Rowland-Smith: What stands out with Mariners’ Cal Raleigh

Sep 16, 2023, 9:10 AM

Seattle Mariners Cal Raleigh...

Cal Raleigh of the Seattle Mariners celebrates a home run on Sept. 11, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Cal Raleigh etched his place into Seattle Mariners lore last September with his epic walkoff home run that clinched the team’s first playoff appearance since 2001. Even without that moment, Raleigh has been a major part of the team’s success these past two seasons.

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Last year, Raleigh led all MLB catchers with 27 home runs. With 15 games left this year, Raleigh has 28 homers, which again leads all catchers and is a Mariners franchise record for a catcher in a single season.

And after slashing .211/.284/.489 (.774 OPS) last year, Raleigh enters Saturday with a .235/.313/.470 (.783 OPS) slash line.

During a Thursday visit with Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy, former MLB pitcher and current Mariners broadcaster Ryan Rowland-Smith shared what stands out about Raleigh this season.

First, Raleigh’s work behind the plate.

“When he’s behind the plate defensively, the way he can just command (pitchers) and to have the presence to take on whatever pitcher is out there — it could be a young guy, it could be a veteran,” Rowland-Smith said. “I remember a couple games ago I was watching … and you could tell (the pitcher) was starting to scuffle, is a bit caught in between … Straightaway, boom, Cal Raleigh calls time and runs out there and like boom, there it is. There it is. Now I love that. I love that because I’m a former pitcher … He can pick up those little things.”

As far as what Raleigh does at the plate, Rowland-Smith put it simply.

“Offensively, he’s one of the best offensive catchers in the game. It’s crazy,” he said. “He’s pushing on 30 home runs, and he nearly did that last year as well. It’s insane.”

Rowland-Smith also had an interesting observation regarding Raleigh’s offensive output.

“If he strikes out more, he’s a better hitter,” he said. “I know that sounds crazy, but he went into … May and June and he cut down on the strikeouts, but he wasn’t hitting the ball hard at all. Now he’s back to striking out a bit and he’s crushing home runs and he’s an impact (bat) he’s adding more value to the lineup.”

What makes Raleigh’s season and second-half run more impressive, Rowland-Smith said, is that far more has been put on his plate than was planned.

“He’s had to pick up way more work behind the plate because Tom Murphy went down,” he said. ” … He’s back there a ton and it’s fun to watch … He’s been really, really impressive.”

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Rowland-Smith: What stands out with Mariners’ Cal Raleigh