After hiatus during the first month of the season, the Twitter mailbag has returned to the active roster. Multiple Major League Baseball sources reported the possibility of service-time manipulation while others discussed the need for an attitude adjustment and refocus on the approach for answering questions.
But mailbag is back and trying to control what it can control, taking it one question at a time and trying to put its best answer on it.
As always, these are real questions from the taxi squad that is my Twitter followers.
The concern should have started well before the series with the Orioles. The Mariners have been a flawed team on offense for much of the season. With Kyle Lewis missing the first 18 games on the injured list and the significant struggles of everyone not named Mitch Haniger, Ty France or Kyle Seager to start the season, it’s taken a brilliant performance from a bullpen that wasn’t expected to be outstanding for the Mariners to have an 18-15 record going into Saturday’s game in Texas.
Even with Friday night’s 10-hit outburst in a 5-4 win over the Rangers, the Mariners were still dead last in Major League Baseball with a .204 batting average, 27th in on-base percentage (.283), 25th in slugging percentage (.364) and have the sixth highest strikeout percentage (26.8). A check of MLB’s Statcast data shows the Mariners with the third lowest average exit velocity on balls in play (88 mph) and sixth lowest hard-hit percentage (37.8) which gives them an expected batting average of .229, which is third lowest in MLB. They’ve also swung and missed at 29 percent of the pitches they’ve seen this season, which is fifth highest in MLB.
But the recent series vs. the Orioles and being hit by no-hit by John Means in the finale is the new nadir of the hitting woes. It was the end of a stretch of 14 games in 14 days where the Mariners posted a 6-8 record despite a .185/.266/.349 slash line with just 53 runs scored, 82 hits and 133 strikeouts over that span.
It was also during that stretch where France and Haniger suffered through their first real slumps. France posted a .173/.283/.250 slash line with four doubles, three, RBI, seven walks and 12 strikeouts over those 14 games. Haniger had a .156/.250/.467 slash line during that span. He did have four homers and nine RBI, but he also struck out 12 times with six walks. When three players are carrying your offense and two of them slump a little, there are going to be problems.
The bigger issue is whether the rest of the offense will start to contribute.
The Mariners are getting minimal production from so many players that see regular at-bats. Only shortstop J.P. Crawford, who started off slow, has pulled himself to respectability with a .267/.336/.343 slash line.
- Dylan Moore: 104 plate appearances, .136/.260/.284, 35 strikeouts
- Taylor Trammell: 93 PA, .160/.261/.346, 40 strikeouts
- Evan White: 88 PA, .134/.193/.195, 26 strikeouts
- Luis Torrens: 74 PA, .214/.257/.329, 18 strikeouts
- Jose Marmolejos: 68 PA, .155/.279/.345, 23 strikeouts
- Tom Murphy: 66 PA, .133/.188/.317, 23 strikeouts
- Sam Haggerty: 66 PA, .213/.262/.328, 20 strikeouts
Adding Jarred Kelenic to the lineup won’t offset all those struggling hitters. And there’s no guarantee he won’t struggle. While he does have a better approach and swing than Trammell or White, the big leagues can and will humble hitting prospects with the higher talent, more explosive stuff and consistent execution from pitchers.
When the Mariners come off this short five-game road trip, don’t be surprised if there are changes to the roster and struggling hitters are sent to Triple-A Tacoma.
Still, the low batting averages, low contact rates and increased strikeouts are a leaguewide problem. It’s why there have been four no-hitters thrown already this season and five if you count Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning no-hitter, which I do. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time that four no-hitters were thrown before May 7 in a season was in 1917.
The Mariners’ low batting average and high strikeouts were a cause for concern well before the Baltimore series. But baseball’s low batting average and high strikeouts, which has been a steady trend over the five seasons, should be a cause for eventual change.
Per the latest joint news release from MLB and the MLB Players Association, there have “five clubs have reached the threshold of 85% or more of their Tier 1 Individuals being considered fully vaccinated, which (in consultation with medical experts) will allow for the relaxation of certain health and safety protocols for their Tier 1 Individuals. An additional seven clubs have reached the threshold of 85% or more of their Tier 1 Individuals having received their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the relaxed protocols will apply to their Tier 1 Individuals within the next two weeks once they are considered fully vaccinated.”
A last check with MLB sources said that around 50 percent of Mariners players at the Tier 1 level — active roster, injured list and taxi squad — are expected to be fully vaccinated. The team is hoping that will change as the season progresses. But many people, not just players, are dug into their beliefs about vaccination. And the MLBPA is adamant that players have the right to refuse without repercussions.
When is Kelenic being called up?