The Mariners problems start behind the plate
The Seattle Mariners came into the 2015 season as the hot pick in the American League to win the AL West. Heck, a few of MFST’s MLB experts selected the Mariners to represent the AL in the World Series. Sitting at 34-40 and fourth place in the AL West, Seattle is hoping to contend for a wild card this season and dreams of winning the World Series are not in the forefront of anyone’s mind.
Looking at the Mariners season you can point to a lot of reasons why the team is struggling, and one player or coach is not the sole reason of the year-long slump. The Mariners pitching staff has struggled for most of the year, but has started to turned it around in June. Their 3.79 team ERA is middle of the pack for most MLB teams, but when four of your starters have an ERA hovering around 4.00 or above, it is not a good sign of a successful team.
The Mariners lineup boasts impressive names that include Cano, Cruz, Seager and Trumbo but they struggle to produce runs and get on-base. Only one player has a batting average above .300 and that is Nelson Cruz who has been in a month-long slump (he started June batting .336 and now stands at .306). Big-name free agent Robinson Cano has been a huge disappointment in 2015, batting .246 and only mustering four home runs.
All of these players have been factors into the Mariners rough 2015 season, but one player stands out above the rest, starting catcher Mike Zunino. Zunino’s slash line is ugly to look at .163/.223/.296 and he has only managed seven hits in the entire month of June to-date. The struggling catcher continues to be in the lineup day-in and day-out despite striking out nearly 40% of the time he comes up to bat. To put it in perspective, Zunino has accumulated 225 at-bats this season and has struck out 83 times, to only 33 hits. These numbers scream bench me! However, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has done no-such thing despite the numbers telling him to do so.
Until Seattle can correct their issues behind the plate, they will not be moving their way up the AL West standings. Backup catcher Jesus Sucre is the only other player on the active 25-man roster that can play that position and he owns an ugly .043 BA, recording one major league hit in 23 plate appearances. The Mariners should look to upgrade the position before the trade deadline, even if that includes selling off one of their older stars for a catching prospect that will not contribute until next season. The first few months have taught the Mariners front office one thing: Mike Zunino is not a catcher you can rely on to start every game, and an upgraded is needed.
Dan Schalk covers MLB for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @FFSportsTalk