Fann’s Mariners Takeaways: Dipoto details what M’s most need to fix

Apr 6, 2023, 12:51 PM

Mariners Cal Raleigh...

Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh talks with umpire Brennan Miller during an April 2 game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto joined the Brock and Salk Show on Thursday morning as he does each and every week. The 8:30 a.m. conversation, of course, centered around his reaction the Seattle’s inauspicious 2-5 start to the 2023 season.

Seattle Mariners Breakdown: Bob Stelton reacts to the slow start

“We have really struggled in almost every facet of the game through a week,” Dipoto said without mincing words. “I know the general attention has been paid to our offense but it’s really been all elements of the game. We’ve struggled to make the defensive plays, we’ve struggled on the bases, and we’ve really struggled to manage the strike zone both on the mound and from the batter’s box.”

Dipoto covered a number of topics (and we’ll get to more of them in a second), but he continued to reiterate that the biggest issue in the early going was the Mariners’ inability to command the strike zone.

“That’s the thing we pride ourselves on and can control,” Dipoto said. “We will turn ourselves around when we get back to doing the things that we do, which is managing the strike zone. We are giving up too many free bases, and we aren’t getting enough of our own. That has to flip in order to turn the script to the start of our season.”

Mariners’ pitchers have issued the second-most free passes (31) through seven games, ranking better than only the White Sox (35). Mariners’ hitters have taken only 16 walks, which ranks 22nd.

Dipoto reiterated that Seattle’s offensive woes haven’t been due to opposing pitchers hammering the strike zone with swing-and-miss stuff. The lineup has chased far too many pitches outside the zone and ranks 24th in O-swing% (outside of the zone swing percentage) at 34.5%. That’s a significant spike from a year ago when Seattle ranked third in that category, swinging at just 29.6% of pitches outside the zone.

“That’s not really what has happened,” Dipoto said. “We are swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. We are making a lot of non-competitive misses on the pitcher’s mound. Our language, from our coaches and our players, they know. These are guys who have done it before, and they’ve done it very well at this level. They just had a bad week. What we can do is show some patience and keep on beating the drum of the process that we know led us to the place that we’ve been and want to get back to.”

Dipoto viewed Wednesday as a step forward even though Seattle lost 4-3 to the Angels. The Mariners drew four walks and forced Los Angeles pitcher Shohei Ohtani to throw 111 pitches through six innings.

“We finally saw pitches,” he said. “We forced the opponent to throw pitches in a way that the Mariners do. That has the potential to have a long-lasting, positive effect on us over the course of the season.”

Finally, he rebuffed the notion that players might be pressing in the early going amid heightened expectations from the fan base.

“We would be disappointed if people didn’t expect us to be a contending club and to go out and win night after night,” Dipoto said. “I don’t think that is what has caused us to play poorly for a week. We just simply didn’t execute.”

Other takeaways from The Jerry Dipoto Show

An early evaluation of Jarred Kelenic

Kelenic has played exclusively against right-handed pitchers thus far and is hitting .200 (3 for 15) with one double, one steal, one walk and seven strikeouts.

“It’s hard to get judgy through 15 at-bats,” Dipoto said. “If all goes well for Jarred, he’s going to make 500-550 plate appearances (this season). I like the fact that he’s used the left side of the field. I like the fact that he’s seeing pitches. I’d love to see him get some traction and see the results show up.”

Update on Robbie Ray

Ray has a flexor injury and will be on the injured list for an estimated six weeks. Dipoto said the team is feeling thankful that it’s not an elbow issue that would force him to miss more significant time.

ESPN’s Passan: How concerning flexor injury to Mariners’ Robbie Ray is

“It’s a big loss for us,” Dipoto said. “He was throwing the ball incredibly well in the spring. The good thing is that we don’t see it right now like a season-long issue. This can resolve itself in weeks rather than months. That’s encouraging for the broader picture.”

DH philosophy

I certainly haven’t been quiet regarding my frustrations with Tommy La Stella serving as the team’s opening day designated hitter. Dipoto defended Seattle’s use of the DH spot as a rotation ever since the departure of Edwin Encarnación in 2019.

“You use it as an opportunity to create matchups: a handedness matchup, a history matchup in terms of the hitter vs. the pitcher,” Dipoto said. “It gives you the chance to get players off their feet for a day who you might not want to play defense. For us, it started by intending to do that with Mitch Haniger, and we just think it’s the smarter way to go.”

That makes sense in theory, but I’m not ready to give the team a complete benefit of the doubt while it still ranks below the league average in payroll.

Fann: Slow start keeps concerns about Mariners’ offseason at forefront

Bad news for Evan White

Unfortunately, White is back on the injured list for Triple-A Tacoma, and the once prized first base prospect and will against miss significant time.

“Evan is going to be out for a while,” Dipoto said. “It’s another groin-related issue that could keep him out for upwards of two months again. It’s unfortunate for Evan that every time he seems to take a step forward, he’s unable to stay out on the field.”

It’s impossible not to feel gutted for the former first-round pick. The guy can’t catch a break health-wise.

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. every Tuesday during Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. Listen to this week’s edition at this link or in the podcast below.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners Breakdown: Bob Stelton reacts to 2-5 start to M’s season
The Good, Bad and Ugly from Mariners’ 2-5 homestand to start 2023
Concerned about how Mariners are using the DH? ESPN’s Passan isn’t
Passan: It’s far too early to worry about the Seattle Mariners
Seattle Mariners Truth Meter: How valid are the concerns after a slow start?

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