BROCK AND SALK

How worrisome is Mariners lineup’s early strikeout rate?

Apr 1, 2024, 1:41 PM

Seattle Mariners Jorge Polanco...

Jorge Polanco of the Seattle Mariners bats against the Boston Red Sox on March 29, 2024. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners go into the second series of the 2024 season with an even 2-2 record, and that frankly could be seen as a blessing considering how their offense performed against the Boston Red Sox.

Three big questions after Mariners’ split their opening series

The Mariners struck out 45 times in their first four games, which entering Monday was the second most in baseball. It’s really even worse than that, though. The team with the most strikeouts at 55, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have already played six games. And the No. 2 team on the list, the Pittsburgh Pirates, had 193 plate appearances in their four games compared to Seattle’s 137, with the big reason being that the Pirates had over double the amount of hits (46) as the Mariners (23).

It’s certainly a cause for concern since a big storyline for the M’s is how they re-tooled their lineup and approach this offseason to cut down on strikeouts. As for whether it’s a signal to panic, Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports provided some perspective on Monday’s edition of Brock and Salk.

“We know it’s early, get that out of the way. We know it’s four games, get that out of the way,” Drayer said. “If you want to look at what is going on with the Mariners offensively right now, it’s really easy: look no further than the strikeouts. And then you have to look underneath the strikeouts, and what the Red Sox were throwing at the Mariners is particularly tough for anybody.”

Why’s that? The Red Sox employed a strategy the Mariners saw plenty of last season when they had the second most strikeouts in all of MLB, which is using straight four-seam fastballs as little as they can get away with.

“They didn’t see anything straight the whole four-game series, and then off-speed got them (Sunday),” Drayer said of the Mariners. “But if you go down into the numbers and you look at the out-of-zone swings, you see the Mariners are 10th lowest out-of-zone swings – in the four games, which is no sort of sample. It’s just, you know, a start.”

The histories of a few players new to the Mariners or expected to play bigger roles this season are a reason Drayer expects to Seattle’s strikeout rate bounce back as the season continues.

“You look at the bigger numbers and I can say with almost complete confidence that Jorge Polanco is not going to strike out at a 47% rate this year,” she said. “He’s never done that, it’s not going to happen this year. He typically is about half of that, and you’ve got other players that are in that same boat right now. You’re looking at kind of a rough start, guys are getting a little swing-happy early. But you know, Luis Urías is not going to strike out in 50% of his at-bats, Dom Canzone is not going to. Luis Urías’ strikeout rate for his career is 21%, Canzone’s is 18%, Polanco is 18%.

“They are getting into their season right now, they’re adjusting their eyes, they are adjusting their heartbeats probably at some point. And it’s on the coaching staff really to stay on them right now and help them get to a good place and continue doing some of the things that they were doing in spring training.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Seattle Mariners insider Shannon Drayer in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners fall 5-1 to Red Sox, split opening series
Watch Julio Rodríguez deliver first career walk-off in Mariners win
Andrés Muñoz already dominant for Mariners and has new weapon
What’s the next step for Seattle Mariners’ George Kirby?
Is the Seattle Mariners’ defense going to be a big concern this year?

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How worrisome is Mariners lineup’s early strikeout rate?