Rost: Questions we do and don’t have answers for with the Mariners

Jun 23, 2023, 9:14 AM | Updated: 9:41 am

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodriguez...

Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners reacts after striking out on June 12, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Why are the Seattle Mariners bad?

It’s a simple question we see often from understandably frustrated fans, and honestly, it’s one we’ve asked ourselves on Bump & Stacy. And for all its simplicity, the question itself brings many theories. Is it a coaching issue? A bad roster? A great roster that lacks focus? A leadership issue?

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They’re all answers we’ve seen suggested. Truth is, a big problem typically doesn’t have one cause, and that feels the case with Seattle this year. Escaping the Bronx with a win in a series finale bought a bit of breathing room for a talented group that’s been underperforming all season, but the road back home won’t get easier with a pit stop in Baltimore.

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The question of why so many players are struggling at the same time isn’t the only one facing Seattle right now. Here are three others — two of which we think we have answered, and one that we’re eagerly waiting to see unfold.

Why does it feel like Julio is seeing so many ground outs?

This is a question we see all the time from listeners, so we threw it to Gary Hill, a broadcaster on the Mariners’ Radio Network. Hill’s answer? It’s less to do with the mechanics of how Rodriguez is hitting the ball, and more to do with how he’s being pitched.

“We asked Scott that yesterday,” Hill said. “It’s partly swing, but a lot of it has to do with how he’s being attacked. And this is why you see players go up and down, especially young players. Because Julio gets the attention on the opposite side. He’s the kind of guy where, strip away the numbers, he’s the focal point for the other team. So, they’re going inside a ton. Inside, inside, inside. That’s how they’re attacking him. It’s the way they’re attacking him and it’s also some him chasing a bit more than you would like.”

The fix? Stop chasing. This is where Hill points to what he feels is a common misconception about the team’s philosophy of controlling the zone. By chasing more this season, Rodriguez is also limiting the pitches he’s seeing in his damage zone.

“Because you swing outside if the ball is tailing inside and it hits the corner or it’s too far inside, you’re just not going to do damage with it,” Hill said. “Julio wants to get the ball over the plate. So if he can take a few more of those pitches and get in better counts, he’s more likely to get balls over the plate in his damage zone, so it all feeds into itself. That’s where the chase becomes an issue, because if you chase they’ll keep going in those spots.”

Where is Marco Gonzales in his recovery? And what about J.P. Crawford?

We do have an answer, but we didn’t promise you’d like it.

Mariners President of Baseball Ops Jerry Dipoto told Mike Salk Thursday morning that Gonzales has yet to begin a full-fledged throwing program, meaning he’s still in the early stages of his recovery.

“Still no timeline,” Dipoto said. “We’re waiting to see where he is physically and until he gets down that slope we really won’t have a timeline on his return.”

That news is easier to take, at least this week, following Thursday’s performance from Bryan Woo. Against an albeit weakened Yankees lineup, Woo allowed just two hits, no runs, and struck out five over five and a third innings pitched.

There was a better update on Crawford. The organization doesn’t expect their short stop’s right shoulder contusion to be a long-term injury.

“J.P. is just day-to-day,” Dipoto said. “He was available (Wednesday) for an in-game replacement if necessary, so I don’t know that we’re dealing with anything that should be considered more than short term.”

One Seattle Mariners answer we don’t have…

Will this team be buyers, sellers, or both at the trade deadline?

Dipoto’s past approach has us thinking the latter but without yet knowing, we can only guess.

The expanded playoffs make things tricky. By this season’s Aug. 1 trade deadline, most teams will believe they’ve still got a shot, and they won’t be wrong record-wise. The two American League teams right now that will surely be out of the postseason conversation are the Kansas City Royals and Oakland A’s — and is there a player, outside of potentially A’s DH Brent Rooker, who you’d want to see on Seattle’s squad?

One expert, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, thinks Seattle could still add a bat — though it would come at a cost of one of your starting arms — from another young and also struggling team: the St. Louis Cardinals.

“Now look at the Cardinals. They’ve got an abundance of young bats and they don’t all fit right now,” Morosi told Wyman and Bob this week. “The Mariners have an abundance of young pitching. And so that’s where take someone like Brendan Donovan, who is going to be potentially an All-Star player this year, left-handed batter, he can move around the diamond, he’s somewhat blocked positionally because they’ve got (Nolan) Arenado at third and they’ve got (Paul) Goldschmidt at first.”

Here’s a bit more on Donovan and the rest of Morosi’s conversation about a potential trade with St. Louis.

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Rost: Questions we do and don’t have answers for with the Mariners