The 2023 MLB season is still in the early goings, but fans, and even teams are having strong reactions all the same. The old adage “you cant win the pennant in April, but you can lose it” once again looks to be ringing true for several franchises. The Seattle Mariners’ World Series aspirations survived the first month-plus of games, but there is a growing perception that this team is still not ready to hang with the big dogs.
The team had a rough start but have since leveled out to a 17-17 record. Although the pitching rotation has been one of the best in baseball as expected, the bats have been too inconsistent. The early results also foretell a streaky team much like last season. Things broke very well for the Mariners down the stretch. There is no guarantee Lady Luck will be visiting T-Mobile Park nearly as frequently this year.
The success of this franchise depends on a variety of factors, but many fans will tie it all back to Julio Rodriguez. He is under great pressure to prove he is already worthy to be placed among the game’s brightest stars. A sophomore slump would hinder that momentum and cause many fans to abandon the “Seattle can win the American League West” train. A middling start in what looks to be a highly competitive division might have already resulted in mass evacuation.
Again, though, it is only May. And this remains a talented squad still capable of running the gauntlet. So, turn around and hop back on. This is not the time to panic.
Let’s dive into three overreactions to the Mariners’ mediocre start to the 2023 season.
1. Mariners 2022 one-run madness will reverse in 2023
Seattle was 29-39 in June of 2022. The M’s rallied in the second half and ended a 21-year postseason drought. A big reason why was their record in one-run games. Their 33 wins led the MLB. They currently stand at 4-9 in the same category this season. Fans fear the law of averages has caught up to this team, which will now expose the other flaws that have led to slow starts in consecutive years.
Great teams are immune to that phenomenon, though. Do not laugh your way out of this article. Seattle has the tools necessary to earn that status. Even if the razor-tight margins continue at this high rate, a healthy arsenal of arms should give the club an edge. It’s true, losing Robbie Ray is a big blow no one can dance around. Expectations should be adjusted at least a little when a former CY Young has season-ending surgery, but the starting staff is brimming with young talent and is anchored by the super consistent Luis Castillo. Their success should continue.
The lineup is also constructed for run production. A mix of contact and power should allow the Mariners to pull away more often behind their strong pitching. If that happens, a serious winning streak should ensue and the early struggles will evaporate into the atmosphere.
2. Julio Rodriguez is not yet “The Guy”
A player is what the numbers say they are, but in baseball that can fluctuate rapidly. And it should for the better as far as star outfielder Julio Rodriguez is concerned. While his hard hit rate is low at 44.7 percent, per Statcast, there is no reason yet to sound the alarms. The 22-year-old can counteract the adjustments pitchers have made to him after his big 2022.
It is plausible to believe he has just hit a snag after seeing the poise he displayed en route to winning AL Rookie of the Year. His home run and RBI numbers are decent (6 and 15, respectively,) and he is actually hitting more balls into opposite field. There are solid indicators that suggest he will significantly raise that .216 batting average.
This may not be the year Julio Rodriguez definitively becomes “The Guy,” but he will remain the driving force in Seattle.
3. The AL West is too deep
The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have rewritten the 2023 AL West script in the first stretch of the season. Both can fade, and often do if we’re talking about LA, but there is no denying that this division is rife with star power. Big spending does eventually equate with improvement, so this might actually be a legitimate race. That has not been said during the Astros’ long reign of supremacy.
Even with the Rangers’ hot start and the Angels’ steady play, Houston and Seattle are just three-and-a-half games out of first place after stumbling out of the gate. People underestimate the reigning World Series Champions at their own peril, but the Mariners have managed to string together back-to-back 90-win seasons, too.
The long-awaited rise of Jarred Kelenic and potential surges from Rodriguez and offseason acquisition Teoscar Hernandez should give Scott Servais’ team a huge boost as we get deeper into the season. The Mariners know what it is like to fall just short and how it feels to ride high into the playoffs. The adversity they have faced should have them better prepared than the Rangers and Angels to withstand the volatility of a 162-game season.
Seattle can still win the West. The franchise is playing with their fans’ emotions so far, but they have been dealt some pretty big body shots early and still look fresh considering.
.500 sounds great to the Mariners right now and should scare the rest of the AL.
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