BROCK AND SALK
Mariners’ Scott Servais on Mike Zunino’s season: ‘Absolute success’
In 2014 and 2015 combined, Mike Zunino hit just .188, struck out 290 times and drew only 38 walks in 862 MLB plate appearances. It was enough for the Mariners to attempt to hit the reset button on his career, so he ended 2015 and began 2016 with Triple-A Tacoma before returning midseason to Seattle.
One person who is heavily invested in the results produced by Zunino is Mariners manager Scott Servais, and he’s certainly happy with how the 25-year-old backstop responded to all of the changes the coaching staff helped him make in 2016.
“Absolute success,” Servais told “Brock and Salk” when asked about Zunino’s 2016 campaign. “Unbelievable. … When I sat down with him in spring training (and) we sent him to the minor leagues, where he was at at that point to what he was able to do and help us this year, remarkable year for him.”
Zunino played 55 games and made 192 plate appearances for the Mariners this year, hitting .207 with a .318 on-base percentage, .470 slugging percentage, 12 home runs and 31 RBIs. Perhaps most important, though, were his 21 walks, matching his career-high set in 2015 despite coming in less than half of the amount of games he played that season.
“The big thing that Mike did this year that he hadn’t done in the past – he’s walking. You can put up with the strikeouts … if he continues to get on base the way he did,” Servais said.
As Servais pointed out, Zunino didn’t completely get away from his tendency to go down swinging. But even with his 65 punchouts (and in a smaller amount of appearances), Zunino was a vital part of the team in the second half of 2016, posting a 1.8 WAR for Seattle, well above the minus-0.7 mark he had in 2015 and 0.8 from 2014.
Zunino made a lot of positive improvements in 2016, but there was a reminder that his work isn’t done. He scuffled in the final month of the season, hitting under .200 from Sept. 2 through last weekend’s finale.
“It didn’t end as strongly as any of us would have liked. He kinda fell off the wagon a little bit the last couple weeks,” Servais said. “There’s still plenty of work to do. I feel really good about where he’s at and the strides he’s made to kinda be a front-line, everyday catcher.”