The Seattle Mariners got off to a shaky start to their 2022 season, opening the season 2-4 after a 2-0 start. They didn’t have much offensive performance, but after going 7-2 on their last homestand and 8 in their last ten games 2-2, the Mariners sit a 10-6 record at the top of the AL West, a game ahead of the Los Angeles Angels.
Leading the Mariners’ effort is Ty France, who added three hits on Sunday to a performance of five on Saturday. France is now at .375 for the season, with five home runs and a 1.115 OPS.
Ty stays 🔥 pic.twitter.com/FnWpxSsqzV
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 24, 2022
Seattle’s homestand was capped by a walkoff hit in the 12th inning that hit newcomer Jesse Winker’s Adam Frazier, giving the Mariners a 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals and ending a weekend sweep.
WESSE WINKER WALK OFF pic.twitter.com/P2HcgQU3JE
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 25, 2022
After the game, Winker, a former Red, praised the culture at the Mariners clubhouse.
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“I think we’re a very good baseball team,” he said. about The news stand. “It’s a fun team. Great clubhouse atmosphere.”
So far this is the best team I’ve been part of and the most fun of my career. I really enjoy Seattle.
Mariners thrive in tight games
The Mariners led baseball last season with 33 one-run wins and amassed a 33-19 record in one-run games. This year they started the season 2-0 behind two wins in one run and they are 3-1 for the year. More importantly, they develop more attacks. They have half a run more per game than 2021 and are fifth in MLB in running production after being 22nd last year.
Seattle would no doubt prefer fewer games as long as they go their way this year. So far it has been like this.
Will the Mariners maintain their hot streak?
This isn’t the first time a Mariners team has reported early excitement. The Mariners’ 20-year playoff drought was marred by mid- and late-season meltdowns, perhaps most notoriously in 2018 when they went 24 games over .500 in July and unlikely to miss the playoffs 89-73. It’s early this season, but early returns for the Mariners are promising.
Youth is the answer
On the pitching side, Matt Brash is already becoming a standout young pitcher for the Mariners. Brash made his debut against the White Sox, displaying a mind-blowing fastball, slider, and curveball with spin rates nearing 3,000 rpm, as well as a switch that he routinely performed below the on the rare occasions he decided to throw strike zone could hold it.
If Brash improves over the year, the Mariners’ pitching rotation will see the reigning Cy Young winner in Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, another pitcher who was sensational earlier in the year, and the pacing southpaw Marco Gonzales exhibit.
Of course, all eyes are on Julio Rodríguez on offense. The midfielder is second on the team in terms of hard hitting percentage at 60.7 per cent, a promising sign despite early numbers for pedestrians. While Rodríguez’s plate approach is still in the works, he rakes when he makes contact. He just knocks out too much, which is to be expected from a beginner getting his first looks.
M’s veterans need to keep in touch
Are the Mariners exaggerating? Absolutely. They are fifth in the league in OPS at .739, and two everyday veterans are hitting over .350 a year (France and JP Crawford). But France, Crawford and catcher Tom Murphy have excelled when challenged so far this season. France and Crawford in particular need to keep producing at high levels to isolate the early part of the order.
At the other end of the spectrum, Mitch Haninger had a slow start to the year, as did Jarred Kelenic, last year’s top rookie. If those cold bats can start heating up and the Mariners order can show some depth, they’ll be in an even better place as the season progresses.
What needs to be better for the Mariners?
The Mariners are a good team – arguably better on paper than last year – but they’re still struggling. They adopted their closer-by-committee approach from 2021, resulting in 33 missed saves (third place in MLB behind the Nationals and the Phillies). Drew Steckenrider made the Mariners’ third botched save of the year against the Royals on Sunday, continuing the alarming trend. Paul Sewald, who is currently on the COVID-19 injured list and is often used to getting deeper into games anyway, may consistently find himself getting more looks as the fighting continues. It’s worth noting that Sewald missed five out of 16 saves last season.
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While it’s difficult to extrapolate too much from these modern day mariners, they’re on the right track. Teams that live and die in close games tend to return to Earth at some point, and the 2022 Mariners lead the AL in run differential through Sunday. They also top baseball in wRC+ and FanGraphs WAR, indicating at least some sustainability of their work.
Can the Mariners overcome their playoff drought? It has been asked before and the Mariners have answered in the negative. However, at the pace they will be competitive this season, at least in the extended playoff picture.