Mariner Monday: Trying to Have Optimism in These Trying Times

The 2022 season has not been kind to the Seattle Mariners so far. They have a 16-19 record and are sitting in third place in the division. It doesn’t help that the Astros haven’t experienced the drop-off that some were predicting (and many were hoping for) and that the Angels have actually been healthy. But that is the way baseball works sometimes. At least the Rangers are struggling and the Athletics are unsurprisingly bad (although they are a lot closer to the Mariners in the standings than the Mariners are to Houston and Los Angeles). So yeah, it’s been a tough start to the season but that doesn’t mean that everything has been bad. Sure, Mitch Haniger sprained his ankle, Robbie Ray doesn’t look like the best pitcher in the American League, and Jarred Kelenic has already been sent down to Triple-A, but there have also been good things that have happened. I am going to provide an optimistic viewpoint on the Mariners’ season. Am I riding a high from Seattle’s series win over the New York Mets that I will certainly come down from very soon? Absolutely. But that does not mean that these reasons to feel optimistic about the Mariners this year aren’t valid.

The talk of Spring Training was Julio Rodriguez, Seattle’s very highly touted prospect that was seemingly busting down the door to the majors. He certainly did bust down the door but what he did when he got in the room was not too impressive. Rodriguez then became the talk of the start of the regular season in Seattle because he was striking out at an incredible rate (I know I said this was going to be optimistic so just give me a second to get to it). It looks like Rodriguez has successfully weathered that early-season storm of bad decision-making at the plate and even worse strike-calling by the umpires behind it.

Rodriguez has been on absolute fire lately and he is coming off the best game of his career on Sunday. He reached base in all five of his plate appearances in the series finale against the Mets. He hit his second home run of the season to go along with three other hits, putting him in exclusive company as a 21-year-old Mariner with a four-hit game.

This game was just a sign of how much he has improved in his brief stint in the big leagues. Rodriguez has got his average all the way up to .264, which is very impressive considering he hit .205 in April. Rodriguez leads all rookies in hits and has the fourth-highest batting average amongst all rookies with over 60 at-bats (which puts him above Seiya Suzuki, the star 27-year-old rookie for the Cubs). Rodriguez is also tied for the league lead in stolen bases and has made a handful of highlight plays in center field. It took him a while to get it going but it now looks like Rodriguez is right where he belongs, amongst the top rookies in the league.

Rodriguez has been arguably the brightest spot of the Mariners’ start because he has been meeting expectations, meanwhile, two players greatly exceeding expectations are providing another reason to not be too depressed about Seattle’s start.

It takes a very special player to get a city located in the northwest of the United States to embrace a flag from a European country but that is exactly what Ty France has done as a Mariner. If you see French flags at a game or on the video boards at T-Mobile Park, it isn’t because of any French players, it is because of Seattle’s first baseman from southern California.

France has been an absolute marvel this season. He is ranked in the top 10 leaguewide in hits, RBIs, batting average, and on-base percentage. His 46 hits are tied for first in the league with Rafael Devers and Manny Machado (ever heard of them?). France already proved his worth with a solid season last year but now it looks like he could have even more to provide than just a solid bat and decent defense. He is one of the best hitters in the game right now and at just 27 years old, he could be a future star in Seattle.

J.P. Crawford has also played exceptionally well so far this season and his production may be even more shocking than France’s. Heading into this season it seemed like we knew what Crawford was as a player. He won a Gold Glove for his defense in 2020 and set a career-high in batting average with his .273 mark last season. That added up to a pretty good player to fill out your lineup but not a star. But, oh boy, was that sentiment incorrect.

Crawford has a .322 batting average right now, which is the eighth-highest average in the league. He also has experienced an unexpected power surge, hitting four home runs (his third-most in a season already) and registering the highest slugging percentage of his career. That combines to give him the 11th-highest OPS in the majors (.906) above players such as Juan Soto, Giancarlo Stanton, and Freddie Freeman.

Those three players have been able to make up in part for the disappointing starts from other players in the lineup. But there is hope for a few other names joining them, hopefully, sooner rather than later.

Jesse Winker and Adam Frazier are both hitting over .290 in the past 15 games. Kyle Lewis seems to be closing in on a return back to the lineup. Cal Raleigh just hit a monster home run on Sunday (his second of the year). Steven Souza was hitting .267 with five home runs in Tacoma before getting called up.

The season is still early and you know what that means. You write off every bad thing happening to your team as a bad start that will correct and believe every good thing occurring is a trend and will definitely continue. Such is the life of being a fan. Seattle fans know better than anyone that the good things don’t last and the bad things usually do but that isn’t going to stop me from having hope. Right now I have a few reasons to have hope and I will hold on to those dearly.