What’s Been Working For The 2024 AL West-Leading Seattle Mariners – Will This Continue?

Patrick Rogers| Oregon Sports News

As the MLB season unfolds, the Seattle Mariners are making a compelling case to remain the leaders of the AL West. The sputtering Houston Astros have now opened this division to any team winning, which will make for a great season for us Mariners fans. Here’s my look at the Mariners’ current state and why they could maintain their position at the top.

Dominance on the Mound

The Mariners’ pitching staff has been nothing short of stellar. Ranking 2nd in the league in ERA (just behind the surprise Boston Red Sox) is a testament to their ability to limit opponent scoring effectively. But it’s not just about preventing runs; their control on the mound is unparalleled, boasting the 1st place in walks allowed (BB). This control complements their strikeout abilities, as they stand 3rd in strikeouts (SO), showing they can overpower batters consistently. The main pitcher behind all of this is George Kirby. While the ERA isn’t sexy (4.18), everything else about his stats is. In 32.1 innings, he’s struck out 38 batters and only walked four. His FIP is at a Cy Young level, 2.08, to be exact. If he continues at this pace, he’ll finish better than Zach Greinke and Chris Sale did in their respective Cy Young winning years (2015 and 2017).

To continue with walks, perhaps more telling is their 1st place in WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched), which underscores their pitchers’ ability to keep the bases clear, minimizing the chances for opponents to score. Coupled with leading the league in Strikeouts-to-Walks ratio (SO/W), the Mariners’ pitchers are not just throwing strikes but avoiding costly mistakes.

Fielding Excellence

The Mariners’ prowess isn’t confined to the mound; their defense is critical to their success. With a top 10 ranking in Defensive Runs Saved (Rdrs), they’re not just making the routine plays but also pulling off game-saving catches and throws. Moreover, their 2nd place in defensive efficiency highlights a team that converts batted balls into outs better than almost every other team in the league. The spearhead of the defense for the Mariners is star outfielder Julio Rodriguez. While Julio has gotten off to a slow start, with a .606 OPS, he’s been one of the best defensive outfielders this year. He’s in the 97th percentile in Range, which is unsurprising when you look at his sprint speed (98th percentile). His arm strength is also high, registering in the 86th percentile.

The Hitting …

As the Seattle Mariners vie for supremacy in the AL West, their pitching and defense have stood out. However, their hitting presents a stark contrast and poses questions about sustainability. Currently, they rank 25th in runs scored, indicative of an offense struggling to drive in runs consistently. Further compounding their challenges, they are 28th in batting average (BA) and 25th in team On-base Plus Slugging (OPS), metrics that underscore a broader issue with reaching base and generating power. Most concerning is their ranking as 1st in hitter strikeouts, highlighting a tendency for batters to miss opportunities to make contact. Even after parting ways with Teoscar Hernandez, a strikeout king, the Mariners still find themselves at the top of the list. Cal Raleigh, Julio Rodriguez, and Jorge Polanco all find themselves in the top 20 in the league for hitter strikeouts. For what it’s worth, Teoscar is 4th in hitter strikeouts. Highlighting Jorge Polanco, he was supposed to be the savior in the middle infield, but he’s turned into a liability in the lineup. He’s batting only .170 so far this year. Perhaps the biggest alarm to me is his incredible drop in Sweet Spot %. Sweet Spot is a hitter’s ability to put the right part of the bat on the ball, producing a launch angle between eight and 32 degrees. Last year, he ranked in the 94th percentile for this, but this year, Polanco finds himself in the 17th percentile. The only thing keeping him afloat is his ability to draw walks, which is in the 97th percentile.

The Mariners have built a team that excels in fundamental aspects of baseball: pitching and defense. As long as their arms remain healthy and their gloves stay sharp, they are well-equipped to stay at the top of the AL West. The statistics paint a clear picture: the Seattle Mariners are the favorites to win this division with their pitching and fielding. Now, only if they could hit…