ESPN’s Passan: What Mariners’ ‘lack of focus’ means 65 games in

Jun 13, 2023, 10:40 AM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Seattle Mariners CF Julio Rodríguez reacts after a strikeout vs. the Angels on June 11, 2023. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

After a disappointing road trip, Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais called out his team for something that hasn’t been the case the last two years.

“I’m frustrated by it. I think we all are. I think at times it’s a lack of focus,” he said after Sunday’s loss in Anaheim. “These are things that we’ve talked about. It’s really important not to give up outs on the bases. We’ve addressed it multiple times and lack of focus, we make mistakes in critical times. You’re not gonna win. You’re gonna win in this league doing that. I don’t care how many hits you get or how many scoreless innings (you pitch), you’ve got to play clean. Make the plays defensively, run the bases really smart and heads up, and be strategic about when you’re taking chances. We haven’t done that.”

The Mariners (32-33) bounced back on Monday with an 8-1 win over a hot Miami Marlins team, and Servais mentioned after the game that he thinks Seattle is “moving in the right direction” offensively, and he’s “anxious” to get back out there Tuesday night because “we’ve had decent games and then we take a step back.”

Servais’ “lack of focus” comment was something that came up during the weekly Tuesday visit with ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, and it led to a discussion about the hitters on the team’s roster.

“I hear that this is a baseball team 2.5 months into the season that is undisciplined,” Passan said of Servais’ comments from Sunday. “And you can tell that it’s undisciplined with strikeout rates, and you can tell that it’s undisciplined with the baserunning. And that’s the sort of thing where if you were playing .600 ball, you look past it and you chalk that up to aggressiveness. But when you’re playing under .500, you just can’t put nice words around it, because it’s a real thing. And I don’t know that the Mariners are talented enough offensively to be making those sorts of mistakes and giving up baserunners and giving up opportunities to score when scoring has proven so difficult for them to do.”

The Mariners’ mantra is controlling and dominating the strike zone. At the plate, that’s been a big issue in 2023, with strikeout numbers piling up and a worse walk rate than in previous seasons.

“Isn’t this just a matter of what players they’re going out and getting? Like, isn’t that what it is?” Passan said of the Mariners. “They do not have an offense that is filled with players who control the zone. They have an offense that’s filled with players who strike out, and that’s been the case for them since the beginning of the season.”

Video: Are the Seattle Mariners struggling with a lack of focus?

Brock and Salk co-host Mike Salk pushed back on that a bit. He said the Mariners believe that controlling the zone is less about strikeout numbers and more about winning specific counts, such as on the first pitch and when it’s 1-1, as well as doing damage on pitches in the strike zone and avoiding swinging at pitches you can’t do anything with.

“I think they know that that strikeouts will happen as long as they come with walks and the power and the damage that goes with them,” Salk said.

Replied Passan: “Yes. Well, they have approximately three guys who will take a walk.”

Passan brought up shortstop J.P. Crawford, outfielder Jarred Kelenic and rookie infielder José Caballero as the trio that is drawing bases on balls.

“But beyond that, like, Ty France, I guess? But he doesn’t walk. Teoscar Hernández? No. Julio Rodríguez? No.”

“I also think that a huge part of getting into the right counts is having guys who have that discipline,” Passan later said, “and I don’t know that the Mariners have them right now. I think that producing them from the minor league system is going to be a vital part of maintaining what they had last year, which, I think, by the way, they can do. I do think ultimately they’re going to be able to go out and be more like the team last year than they are the team this year … I still think they’re close. I just think that what they have right now isn’t enough.”

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ESPN’s Passan: What Mariners’ ‘lack of focus’ means 65 games in