Dipoto’s thoughts on Seattle Mariners’ ‘perplexing power outage’

Jun 8, 2023, 1:26 PM

Seattle Mariners AJ Pollock...

AJ Pollock of the Seattle Mariners strikes out against the Texas Rangers on May 10, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners showed some life in a 4-1 win over the Padres on Tuesday, but whatever good vibes were in play for that game quickly disappeared Wednesday in a 10-3 loss in San Diego.

Seattle Mariners split in San Diego as Padres bust out to win 10-3

Pitching has been a bit of an issue the last two weeks or so, with Seattle’s starters getting hit early in a handful of losses. That was the case Wednesday with George Kirby allowing 11 hits and five earned runs over just 3 2/3 innings.

The lineup continued to struggle, too, piecing together just four hits in the loss, highlighting again the offensive struggles showcased through the team’s first two-plus months of 2023.

During his Thursday interview with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto again discussed his team’s hitting struggles.

“I mean, by far the most perplexing is what has roughly been a power outage up and down our lineup,” Dipoto said.

Dipoto has stressed that when the Mariners are at their best offensively, they take walks and hit home runs. Entering Thursday’s off day, the M’s are just 20th in baseball in homers. Extra base hits in general are an issue for Seattle, which is 18th in doubles and tied for 23rd in triples.

“We are built to do damage. That’s what our lineup does, that’s what the history of our players says they are going to do, and we just haven’t done that this year,” Dipoto said. “And I wish I could tell you why. But it’s roughly up and down the lineup with almost every hitter out there.”

“The bulk of our players, their strikeout and walk rates are in about the range that you would expect them to be. Some guys are underperforming in one area or another, but by and large what you get from a strikeout-to-walk ratio is not terribly different than what you’d expect,” Dipoto said later. “What’s really off right now with our team is the damage we’re doing, the isolated power. It’s not just homers. When we talk about dominating the zone, we talk about getting into good counts and doing damage when we’re in those counts, whether that is a first pitch fastball to go hit, or a 2-0 or 2-1 count where you can really do some damage. And for virtually every hitter in our lineup, we’ve just struggled to do damage in those counts.”

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So what exactly is the problem?

“I wish I knew. If I knew, we could turn the dial and fix it,” Dipoto said. “And I know it’s it’s been something on the minds of our hitting coach, on (manager Scott Servais), our analysts trying to figure out why, because it’s not just a little off, it’s a lot. It’s been pretty extreme. We’re looking at 25%, 30%, or in some cases 80% declines in isolated power. And I don’t think you can chalk that up to a collective slump. There’s something that just hasn’t been right with our team for most of the season so far.”

Dipoto did say his guess is the issue will “resolve itself,” and that it’s hard to pinpoint a cause of the lineup’s collective struggles since the Mariners’ hitters aren’t “weaker” or dramatically older.

“We’re still one of the younger teams in our league. To see the power dissipate like it has, and with it has gone our ability to consistently score runs because when you’re not hitting the ball for extra-base hits, it’s very hard to score crooked numbers in our league,” he said.

Wong and Pollock

The Mariners’ biggest offseason addition was two-time Silver Slugger outfielder Teoscar Hernández.

The slugging outfielder leads the American League in strikeouts and has overall gotten off to a slow start, but there have been signs of life, such as a .272 average since the start of May.

Two other bats the M’s added this offseason – Kolten Wong and AJ Pollock – have struggled far worse and shown little signs of impact.

Wong has a minus-1.3 WAR, per Baseball Reference, with an OPS of just .424 and three extra-base hits.

Pollock, meanwhile, is at minus-0.4 WAR, per Baseball Reference, and owns a slash line of just .160/.229/.319 (.548 OPS). Additionally, Pollock is OPSing just .348 against lefties, a major gap from his career .847 mark against southpaws.

“Kolten Wong entered the season with a .260 career batting average and he’s hitting .150. I don’t know really how to answer that. We’re two months into a season and this is a guy who has averaged 13 homers and 25-plus doubles with bags – you know, he steals almost 20 bags a year – and he has not done those things,” Dipoto said. “And AJ Pollock over the last three years (has a .600 slugging percentage) against left-handed pitching and right now, it’s a very low number … Those aren’t numbers that you can make up.

“And it’s not just AJ and Kolten. It’s up and down our lineup, it’s guys who’ve been here, it’s guys who were brought in. And I’d like to tell you that that I feel great about the offseason moves we make but it’s impossible to tell you that. They haven’t really driven our team or helped to achieve what we wanted to achieve. And frankly, I can’t really cite them as as the biggest problem. The biggest problem is it’s happening collectively to our offensive club.”

The Seattle Mariners’ approach at the plate

Mariners fans likely know that the team’s mantra is controlling and dominating the strike zone.

The pitchers have done a good job of that this year, but the hitters have not. Seattle entered Thursday with the third-most strikeouts in baseball.

“I don’t know why maintaining that focus or sustaining that approach from day to day has been so hard for our team, but it has been. That’s where we need to see our adjustment,” he said. “And as I said, it’s up and down the lineup. It’s not Kolten Wong or AJ Pollock, it’s not (the released) Tommy La Stella or the fact that we didn’t sign a DH. It’s just that collectively we are all underperforming. And it started with me in putting together the roster and believing that we were in a position to do this collectively. And we haven’t done it, and I wish I had a better explanation for it.”

Again, Dipoto does think things will start to come around for hitters who are underperforming.

“The back of the baseball card is proof positive that these guys are good major league players. And sooner or later, we’ll get to that,” he said. “I don’t think that that we’ve seen the ends of the productive careers of Geno Suárez and Teoscar Hernández and Kolten Wong and up and down. I refuse to believe that we just watched a complete lineup of good major league players stop being good major league players. It’s illogical.”

Co-host Mike Salk asked Dipoto if he thought the Mariners’ philosophy was the right one, and that the execution and results just aren’t there yet.

Dipoto said that’s “100% correct” before discussing why he also thinks the Mariners’ philosophy for roster building is correct, too.

“This is how you build rosters. You draft and develop. I’ve said this over and over on these airwaves – that’s what we do,” he said. “Roughly 80% of the production in the major leagues today comes from players that were acquired via the draft and developed or traded for and added to a core, and we’re on the extreme end of that. We’ve done very well in those areas. You don’t hang your hat by building teams in free agency. Right now, we’re watching a couple of teams in the league that went out and poured it in and free agency. One of them (Texas) is riding high and multiple of them are riding low, and you can be on either end of that spectrum.

“We believe in our roster-building model, we believe in our development model, we believe in our players. It’s why I truly believe that over the course of the summer, you’re going to see some of this reverse itself. I just hope we didn’t dig ourselves such a big hole that we can’t claw out.”

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