Rost on Mariners: What we’ve learned a quarter through the season

May 17, 2024, 10:11 AM

Seattle Mariners Luke Raley...

Luke Raley of the Seattle Mariners slides into third base on May 15, 2024. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

“We’re finding out more and more about our team.” – Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais

That’s what the skipper told reporters after a 4-2 win Wednesday in a series finale against the Royals brought the Mariners’ run to eight wins out of their last of nine series, including five straight at home.

First-place Mariners face powerful Orioles: Three things to know

There are still plenty of unanswered questions for this 24-20 team – a natural byproduct of a 162-game season – but we’ve learned three important things over the first 44 games for the current American League West leaders.

What we’ve learned about the Seattle Mariners

1. This offense needs help, but also has some surprisingly fun contributors.

We knew this wouldn’t be a high-octane offense, but it was fair to expect it to look a bit better at the start of the season. The club moved on from two of its 2023 strikeout leaders – Eugenio Suárez and Teoscar Hernández – and added Jorge Polanco, who hasn’t had as much swing-and-miss in his career. This wouldn’t be a small-ball club, but they’d aim to put the ball in play more often at the expense of some power.

That hasn’t happened. Not only is Polanco well on his way to a career high in strikeouts (at 53 already, he’s nearly halfway to his previous high of 118 from 2021), but Mitch Garver – added as a regular DH – is also striking out at a higher clip than last season. The club ranks near the bottom of the league in average and on-base percentage, leads MLB in strikeouts, and – in a weird twist – remains a top-10 team in home runs. Worse still? Just two of those home runs have come from Julio Rodríguez, who’s slugging just .329.

So that’s the bad part. They’ll need to cut down on those strikeouts to take advantage of a world-class starting rotation. But it’s not all bad. One of the pleasant surprises has been Josh Rojas, who’s having a career year (.330/.395/.482) after having entered the season as a questionable half of a third-base platoon (shame on us for doubting!).

See the latest MLB standings

More recently, you’ve loved what you’ve seen from outfielder Luke Raley (.435/.480/.739 in his last seven games).

2. The pitching is even better than expected.

The Mariners were always going to have one of the top pitching staffs in baseball, but go ahead and take “one of” out of that equation. The Red Sox (2.79) and Yankees (2.91) are leading all clubs in ERA, but no one has a better one through five in their rotation than Seattle.

The Mariners lead in WHIP (1.05) and are allowing the lowest opposing average (.210), and they’re the only team to have at least four starters (George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Luis Castillo, Bryce Miller) with five or more quality starts.

3. Andrés Muñoz has been special, but he’s racking up innings fast.

The Mariners should probably add a bat at the deadline, but they may also need to look for bullpen help. Matt Brash is done for the season, Gregory Santos remains on the injured list, and Taylor Saucedo suffered a recent knee injury that’ll keep him sidelined in the short term.

Closer Andrés Muñoz has been stellar, though, with not just one but two five-out saves. He also leads MLB with four saves of at least four outs. That’s something to be excited about as a fan.

Something to monitor, though? His usage. In 2022, Muñoz threw 65 innings over 64 appearances out of the bullpen, both of which ranked in the top 50 among MLB relievers. Then last year, he missed two months in the first half of the season with a shoulder issue.

Morosi: Something ‘says a lot’ about Mariners closer Muñoz

More M’s coverage from Seattle Sports

Mariners the ‘team to beat’ in AL West? Why that’s now the case
Video: Bob’s Breakdown – What’s changed most since start of season?
Is expected return of Mariners’ J.P. Crawford now in doubt?
Drayer: Rojas helping Julio an example of Mariners’ offense evolving
Blowers: Seattle Mariners are about to face a ‘good problem’

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Rost on Mariners: What we’ve learned a quarter through the season