Dipoto talks Mariners’ ‘deep slumps’ at the plate, K numbers, more

May 4, 2023, 10:31 AM | Updated: 11:29 am

Seattle Mariners...

Teoscar Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners reacts after striking out on April 29, 2023. (Cole Burston/Getty Images)

(Cole Burston/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have won three in a row, but the 10-run outburst from Sunday’s victory in Toronto feels like a thing of the past after the team’s last two games in Oakland.

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The Mariners were able to come away with a 2-1 win on Tuesday and a 7-2 win on Wednesday, but hits and runs were hard to come by in the two victories as Seattle didn’t score until the eighth inning on Tuesday and the seventh on Wednesday. What makes matters worse is the M’s were facing an A’s team that is easily the worst in baseball.

Entering Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, the Mariners have the worst team batting average in baseball and are 25th in OPS.

During Thursday’s Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports, the Mariners’ president of baseball operations shared his thoughts on the team’s offensive woes.

Dipoto said “in retrospect,” he’s happy the Mariners won those last two games late, but that in the moment it’s frustrating.

“We’re not playing well. We’re just not playing good offense,” Dipoto said. “And when you’re watching it unfold before your eyes, you can’t help but feel that negativity. When you don’t hit, it looks like there’s no energy, and that’s what it felt like watching these last two games, especially. … The thing that I come away with when I wake up the next morning and we’ve won three in a row is these guys have energy. They’re not trying to be in deep slumps – they want to get out of this. And hopefully last night was a move in that direction.”

In addition to having a low offensive output through the season’s first 30 games, the Mariners are tied for the third most strikeouts at the plate in MLB.

Simply put, the Mariners need to put the ball in play more, Dipoto said.

“I know (manager Scott Servais) has talked about it a good deal, you have to have a two-strike approach, particularly with runners on base or in scoring position, and we haven’t done that,” Dipoto said. “We are a team that is roughly a league-average team in contact, and we’re typically excellent at taking our walks. And as we’ve gone upside down offensively here these last few weeks, that’s been the big bugaboo is the strikeout. We are striking out way too much. It’s hard to hit when you’re not making contact … It is a big problem and we need to figure out how to put the ball in play more frequently.”

Right now, the MLB average OPS is .727. Only two qualified Mariners hitters – Jarred Kelenic and Cal Raleigh – are have higher OPS marks than the league average.

“Right now, half our lineup are guys that are dealing with those types of deep slumps,” Dipoto said. “And when you think about the bigger issue, which is two weeks of not hitting, it tends to get away from you and now you’re pressing because you’re thinking about something larger than just the next pitch.”

How exactly does pressing at the plate impact an at-bat?

“It’s when you are chasing out above the strike zone and you’re chasing off the plate and you’re swinging at that slider down in the other batter’s box,” Dipoto said. “Those guys are pressing more often than not because they’re just going and trying to do something that they don’t ordinarily do or they’re not good at doing. When you see that, when you see the really bad chases that make you as a fan on TV say, ‘What are you swinging at?’ there’s a pretty good chance that guy’s in press mode when you look up at the at the box scores and he’s in a 2-for-20 (stretch).”

Julio’s start to 2023

Star Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez isn’t off to the best of starts as he enters Thursday slashing .231/.297/.427 (.721 OPS), but he’s far from the only one in Seattle’s lineup.

But when specifically looking at Rodríguez, what’s Dipoto seeing?

“He’s in a slump. He’s struggling and like so many around him, that’s what exacerbates it,” he said. “He’s missing, he’s not hitting the pitches that he gets to hit. He’s a little conscious right now of that ball that’s in, and I think he’s not the only one in our lineup that’s feeling it. What that does when you’re focused there is it restricts your ability to go get the ball away, and that’s something that Julio has always done very well is drive the ball to the other side of the field.”

Dipoto thought Rodríguez’s final plate appearance on Wednesday was a positive sign as he worked a walk in extra innings and didn’t try to do too much.

“Julio has that star quality to him, he knows that he is a driver in our lineup, and like so many other guys like Ty (France), like (Eugenio Suárez), like (Teoscar Hernández), they are trying to do something to create for this team, and when you’re pushing too hard, you wind up like we are right now, where scoring runs is just such a premium,” Dipoto said.

Dipoto isn’t worried about Rodríguez for multiple reasons, he said.

One is that the young outfielder is “great at turning the page” be it from game to game or at-bat to at-bat.

Additionally, Rodríguez struggled far worse last April in his first month of MLB action and then flipped the script and was one of baseball’s best players, finishing seventh in AL MVP voting while winning AL Rookie of the Year honors.

“I don’t think Julio is putting too much pressure on himself, I just think he is truly outside of his own game,” Dipoto said. “And once he reels in the pitches he’s swinging at, which is almost always what it’s about, I think he’s going to be great.”

Rodríguez, Dipoto noted, even after a down first 30 games is still on 30-30 pace in terms of home runs and stolen bases while effectively being a “league-average offensive player.”

“That’s a pretty good player in a slump. So I don’t know that that I see this as as a dire issue,” Dipoto said. “What we’re not getting is the consistency that he showed from May to season’s end last year, particularly what he was doing to drive us through midsummer. It’s really hard to sustain that from opening day through 162 … Unfortunately for Julio, like some of our other guys, they started their season in the low and that just makes it feel like you’re clawing back.”

New guy woes for Seattle Mariners

The Mariners have largely struggled across the board when it comes to hitting, but the team’s newest bats have been at the forefront.

Hernández, AJ Pollock and Kolten Wong have all scuffled out of the gate, as did Tommy La Stella (designated for assignment on Tuesday) and Cooper Hummel (demoted to Triple-A Tacoma).

On the flip side, the Mariners have had great success from new arms both this year and in recent seasons.

So what’s the cause of that disparity?

“I wish I knew the answer to that,” Dipoto bluntly said..” I guess if I knew the answer to that we wouldn’t be struggling with that kind of disparity between the two different groups. But we’ve had success bringing in hitters. We have found hitters that fit our ballpark, that fit our team, that fit our lineup and who click. It’s a really unfortunate thing when you see established major league hitters come in and for the first 30 days of the season struggle like this group has, or even a handful of the guys we had last year. But for every guy that struggles, I think we’ve found a Geno Suárez. For every guy that comes in and stumbles, we’ve found somebody to pick it up and move it in the right direction.”

Dipoto also said he thinks that as the weather warms up, so too will the Mariners bats.

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“I really do think that as the weather starts to warm in Seattle and the guys get a little more comfortable hitting in our environment, history tells us that it picks up in the midsummer. Not for all of them, but for most of them, and that’s baseball,” Dipoto said. “As we get here into mid- to late-May and we start seeing a little more sun in the Pacific Northwest, I think we’ll start seeing more offense.”

Listen to the full interview with Dipoto at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

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Dipoto talks Mariners’ ‘deep slumps’ at the plate, K numbers, more