Julio Rodriguez prepares for the Mariners

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And Participate To get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE – Even if the start of the 2023 season for Julio Rodriguez was just a moment, Scott Servier has shown that he could be a good thing in the grand scheme of his player development.

“He’s going to play this game for another 15-20 years, and he’s going to struggle again,” said the Mariners coach. I hate to tell people this, but this will happen. And when that happens, you look back on, “Well, how did you get out of this last time?” Did you press too much early on? Did I panic a little early?

“It will pay off in the future, but I like it that way when he smokes two or three strikes every day and hits the ball out of the field. It’s fun.”

In fact, Rodriguez was swinging one of the hottest bats in MLB. He’s now 16-for-34 at home, with three home runs, seven runs scored and 10 RBIs. He deserved more Above substitution wins In this stretch (0.9), per FanGraphs, from the first seven weeks combined (0.7).

The first 44 games: .204 / .280 / .376 (.656 OPS), 0.7 WAR, 94 wRC+, 40.4% hit rate

This Homestand (8 matches): .471 / .486 / .853 (1.339 OPS), 0.9 WAR, 264 wRC+, 66.7% hit rate

When asked about what is behind this transformation, Rodriguez put his finger to his lips and well-intentioned preferred not to disclose. But a combination of his swing decisions, driving lateral balls through the air and utilizing his rare backfield strength in the opposite field are among the main reasons.

Rodríguez was striking out 28.9% of the time before falling in the order, which was the 24th highest among 173 eligible batters, and up from 25.9% last year. was over how Manal What That proved troubling, as the formula against him became blunt: fast balls to his hands early in the charges, which he could do no damage, and fast/breaking pitches outside the area when he fell behind, resulting in non-competitive chases.

Rodríguez’s K-rate is 23.8% since his drop in the rankings. There is still chase in his game, but it will probably always be there. It’s the way this weakness is harnessed into a strength when the sequence calls for it – hitting a throw, for example – that makes it a more effective trait.

Rodríguez hits 58.8% of his onside balls into the ground, above the league average of 54.9% for right-handed hitters, and associating with only four strikeouts. He improved slightly here, but the biggest takeaway was the massive increase in his hard hit rate (ie 95 mph or higher) and his link to damage.

Behind the scenes, one front office official described Rodriguez as swinging north/south instead of east/west, which may have helped him “get into baseball” better.

“You can’t just walk up and say, ‘Okay, I’m trying to hit this ball up in the air,’” Servis said. “A lot of times, it’s related to your swing path and what’s going on there.”

Half of Rodriguez’s 16 home runs were in opposite field, perhaps the most telling sign that he’s warming up. And 81 of the 145 injuries last year, more than half, occurred in those directions.

“I feel like that’s where my strength lies,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like that’s where I’m really good at. I like being able to drive the ball the other way and I feel like that’s what I’m doing… just sticking to my strengths and playing my cards and not trying to do too much. I just take what the game gives me at the time.” Present “.

A more than 200-point increase in on-base percentage for this home run also has Rodriguez’s elite speed and his often base game. Take his impressive slide between the catcher’s legs on Saturday’s sacrifice score, a play he had been ruled out at first by Servais challenged.

“He knows that when he’s rolling, our team is much better,” Servis said. “He adds a different dynamic to our attack when he’s on the bases and does all the things he can do.”

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