Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez far from only star MLB hitter slumping

May 25, 2024, 9:36 AM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners swings against the Houston Astros on May 3, 2024. (Jack Gorman/Getty Images)

(Jack Gorman/Getty Images)

The early-season struggles for Seattle Mariners star center fielder Julio Rodríguez have been perplexing.

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Over his first two MLB seasons, Rodríguez hit a combined .279 with a .338 on-base percentage, .495 slugging and .834 OPS. Entering the Mariners’ series against the Washington Nationals this weekend, though, Rodríguez’s slash line for 2024 is just .257/.306/.312 for a .618 OPS, and he has only two homers in 51 games after averaging 30 per year from 2022-23.

It’s certainly not a positive development for the Mariners to have a slumping star through the first two months of the season, but a look around the rest of baseball adds some good perspective. Rodríguez is not the only star MLB hitter who hasn’t looked like himself yet this year. In fact, he’s far from it.

“You go around in a lot of the ballparks that I’m visiting and spending time around,” MLB Network insider Jon Morosi said Thursday to Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, “(and there’s) someone whose name we know is really struggling. And it seems to be at a more profound level than what we had seen in the game for a very, very long time.”

For example, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr., the 2023 National League MVP, entered the weekend with a .242/.349/.341 slash (.690 OPS) with just three homers.

Morosi also pointed to Detroit slugger Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft who hit 31 homers last year. He was slashing .211/.279/.335 (.615 OPS) with three homers coming into Friday.

In even worse shape is Seattle native Corbin Carroll, who as an All-Star and the NL Rookie of the Year in 2023 led the Arizona Diamondbacks to the World Series last season. His slash before the weekend was just .191/.275/.282 (.557 OPS) with two homers.

What’s changing in MLB?

Why is it that these hitters seem to be struggling early on more than in past seasons? Some of it is the way the game is moving, Morosi sad.

“There are different reasons and unique reasons for all of them, but I do think that the teams that truly can hit – the Yankees are one that over the last couple of days certainly got off the mat against a really good Seattle pitching staff with what (Aaron) Judge can do with, with what (Juan) Soto has done this season – the teams that truly have special offenses I think are not nearly as numerous as they seem to be five or 10 years ago,” Morosi said.

Morosi also mentioned that different types of pitchers seem to be shining this season by approaching hitters in ways that counteract the direction offensive strategy has been heading for a while now.

“I think it is that the pitchers are now evolving a step ahead of the hitters. And the best part about it is that the pitchers who are thriving, those who are really dominating the sport, if you look at the top 10-15 pitchers right now in ERA, it’s not guys who are throwing 110 mph,” Morosi said. “It’s (the Cubs’) Shōta Imanaga, (Philadelphia’s) Ranger Suárez, (Kansas City’s) Seth Lugo, (Boston’s) Tanner Houck. It’s guys who are pitching – they’re pitching. It’s almost as if that for a long time, the hitters have evolved to this big time, big swinging, offensive, muscle up and and swing for the downs approach, and now you’ve got pitchers, for lack of a better way to visualize it, they’re almost throwing around where these bat paths are, and throwing around this this habit of the launch angle or whatever the approach might be. And the hitters haven’t adjusted yet.”

Listen to the full Wyman and Bob conversation with MLB Network’s Jon Morosi in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Catch Wyman and Bob on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the Seattle Sports app and SeattleSports.com from 2-7 p.m. weekdays.

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Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez far from only star MLB hitter slumping