Stormy seas no more: Mariners riding high with J-Rod

The Seattle Mariners are baseball’s hottest team at the All-Star break, and their rookie center-fielder Julio Rodriguez (“J-Rod” to his hometown fans) is a big reason why. More on Rodriguez and the Mariners after the jump.

Seattle’s current 14 game winning streak (tied with the Braves for this season’s longest) is one shy of the franchise record set in their 116 win season in 2001. That year, the Mariners debuted another rookie outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki, whose season included an All-Star selection, and RoY and MVP awards. This year, Rodriguez has the first and is well on his way to the second. The third will be a tall order for the 21 year-old from the Dominican Republic, but that’s hardly a slight on Rodriguez, who stands 6th in the AL with 3.6 WAR at the break, most of that garnered since May 1st, during which time he has posted an .886 OPS, including 16 home runs in 71 games. Those exploits have earned Rodriguez AL Rookie of the Month honors for both May and June, and a recent AL Player of the Week nod. That WAR total gives Rodriguez a shot at the debut season record for age 21 or younger players, a mark currently held by Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001), with 6.6 WAR totals.

How good has Rodriguez been to start this season? Looking at first halves (first half of schedule before 1933, before All-Star Game since) in debut seasons aged 21 or younger, Rodriguez ranks 5th in Runs Created, 3rd in Total Bases and Stolen Bases, 4th in Runs and Home Runs, 5th in RBI and Extra-Base Hits, and 6th in Hits. Another Seattle center-fielder, Ken Griffey Jr., is the only other player in the group with double-digit homers and steals before the break. Among all players this season, Rodriguez’s 18.2 Power/Speed number (i.e. the harmonic mean of home runs and stolen bases) leads the majors by a comfortable margin, and his 21 stolen bases are just one behind AL leader Jorge Mateo (if Rodriguez were to finish the season as the league stolen base leader, he would join Tim Raines, Mike Trout and Richie Ashburn as the only rookies to do so aged 21 or younger).

Rodriguez made his major league debut this season in Seattle’s opening day starting lineup. That accomplishment in an age 21 or younger season puts Rodriguez in pretty select company, as only 77 other position players* (and one pitcher) have matched that feat since 1901. Joining that group bodes well for Rodriguez, as the list is chock full of Hall of Famers and other notables, including such names as Tinker, Hartnett, Doerr, Williams, Ashburn, Mantle, Mathews, Aaron, Robinson, Pinson, Cepeda, Yastrzemski, Staub, Carew, Yount, Murray, Molitor, Griffey Jr., Pujols, Mauer and Tatis Jr.

* Of these 78 players, only two appeared in the same debut game. Larry Hisle and Don Money, both aged 20, debuted together for the Phillies on opening day 1968. Despite both recording their first hit that day (and Money driving in the game’s only runs in support of Chris Short‘s 4 hit shutout), the pair managed only 11 games and 26 PA between them for the season.

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Paul E
Paul E
25 days ago

Thanks for a great article about an exciting young player. All the services had him ranked 2nd or 3rd as a ML prospect prior to his debut. It certainly will be interesting to see if he has a career like Cedeno, Griffey, or Mays….or Larry Hisle. Bill James had a calculator called his favorite toy that, basically, projected final career stats. I’m still waiting for Ruben Sierra to drive in his 2,000th run. One of the saddest things we baseball fans see is a career ruined by injuries…like Yelich with the bad back. He was looking like a .320 35… Read more »

Doug
Doug
24 days ago

He’s the kind of player that grabs your attention the first time you see him in the batter’s box. Oozing raw talent, but will have to see if he’s able to refine those skills over time.

Right now, Julio’s projected season totals look a lot like Bobby Bonds’ first full season (except Bonds drew more walks). If Rodriguez is only a Bonds, he will be a lot of fun to watch, but seems like he could be even better than that (if you click on the image, it will come into focus).

J-Rod vs Bonds.JPG
Last edited 24 days ago by Doug
Tom
Tom
24 days ago

In April, Julio Rodriguez was called out on strikes 17 times. Statcast found that 10 were out of the strike zone. No other player had more than 5 called strike 3s.. That month, he hit .206/.284.260, 0,6, 9 SB. After becoming a viral sensation for getting squeezed, he, and the umps adjusted. From May 1 onward, he’s hit .293/.351/.535, 16, 46, 12. I would argue that’s more indicative of his true talent. Conveniently, that’s 71 games. Add that to the 91 games he already played, and we get: G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO… Read more »

Last edited 24 days ago by Tom
Doug
Doug
24 days ago
Reply to  Tom

Nice observation, Tom. “In April, Julio Rodriguez was called out on strikes 17 times … No other player had more than 5 called strike 3s.” That variance from everyone else is pretty remarkable. Of course, if you subtract the 10 dubious strike 3 calls, Rodriguez still had more than anyone else. Not sure if I agree with the umpires giving rookies a rough ride just because they’re rookies. Almost like they were saying “get the bat off your shoulder, rookie, and prove you belong here, ’cause you won’t get any close calls until you do”. I suppose that’s analogous with… Read more »

Doug
Doug
21 days ago

Among the many unusual factoids from Toronto’s 28-5 romp over the Red Sox. – Toronto franchise records for Runs, Hits and winning run differential – Boston franchise record for Runs Allowed – Boston franchise record for longest streak (3 games) allowing 13+ runs – Boston franchise record for most runs allowed (55) over 3 consecutive games (one off ML record) – Every Toronto batter had scored by the 3rd inning – Every Toronto batter had 2+ hits by the 5th inning – Toronto scored 25 runs in first 5 innings: 1st game since 1922 – 12 straight Toronto batters reached… Read more »

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
21 days ago
Reply to  Doug

Also it looks like the Jays were the second team to score 25 runs in the first 5 innings in modern times. On 8/25/1922 the Cubs scored 25 in the first 4 innings

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
21 days ago

Doug: I just noticed that you also posted that stat.

Doug
Doug
20 days ago
Reply to  Doug

As a postscript, Raimel Tapia added a second game in the series with 3+ hits and 4+ RBI, tying him with 5 other visiting players with a pair of such games consecutively in the same series at Fenway. Tapia batted 1st and 8th in the two games, while four of the other five batted in the same position in both games, and the fifth moved just one position in the second game. A seventh player, Garret Anderson, did this in consecutive games, but in different seasons and for different teams. Looks like I jinxed the Mariners; their 14 game winning… Read more »

Last edited 20 days ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
20 days ago
Reply to  Doug

“Looks like I jinxed the Mariners; their 14 game winning streak ended ingloriously with a series sweep at the hands of the Astros….”

Yes, Italians call that the mal occhia (meh-loyx). But, they’re still in the thick of the wild card chase. On a similar note, the Phillies just got swept (at home, no less) by the Cubs AAA affiliate from Chicago

Doug
Doug
17 days ago

With Yadier Molina scheduled to return to the Cardinals next week, St. Louis has a chance for a major league first since 1901. That would be starting a game with pitcher, catcher and first baseman all aged 40 or older. Call it 1-2-3-40.

With or without Pujols at first bae, a Wainwright/Molina starting battery would be a first for the Cardinals with both players aged 40+.

Last edited 17 days ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
17 days ago

Max Scherzer on Wed went 7 scoreless IP for the Mets. That makes the 38 year-old the oldest NL pitcher with such a start on his birthday. The AL record belongs to Sad Sam Jones, with a shutout on his 42nd birthday.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
3 days ago

What would Paul Goldschmidt hit off of Patrick Corbin? Paul Goldschmidt leads the NL in batting average, with a .328 average. Patrick Corbin, having one of the worst pitching seasons ever, is allowing a .331 average. The overall National League batting average is .245 so far this year. Assuming Goldschmidt has faced average pitching all year, we give him a batting average “score” of .411 (meaning, half of the time you get his result, half of the time you get a league-average result, and the net effect is his .328 average). For Corbin, assuming he’s faced league-average hitters all year,… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
3 days ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Off the cuff, I would guess that the highest batting average expectations post-integration probably belong to 1977 Rod Carew (.510), 1980 George Brett (.511), and 1994 Tony Gwynn (.521).

Carew vs. Corbin – .4635
Brett vs. Corbin – .464
Gwynn vs. Corbin – .469

It’s fun to think about slow-pitch softball numbers being put up at the ML level!

Paul E
Paul E
3 days ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

….and, what if any of these guys played 81 home games at the slow-pitch softball palace Coors Field?