STACY ROST

Rost: Mariners can’t waste World Series-caliber pitching

May 9, 2024, 10:51 AM | Updated: May 10, 2024, 9:06 am

Seattle Mariners Bryce Miller Braves 2024...

Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners reacts during a game against the Braves on April 29. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Ask any baseball fan what they’d want on their World Series team, and they’ll tell you elite pitching. It won’t guarantee anything; last year’s winners, the Texas Rangers, were 18th in combined ERA (though that sharpened up thanks to a strong postseason run from starters Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery). Having top-tier pitching in the regular season is a potent weapon, and there’s an opportunity to be seized for a Mariners team that’s third in ERA.

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The question is whether Seattle’s offense will let them take it (those 2023 Rangers? They finished the regular season fourth in home runs and third in OPS).

Scott Braun, host of Foul Territory, talked about Seattle’s current recipe: A phenomenal starting rotation combined with an offense that’s 25th in runs scored (138), 21st in slugging (.365), and leads the league with a 28.3% strikeout rate.

“I don’t think it’s good enough to be a World Series-winning offense,” Braun said Tuesday during a conversation on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. “I think they’ve had World Series pitching for at least the last year or two, and this season for sure. They have the best starting staff in baseball. I don’t even know if it’s close if you go one through five. So, this is the best time in franchise history to put together a World Series title. We all know they didn’t do enough in the offseason. They had to kind of reshuffle and maybe add a little more contact to a lineup that actually has not produced; that’s been the biggest swing-and-miss lineup in baseball. Not good enough. Can it get better? Yeah, usually it’s actually easier to acquire impact bats at the trade deadline than it is pitching.”

Seattle moved on from its 2023 strikeout leaders, Eugenio Suárez and Teoscar Hernández. The thought was that bats like Jorge Polanco and Mitch Garver could cut that rate down, but that hasn’t been the case; Polanco’s strikeout rate is a career high (31%) and Garver’s is nearly 10 percentage points higher than it was last year with the Rangers. (And if you could tell the Mariners why that is and how to exactly how fix it, you might be able to get a job on that staff.)

Here’s a silver lining: With this pitching, Seattle doesn’t need its offense to be elite. Yes, more wholly complete teams (Houston) have dominated the postseason of late, but there are imperfect winners of the Fall Classic. Braun’s point is right, though – there’s an average to good offense, and then there’s the wildly inconsistent, strikeout-prone group Seattle has.

To see the starting rotation and not take every opportunity to take advantage of a rare group is baseball malpractice. It’s the best collective group the Mariners have ever had and the best in baseball right now. But they’re not going to win a World Series holding the best team in the National League to two or fewer runs per game.

They can limit them, though. They’ve been able to stifle plenty of great offenses this year. Seattle doesn’t need five All-Stars; they need Julio Rodríguez to slug better than .315 and they need to find a way to lessen those strikeouts. You aren’t typically aiming for a “C’s get degrees” approach to offense, but the Mariners pitchers are that special. The pressure is on that lineup, those coaches – and, come July, that front office – to make the most of it.

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