What’s the biggest problem ailing the Mariners’ offense?

May 9, 2024, 3:27 PM

Seattle Mariners Luke Raley Rangers 2024...

Luke Raley of the Seattle Mariners reacts after striking out against the Rangers on April 24. (Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

(Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners’ struggles at the plate are well-documented.

Heading into Thursday, Seattle ranked 24th in the majors in runs per game (3.73), 25th in batting average (.223) and 21st in slugging percentage (.365). The Mariners also have a league-high 28.3% strikeout rate, which is nearly two full percentage points higher than any other team.

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

What’s at the crux of Seattle’s offensive woes? During Thursday’s edition of Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports, Brock Huard pointed back to a conversation he once had with Mariners manager Scott Servais.

“We were sitting there for a matinee with Scott and before the game we were just kind of talking about hitting,” Huard said. “And he was like, ‘In the big leagues, you get like one or two pitches (per at-bat). You get like one real cookie.’ … This isn’t Little League. This isn’t high school. This isn’t college. You don’t get three or four good pitches to hit in an at-bat. When you get them, you got to maximize them. And right now, unfortunately, collectively, they’re just not getting it done.”

Servais alluded to that problem in Wednesday’s postgame press conference.

“We are fouling off way too many pitches,” Servais said. “When we get fastballs to hit, you’ve gotta get on them, you’ve gotta get them in play. We’re one of the top in the league in fouling balls off before we get to two strikes, and that’s not going to be productive, because you’re gonna be in too many two-strike counts.”

With the Mariners striking out at such an alarming rate, many have pointed to that as the biggest problem with Seattle’s offense. Mike Salk argued, however, that the bigger issues are when the strikeouts come and the overall lack of power production.

“I’m not as worried about the strikeout numbers in general,” Salk said. “I’m a little more worried about when they come. Do they come with men on base? Do they come one after another after another? … And when you’ve got (just two regulars) on your team with an OPS over over .702, you’ve got a problem. You just don’t have enough guys that are getting on base or hitting for enough power.”

Widespread underperformance throughout the lineup

The Mariners’ offensive struggles aren’t isolated to just a few players. For the most part, it’s been a widespread case of underperformance.

Of the nine Seattle hitters with at least 80 at-bats, seven have an OPS this season that’s below their career OPS. And six of those seven – Julio Rodríguez, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Haniger, Ty France, Mitch Garver and J.P. Crawford – are more than 100 points below their career OPS. Josh Rojas and Cal Raleigh are the only two regulars with an OPS that’s exceeding their career mark.

“What you’re getting right now from Josh Rojas is phenomenal,” Salk said. “What you’re getting from Cal Raleigh is phenomenal. What you’re getting from Dylan Moore is certainly above what you would expect. … Every other single player on the team offensively is at or below what you would expect from them. And in a few cases, you’ve got some real question marks.

“Ty France is going to take the most amount of heat, because they stuck with him at first base and his numbers are abysmal. Mitch Garver is gonna be on that list and so is Polanco at some point – their two biggest offensive additions this offseason. … By end of May, I think you gotta start seeing some real significant progress from France, Garver and Polanco. And that’s leaving the Julio conversation alone for now.”

However, as Salk pointed out, it’s still early in the 162-game marathon. And thanks to a historic run of pitching, the Mariners have kept pace with the Texas Rangers in the AL West race.

“Nothing is problematic in terms of where the season’s at,” Salk said. “This story is very much unwritten. … There’s plenty of opportunity for guys who are better hitters than this to turn it around. But at some point, it becomes time to look at each individual and say, ‘Are you what we need?'”

Listen to the full conversation from Thursday’s Brock and Salk in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Tune in to Brock and Salk weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Mariners RHP Bryan Woo to start Friday in return from injured list
Mariners place Saucedo on IL, and that’s not the only move
• Why Mariners should keep Josh Rojas in leadoff spot
• The Mariners who aren’t getting the credit they deserve
• How has Seattle Mariners’ Raleigh become a threat from the right side?

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What’s the biggest problem ailing the Mariners’ offense?