Flowers for Julio
One of the defining storylines of this MLB offseason (tough certainly not the storyline) was the debate over who was the top prospect in baseball: Bobby Witt, Jr., Adley Rutschman, or Julio Rodríguez. After making their respective Opening Day rosters, Julio and Witt have graduated from prospect lists. But Adley made his debut moments before today’s Mariners game ended. Having been ranked below Adley on every major list, Julio was not willing to cede the day’s baseball headlines to him so easily.
Julio didn’t wait long to make an impression. It was clear the Mariners’ plan was to jump on Garrett Whitlock early today, by which I mean both early in the game and early in the count. After just nine pitches, the Mariners had scored a run and had two runners on, even though they’d also recorded an out. That ninth pitch was to Julio. With runners on second and third, Julio first got a piece of Whitlock’s eighth pitch, a perfectly placed 95-mph sinker on the outside corner. Whitlock followed that up with a perfectly placed changeup on the opposite corner.
The Mariners general success against Whitlock underplays how impressive it is to make contact with both of these pitches in sequence. These pitches have different profiles: a 9-inch difference in vertical break, a 10-mph difference in speed, both placed right on the black on opposite sides of the plate. But Julio did make contact with both pitches, sending the second one off the bat at 93 mph and a 12-degree launch angle. That contact is good enough for a hit 91% of the time, including this time.
That wasn’t enough for Julio, though. Having a runner on first and fewer than two outs is a dangerous situation, so two pitches later, he took off for second, stealing his 12th base of the year without even drawing a throw.
Julio followed that up in the second inning with another sequence where he again made contact with both pitches he saw, again a pair with very different profiles:
Julio sent this one through the six hole, advancing J.P. to second base for his second hit in as many innings.
Having made an impression with his bat and his legs, Julio let his defense do some talking in the bottom of the fifth. Enrique Hernández started things with a double on the first pitch of the inning.
Do you see that adjustment? Julio changing his approach might look like second nature, but it’s not. Fenway’s outfield configuration is famously abnormal. It’s not just the Green Monster™; centerfield has its own name, the Triangle™. And don’t forget that Julio is learning a new outfield at every park he goes to, 11 so far this year, including having to learn T-Mobile for the first time. That adjustment might just have limited Hernández to a double, seeing as Hernández has been worth 10.5 BsR for his career, despite middle-of-the-pack sprint speed. It would end up not mattering, since Hernández scored anyway on Devers’ subsequent homer (his second of the game).
J.D. Martinez then smacked a double, and Bogaerts sent a ball to centerfield. Martinez made the turn, but since it was Julio out there, Boston’s thirdbase coach held him at third rather than test Julio’s arm. It would end up not mattering, since Martinez scored anyway on Bobby Dalbec’s subsequent single.
Not satisfied with an ISO of .000 on the day, Julio went for extra bases in the seventh.
That’s an inside-out swing on a breaking ball to take the ball the other way. What’s not apparent in that video is that with an inside-out swing on a breaking ball to take the ball the other way, his exit velocity was 102 mph. That’s not normal. Nor is it normal that despite hitting the ball hard and toward elite outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., Julio made it to second base standing up. It would end up not mattering, as a Winker strikeout would strand him there.
But folks, we’ve got a superstar on our hands, the kind of player who can make games appointment viewing even when the rest of the team is farting its way to a 17-24 record. Even when his successes end up not mattering, they’re still show-stopping. Mariners fans have seen superstars on struggling teams before. Yet while Felix Day was once a week, we get Julio Day every day. Yes, the Mariners lost 6-5 today, but tomorrow is Julio Day.
You’d think all this would be enough to earn Julio today’s Sun Hat Award, but I’m afraid nothing’s going to top this, reported by game attendee Corco. Congrats, Cal.
Fifteen other Mariners appeared in this game. Some of them even played well, like Andrés Muñoz and Penn Murfee, who combined to sit down all six batters they faced. And the headline news out of the game will be Toro’s collision with Frazier, the latter of whom was playing out of his normal position to keep Steven Souza out of the lineup. Toro ended up leaving the game with a shoulder injury, and Divish says an IL stint is likely and that Sam Haggerty is his likely replacement. Abraham Toro, Our Beleaguered.
A lot of the Mariners’ current problems are the result of poor sequencing, a brutal stretch of opponents, and injuries that couldn’t have come at a worse time. That’s not to paper over the underperformance or the lack of sufficient depth.
The things outside the team’s control still matter, not because they excuse the bad performance to date or change the situation the team finds itself in. The Mariners are already 8.5 games out of the division and 5.5 games out of the third Wild Card. It’ll take a run for the ages to get back in this thing.
Rather, the things that explain the team’s situation still matter because they indicate that these games won’t be so brutal going forward. The team is likey to improve and be more fun to watch. Even when they’re not, though, tomorrow will still be Julio Day.
P.S. The Upton brothers are the most Mariner non-Mariners to ever play, so I guess this was inevitable.