Julio Rodriguez Is Playing Out Of His Mind to the Lead the Mariners

The Seattle Mariners went from out of the playoff picture a few months ago, to in first place in the AL West thanks to their young superstar.

Julio Rodriguez
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 19: Julio Rodríguez #44 of the Seattle Mariners looks on before the 92nd MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Mariners go as Julio Rodriguez goes.

Sure, it seems like a “thanks Captain Obvious” type of statement. When a club’s aircraft carrier is full speed ahead, that’s when the team looks in peak form. But when you look at the vast differences in the Mariners season between when Julio was in the midst of his cold streak compared to now, the results are nothing short of remarkable.

From Opening Day until June 30th, Rodriguez slashed .238/.298/.407/.706 with a 98 WRC+. He was constantly late on fastballs, chasing breaking balls low and away off the plate, which led to alarming chase and strikeout rates. He simply seemed to be pressing at times. As a result, Seattle was 38-42 at the end of June.

Mariners fans began to get squirmish. Their poster-boy wasn’t living up to his already larger than life expectations. The offense could not find any rhythm. Every time it appeared as if the team took a step forward, they followed it up by taking two steps back. They were vastly underperforming to their level of capability. 

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But when the calendar flipped to July, the tides began to change.

Rodriguez turned the corner. He didn’t just find his groove. He went nuclear.

He is hitting .350/.404/.573 with a .977 OPS and 171 WRC+ over that time period. He has 26 extra-base hits in his last 47 contests. He has swiped 17 bags in that time. His strikeout rate is now under 25% for the season.

Want to zoom in the lens a little bit more? Well how is this: Rodriguez has a 215 WRC+ in August. That ranks third in the game for the month.

And most importantly, he has absolutely put the Mariners on his back, who are now 36-14 since the start of July, with the entire offense picking up the slack around No. 44 as well.

The Mariners now rank fifth in baseball in team WRC+ with 10 players holding a clip of 105 or better (and that doesn’t include Dylan Moore who sits at 145 in his limited sample size on the year). Seattle ranks second in the league in fWAR, WRC+ and On-Base Percentage since the first of July. They ranked 20th in WRC+ through the first few months of the season

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So let’s say it again: this team goes as Julio goes. And we haven’t even scratched the surface on the records he has shattered over the last couple weeks.

In the Mariners series against the Royals, Rodriguez exploded. He picked up 12 hits, becoming the first player in the team’s history to collect that many knocks in one series. It included nine hits in the final two games, to go along with the game-winning home run in the finale. He also became just the second player in the history of baseball to hit 20 or more home runs and swipe 30 or more bags in each of his first two seasons, joining Bobby Witt Jr. who also accomplished that feat in 2023 as well.

If it is somehow possible, he elevated once he touched down in Houston.

Julio picked up another eight hits over the first two contests with the Astros, bringing his hit total to 17 over a four-game stretch. It is the most hits in baseball history for a player over four outings, breaking the record of Milt Stock in 1925, who collected 16.

And after returning home, once again to face the Royals, Rodriguez swatted his 50th career home run on Saturday, becoming the fastest Mariner ever to accomplish that feat. Remember, both Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez began their careers in Seattle. Rodriguez did so in just 256 games.

Rodriguez has posted five WAR seasons or higher in each of his first two years now. He continues to play the best outfield defense in the sport by OAA (sitting at 12 for the year, ranking in the 99th percentile per Baseball Savant). And in case it slipped the minds of some fans during his underwhelming first half, he is still one of the best players on the planet.

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Neither Julio or his ball club appear to be slowing down. And if this is what people call a “down year” over the majority of the season for the 22-year-old phenom, then buckle up for the rest of his career. Because he is just scratching the surface on the player that he can be.