Morosi: Why Mariners can start to shoot up the standings

May 26, 2023, 12:33 PM | Updated: 12:44 pm

Seattle Mariners Teoscar Hernandez...

Teoscar Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run on May 24, 2023. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

After a four-game sweep of the lowly Oakland A’s, the Seattle Mariners find themselves two games over .500 for the first time in 2023.

France hits 2 homers, Gilbert goes 8 innings as Seattle Mariners edge A’s 3-2

As things currently stand, the Mariners are 5.5 games out of first place in the American League West, and 2.5 out of the third AL Wild Card spot. As they enter Friday’s series opener with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the M’s are 14-8 in May, have won four in a row and five of their last six.

So how can the Mariners continue to rise up in the standings as we head into the summer? MLB Network insider Jon Morosi shared his insight with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Thursday.

Elite arms carrying the Seattle Mariners

The Mariners’ pitching and bats couldn’t have started the 2023 season any differently.

Seattle’s arms have been the best in baseball, per Fangraphs WAR, and are third in MLB in earned run average.

The bats, however, have largely lagged behind, ranking 15th in fWAR and runs per game, and just 26th in team batting average.

Morosi first focused on the Mariners’ pitching, calling their staff “one of the very best” in all of baseball. And that’s thanks in large part to two young starting pitchers.

“George Kirby has been sensational since the very beginning of the season,” Morosi said. “And then you mentioned Bryce Miller, I had to look today as we were getting ready for this conversation, I said, ‘I wonder where Bryce Miller ranks in Wins Above Replacement on this Mariners team right now after a handful of starts.’ He’s fourth. He basically needed five games to evolve himself into being the fourth-best player on the team based on accumulated performance. He’s been just tremendous.”

Morosi noted that with Miller’s development, the key part was being able to throw his fastball up in the zone, which has been his calling card in his first five MLB starts.

“It’s amazing when you get a player with that amount of talent and then you have that little adjustment of ‘hey, let’s try throwing that fastball above the belt and see how it goes,’ and Bryce to his credit with his aptitude has been, I think, one of the smartest pitchers in the league this year,” he said. “A large part of that is he’s got the stuff to match with it. He knows where to put that electrifying fastball, and the opposing hitters just can’t square it up.”

Kirby and Miller have helped anchor a very good rotation, and the M’s have also gotten great contributions from Luis Castillo and Logan Gilbert, too. Couple that with what’s been a top-level bullpen despite missing Andrés Muñoz for nearly two months and Morosi thinks the M’s have the pitching to really make some noise.

“That’s where for as and down as some of the offensive issues have been … the thing you know is when your rotation is this good, that you’re going to have a chance to make up ground, that you’re going to be able to reel off some weeks where you go 5-2 or even 6-1,” he said. “And obviously the competition is part of the reason that’s happening right now, but the big picture is this rotation is, in my opinion, as good as there is in the sport, and it’s gotten all the better now that Bryce Miller is part of it.”

New guy can help bats get going

The Mariners entered this season hoping to have a better offense than in 2022.

So far, the Mariners are about where they were at the end of last year in terms of where they rank in MLB in runs, batting average and OPS, and their biggest offseason addition hasn’t performed up to his usual caliber.

That would be outfielder Teoscar Hernández, a two-time Silver Slugger who has gotten off to a colder start in 2023.

So far, Hernández is slashing .237/.275/.412 (.688 OPS) with nine home runs, and he has the most strikeouts at the plate in MLB.

Morosi thinks Hernández has the ability to help carry the Mariners if he gets back to his usual self.

“The one player that I come back to a lot … is Teoscar Hernández,” he said. “Because he is someone that I’ve seen him play really well in Toronto and I’ve seen him be an All-Star. He’s the kind of player that when he gets hot – and he hasn’t gotten too hot yet – but when he gets hot, he can carry a team for two weeks.”

With Hernández, Morosi referenced this week’s Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports where the Mariners’ president of baseball operations said the slugging outfielder has run into some bad luck at the plate.

“I think that’s a real thing. And I think you compound bad luck with wanting to really impress a new team, and that can snowball on you,” he said. “I believe that Teoscar Hernández is a very consistent hitter in this league for a long time, and that his middle third of the year is going to be dramatically better than what it was at the start. And when he gets going, the reason why I point to him is that he’s going to pick up a lot of those RBIs in the middle part of the lineup that where rallies might be stopping now when he comes up, if he keeps them going, he and (Eugenio) Suárez are both those kinds of guys that they can chip in a couple of weeks really of hot hitting and change the lineup. Those are two guys that I look to.”

Listen to Morosi’s full interview with Wyman and Bob at this link or in the player below.

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