BROCK AND SALK

Mariners Truth Meter: How valid are the concerns after a slow start?

Apr 3, 2023, 12:39 PM | Updated: 2:26 pm

Mariners Teoscar Hernández...

Teoscar Hernández of the Seattle Mariners reacts after a strikeout against Cleveland on March 31, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The fact that the Mariners didn’t play well in their opening series of the 2023 MLB season has brought out a lot of concerns from the fan base.

Stecker: What can be learned from Mariners’ rough opening series

The M’s dropped three of four to the Cleveland Guardians, the reigning American League Central champs, somewhat popping the balloon of excitement for the Seattle squad coming off a second straight 90-win season and entering the year with high expectations following a AL Wild Card Series win in the postseason last October.

On Monday’s edition of Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports, Mike Salk went through a list of the most common complaints he’s been hearing about the M’s so far, and giving a rating out of 10 for each one to assess their validity. Read what he and Brock Huard had to say below.

 

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They need a designated hitter: 3/10

Salk: “It’s kind of true, but not really. Tommy La Stella should not be your DH. I know he’s played twice at DH but he’s not very good and I don’t think he’s going to be here for very long. I do wish that they had found one more professional bat to add to this lineup, but the complaint that they need a DH I’m not sure is quite valid. Very few major league teams actually have a regular DH who is a great hitter, and the Mariners do have a plan. They want to use that spot to give their guys days off – Julio (Rodríguez), Teoscar (Hernández), who you saw in that spot yesterday, they want to get those guys off their feet which they think over the course of 162 games will help them maximize what they get from the players they have. So no, Tommy La Stella is not a DH, I agree with you and I really don’t want to see him there very often, but do the Mariners quote-unquote ‘need a DH?’ I’m not sure I’m quite there.”

They strike out too much: 9/10

Salk: “Very, very, very true this weekend – 35 Ks in four games is not good. The new rules should absolutely help offense in Major League Baseball, but they’re not going to matter much if you don’t put the ball in play. You have to hit the ball away from the the batter’s box in order for good things to happen. So that’s really, really bad; 35 strikeouts in four games is awful. But perhaps the bigger issue, and it goes right there with it, you can handle a lot of strikeouts but you gotta walk to go with it. They only took eight walks in the series. That’s terrible. That is a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.4 to 1. That is not controlling the zone at all. … What was that number last year over the course of the whole year? 2.3. … I’m going to assume that that is an aberration, that they’re not going to continue to strike out at that pace or have a strikeout-to-walk ratio that is that awful, but that was absolutely a problem this weekend and something they’ve got to clean up.”

The new guys are bad: 3/10

Salk: “The combination of Teoscar, (Kolten) Wong, La Stella, (Cooper) Hummel and (AJ) Pollock were 3 for 40 with three walks. That’s not going to work. The good news: Wong’s gotten on base a couple times, Teoscar hit the ball hard a few times. I’m not worried about those two guys, but I do think they’re on the April watch list because if they get frustrated hitting here in this ballpark, in the cold, etc., and it sets them off and they never get off to a good start and you end up with Jesse Winker Pt. Deux, no thanks. … Those guys did not have a good series, but they’re not bad. They just had a bad series.”

Brock: “A little bit of the challenge was Teoscar had not the greatest spring, not the greatest (showing in the World Baseball Classic), not the greatest start there – 0 for his first 13. And in a contract year, you don’t want that guy pressing.”

They can’t hit: 2/10

Salk: “You believe that? You think that’s true? I think it’s false – demonstrably. … They scored 12 runs – in the cold, against good pitching. They’re gonna be just fine. Honestly, of all the complaints – and I see this all the time, ‘Oh, they’re a bad team, they can’t hit just like last year’ – they hit last year, and they’re hitting now. … I am not concerned that the Mariners’ offense is bad. … I think they’re going to take a step. They’re not going to be a top-five offense in baseball, though. So if that’s the expectation, that’s probably not gonna happen. They weren’t built that way. They were built to do some other things, and by the way, they didn’t accomplish all the other things they were built to do this weekend. But over the course of a year, I am not concerned that the Mariners will not be able to hit. I think they’re gonna hit, and fairly consistently, this year.”

Jarred Kelenic is still bad: 6/10

Salk: “Next one for me, ‘Jarred Kelenic is still bad,’ a quote that I heard quite a bit of this weekend. I’m going to tell you, that’s probably 6 out of 10, and I say that as as the biggest Jarred Kelenic fan on the planet. The numbers stink, the numbers were not good. The eye test was actually not bad this weekend. Seriously, he hit a few balls hard… I love that he went the other way for a double on Friday night, I love that he’s already stolen a base. His attitude has been fine. You haven’t seen any of the frustration, any of the anger, any of that. So his start is not ideal, and I think for him, his start is more important than for anybody else on this team but I’m not concerned yet. My only concern, and the only thing that I would have disagreed with, is that I wouldn’t have bumped him up in the lineup after a couple of days. I didn’t want to see him hitting fifth (on Saturday)… I want Jarred Kelenic at the bottom of the lineup in a set spot all the time this year, and I don’t want to see them start putting any more pressure on him to be a run producer.”

They lost because they didn’t spend enough: 2/10

Salk: “The Mariners spent $52 million more than Cleveland did, but the money is the reason they lost? Stop pointing to money. It is not the reason teams win or lose games. You gotta spend money, and the Mariners have spent some and they, I think, will spend more. But they didn’t lose to Cleveland because they didn’t spend enough money. They lost to Cleveland because Cleveland played better over the course of four games.”

Brock: “Cleveland was sharper. Cleveland didn’t make the mistake. Cleveland got in tight games and had the home runs on a frigid night to win it. Cleveland got in a tight game yesterday and they did not make the mistakes to lose it, and they did the little things well, which is what they did last year when they made the run and won their pennant and got to the playoffs. That’s the team that you’ve got to be.”

They don’t play well with expectations: 9/10

Brock: “How about ‘This team has yet to prove they can play with expectations?’ That last year, come out the gate, little expectations, stumble and fall, dig themselves out, have an unbelievable run. And then, you know, get to the summertime after that (14-game win streak) run and then stumble and fall, dig themselves out. And then go to Toronto (in the playoffs), toughest place to play, prove that they love to play with a chip on their shoulder. But can they play with expectations?”

Salk: “I think that’s a fair question. I mean, that’s been an issue for them at times over the last few years, and I think that’s actually an issue across sports. I don’t know if that’s a Mariner issue so much as an issue for athletes in the modern era – you and I have had a lot of conversations about that – so I think you’re probably right about that. I’d give it probably a 9 out of 10, but I don’t know that that’s specific to them.”

Brock: “I would tend to agree with that. But that’s the hump they’re gonna have to get over.”

The Mariners were sloppy: 10/10

Salk: “I think the thing that frustrated me most and the thing I would give a 10 out of 10 is that people say ‘The Mariners were sloppy this week’ – they were. Their calling card is not beating themselves, and they did on Friday and even more so yesterday. You can’t walk (16) batters, make four errors including throwing a game away yesterday and expect to win. You’re not built for that. So that is the thing that I found most troubling. I don’t expect it to continue, but the problem to me is not that they didn’t spend more money, not that their guys stink, not that they can’t hit, not that they’re bad. It’s that they played sloppy, and that is what is not acceptable.”

Listen to the full discussion in the podcast below.

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Mariners Truth Meter: How valid are the concerns after a slow start?