The Seattle Mariners are on pace to make the 2022 MLB postseason, and once they officially do clinch a seat in the playoffs, it would be the first time since Julio Rodriguez came into this world that the franchise will be playing beyond the regular season. With that being said, here are three reasons why Rodriguez and the Mariners could end up having a wild World Series celebration when it is all said and done.
The World Series hopes of the Mariners would likely come down to how good their pitching is going to be the rest of the way. They shored up their rotation with the addition of Luis Castillo ahead of the 2022 MLB trade deadline. He’s been solid so far for the Mariners, posting a 2.83 ERA and 2.89 FIP in his first nine starts in Seattle threads. Robbie Ray has struggled of late with nine earned runs across 10.0 innings over his last two starts, but he’s been dependable on the mound for the most part of the season.
Then there’s the Mariners’ bullpen, which is another strength of the club. Seattle’s relievers have a collective 3.26 ERA, which is good for seventh in the big leagues. Of six qualified relievers, the Mariners have four with ERA lower than 3.00, including Erik Swanson, who has a 1.17 ERA and a 95.1 LOB%. Speaking of which, the Mariners’ bullpen owns the best left-on-base rate in the entire majors with a 77.0 percent clip. It’s also no. 1 in the MLB with a .258 BABIP, which signifies another strength of the Mariners — their fielding.
2. Unsung hero
The bad news for the Mariners is that they are uncertain whether Suarez will be able to be as good as he was before he suffered a fractured right index finger that also landed him on the 10-day injured list. But if the Mariners are going to have a World Series parade in Seattle, they definitely need Suarez to be there performing at the high level they have been used to seeing from him this season.
Suarez has become an underrated baseball gem this year. His .235 batting average can’t be used alone to betray the fine quality of work he’s done at the plate. Suarez owns a +133 OPS, which is only three points lower than his career-high of +136 OPS in 2018 when he was still with the Cincinnati Reds – the same year he made his only All-Star appearance to date.
But you could make a strong argument that this is the best season of his career so far. His 4.6 bWAR is better than his bWar of 4.0 during his lone All-Star campaign. Suarez is no Aaron Judge or even Paul Goldschmidt, but he has played a big role on offense (and even on defense) for the Mariners. He creates runs and scoring opportunities by putting the balls in play on an above-average frequency despite striking out a lot – a signature of Suarez’s career. He is a top-30 player in the MLB in terms of wRC+ (135) a top-15 guy in terms of drawing walks while also posting a .296 BABIP.
Via Larry Stone of Seattle Times:
“It’s not like Suarez didn’t always have this in him. Entering Friday, he had hit more home runs (160) since 2018 than any other major league player – one more than Judge. But even though Suarez has already set a Mariners season record for strikeouts with 182, breaking Mike Cameron’s mark of 176 in 2002, manager Scott Servais sees a player who has markedly improved. And he attributes that to Suarez’s openness to absorbing some new teaching points in Seattle.”
But if you’re looking for the baddest player on the Mariners’ roster, then it’s about time that we talk about Julio Rodriguez.
1. A hungry phenom
There’s no question who the best player of the Mariners is this season, and that’s no other than rookie Julio Rodriguez. The 21-year-old outfielder has been amazing, to say the least, in his first season in the MLB. Even the Mariners might be surprised at how fast Rodriguez has gotten to where he is now. As of this writing, Rodriguez is batting .277/.340/.499 with 27 home runs, 73 RBI, and 25 stolen bases. His 142 OPS+ is nearly 10 points higher than Suarez, who is second on the team in that statistical department.
One of the factors that are holding Rodriguez back from further realizing his immense potential is his subpar plate discipline, as he is striking out 25.9 percent of the time and is drawing walks in only 7.4 percent of his at-bats. However, the goods greatly outweigh the bads when talking about Rodriguez. Plate discipline is one thing Rodriguez will eventually master, but he’s already fantastic enough this season to be viewed as the Mariners’ best player. Rodriguez had his sort of breakout moment at the 2022 Home Run Derby, but he could become an even bigger mainstream star if he could continue his excellent play in the playoffs.