Mariners’ Dipoto: Moving Julio down in order, Teoscar needs to swing less

May 12, 2023, 11:06 AM | Updated: 11:23 am

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodriguez, Teoscar Hernandez...

Julio Rodriguez and Teoscar Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners look on on April 17, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners may have the best pitching staff in baseball so far this season, but the bats have largely lagged behind.

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Entering Friday’s series opener with the Detroit Tigers, the Mariners are 23rd in runs scored, 28th in team batting average, 27th in team OPS and have struck out the second-most of any team in baseball.

Seattle went 3-3 in its last homestand, taking two of three from the Houston Astros and dropping two of three to the Texas Rangers despite allowing just six total runs in that series.

So what is Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto seeing from his team’s offense? He shared his insight with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

“It was sporadic and not consistent, but we saw better signs from our offense this past homestand than we’ve seen in a couple of weeks,” he said. “Hopefully we’ve seen Ty France turn the corner and he looks like Ty France again after a three-week slump. And we’ve got a few others who are still mired in pretty significant slumps that hopefully we’re able to shake out of. We were able to do enough to score runs at a little higher clip than we have been recently, but the same frustration (still exists) in close losses that has plagued us throughout the year that I do think will turn itself around. Luck tells you that it will.”

Three key bats in the Mariners’ lineup are really struggling, with Julio Rodríguez, Teoscar Hernández and Eugenio Suárez all in the midst of severe slumps. While it’s unclear when those three will start to get it going at the plate, Dipoto isn’t worried about that trio in the long run.

“Julio is not going to hit .200 and he’s not going to roll a .150 BABIP for the next 70 plate appearances like he has for the last 70,” he said. “Teoscar Hernández will hit. He’s got too long a track record to suggest otherwise. Same with Geno Suárez. But when you’ve got three or four guys … who are all slumping simultaneously, it looks bad. And it’s really hard to score runs, despite the fact that I think the bottom of our order, the guys that kind of were struggling in the season’s early weeks, are now effectively turned around and doing things like they normally do. Guys like Kolten Wong and AJ Pollock and J.P. Crawford have really done a lot to create traffic. We’re just not cashing in because we don’t have the consistency up and down the order right now.”

Julio moved down in Seattle Mariners’ lineup

Prior to Wednesday’s series finale with Texas, Rodríguez had hit leadoff in every game he’d played this season. But that game, he was moved down in the lineup to the No. 6 spot. Ultimately, the 2022 AL Rookie of the Year went 1-for-4 with a single to right field and a strikeout and he’s now slashing .205/.270/.384 on the year.

Dipoto said manager Scott Servais brought up the idea of dropping the star outfielder down in the order after Tuesday’s win, and Dipoto was all for it.

“I think the real thought process here is just to get Julio going and take a little pressure off him,” he said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself naturally. I think the fact that he’s leading off every game creates a little more of a heightened awareness.”

Seattle Mariners’ Servais: Julio ‘trying to be a little bit more’ than himself

Rodríguez, like others in the Mariners’ lineup, is simply trying too hard at the plate, Dipoto said.

“They’re just trying to do more than they’re capable. They want to be the one to pull the offense out of this,” he said. “Their skill sets and their history suggests that they will do that. They’re just trying too hard right now. And the best thing you can do with players that are trying too hard is just take a little pressure off them in any way you can.”

As for Rodríguez’s place in the Mariners’ lineup, Dipoto said hitting sixth is “not permanent.”

“We’re just trying to get the bat going and get his confidence back where it needs to be,” he said.

And while it’s obviously a very small sample size, Dipoto liked what he saw from Rodríguez on Wednesday.

“Julio’s swing looked like Julio. He looked relaxed, he was on his feet, he wasn’t jumping,” he said. “And with the exception of one big swing behind in the count on a pitch that was up in the zone, he stayed calm throughout his swing and he wasn’t trying to do too much. And I think the result was he had a scorcher to left field, he did find a hit to right. The at-bats were better. And that’s what you’re trying to accomplish is just slow the heartbeat down.”

New addition Hernández swinging too much

The Mariners made a notable trade early in the offseason to acquire Hernández, a two-time Silver Slugger, from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Seattle needed another impact middle-of-the-order bat in the fold, and Hernández has been one of the league’s top sluggers over the last few years.

While Hernández is tied for the team lead in home runs, he’s struck out 54 times, which is second most in MLB. He’s also slashing just .215/.260/.396 so far.

“It’s something that’s ongoing and I wish I knew the answers to all the questions of struggle. If we had a simple answer, we wouldn’t be struggling to score runs the way we are,” Dipoto said. “But the starting point with Teo is in some way as simple as swing less. Right now, Teo is swinging more than he’s ever swung in his professional career.”

Dipoto said Hernández has never been a “passive hitter,” so he’s always swung a lot in his career. Now, he’s swinging even more, which is leading to more strikeouts, chases and whiffs.

“You’re taking an aggressive hitter who is now doubling down on it,” he said. “… What you do when you’re slumping is you go harder. If you’re a pitcher, you throw harder, if you’re a swinger, you swing harder, if you’re a hitter, you swing more and you think you’re going to swing your way out of it.”

“I call it ‘old guy skills.’ The old guy gets up there and he has a way of slowing it down,” Dipoto later added. “When they get in that deep slump, they just don’t try harder, they try less, and that’s how you get out of it. But that’s hard when you’re 30 years old and an explosive athlete and over the last four years you’re among the five-top home run hitters in baseball. There’s not a lot of 60 plate appearance stretches like this in Teo’s career that this has ever happened to him. So these are all new struggles for guys to overcome and the easy answer is do less. And it’s hard to coach ‘do less.'”

Listen to the full interview with Dipoto at this link or in the player below.

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