want to lock up other young cornerstone players in the future.
He also thinks that it will be a good development not just for Rodríguez and the Mariners, but baseball as a whole.
“I look at this deal as a win-win, but it’s got different layers to it that we’ve never seen that honestly will be replicated going forward,” Amsinger said. “I think this is a groundbreaking contract from a legal standpoint and the language that was used. You will see other top prospects go this route, and it’s good for baseball because if everything pans out, we want our stars becoming faces of franchises and not leaving. That’s great for the overall product. This is a contract that’s great for the sport. It’s good for Julio if everything pans out, it’s good for the Mariners if everything pans out, and it’s good for the sport. We need more deals (that are) this creative.”
You can listen to the full Wyman and Bob conversation with Amsinger at this link or in the player below. The interview begins a little over the 24-minute mark into the podcast.