Appreciating the "J-Rod Show"
I haven't written about him enough this year and that is my fault. Here's to Julio Rodríguez, Seattle's superstar.
Every once in a while a player comes along that is so extraordinary that they reset the expectations and calculations of what is possible in the sport they play in. Shohei Ohtani has done this in a significant way this year in Anaheim.
The issue with our society is that we get bored with greatness. Sometimes we even try to tear it down, poking holes in the abilities of real-life superheroes. Most of the time it just comes down to appreciation, and not taking those exceptional individuals for granted.
I am guilty of this as well. I haven’t written about him positively nearly enough this year. Let’s do it. Here’s to Julio Rodríguez.
On Saturday afternoon, Seattle’s superstar became the fastest Mariner in club history to 50 home runs, surpassing Alex Rodriguez’s mark. Julio did it in 256 games, while A-Rod did it in 269.
Yesterday afternoon he became only the second Mariner ever with 40 hits and 10 stolen bases in a calendar month according to ESPN Stats and Info. He joins Seattle Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki as the only other player to do so.
Just over a week ago the 22-year-old set a Major League Baseball record with 17 hits over a four-game span. Utterly ridiculous.
Rodríguez and hitting coach Jarret DeHart made an adjustment in his setup at the plate, widening his stance and freeing up his hands a little bit. This change has helped him simplify his timing and get the ball in the air more often, creating one of the greatest hot streaks we have ever seen.
His offensive season has gone under much scrutiny until his August breakout. His 215 wRC+ in the month of August has moved his season mark to 126 according to Fangraphs. This mark still ranks below the 145 he posted last season.
The Dominican outfielder struggled mightily with strikeouts early in the season, and more and more fans brought attention to his struggles. Offensive frustrations were all too often pointed at the 22 year old, a ridiculous burden to bare.
One of the main criticisms was his lack of “clutch” hits. This ridiculous falsity has been dispelled, as Rodríguez owns a .317 batting average and a .920 OPS with RISP. These numbers are even greater with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Oh yeah, he also has 35 stolen bases.
His traditional offensive numbers are on pace to be nearly identical to last season, and if he keeps trending in the same direction he will smash his 2022 numbers. Hitting the ball in the air more often to the pull side has been one of the most tangible adjustments, and one that I wrote about often earlier in the year.
In addition to his offensive prowess, the 22 year old centerfielder has been a super hero on defense. He ranks in the 99th percentile of Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average, potentially setting him up for his first career Gold Glove.
His defensive season has been the most fun season to watch by a Mariner outfielder since Franklin Gutiérrez and Mike Cameron roamed centerfield. Julio is simply must watch TV.
His ranks amongst the rest of the league in nearly every quantifiable category are absolutely silly.
In addition to his numbers and on field play, his personality continues to make him one of the most lovable characters in sports. Rodríguez plays the game with a childlike joy and a genuine love of baseball.
He is the heartbeat and energizer of this team along with players like Eugenio Suárez and J.P. Crawford. The kid brings a smile and a passion to the game that makes it difficult not to think of Ken Griffey Jr.
Much like Junior, Julio has captured the hearts of the entire Pacific Northwest. Not only has he captured the region, he is becoming one of the faces of baseball, period.
It is easy to take for granted what we are watching, or to criticize when he doesn’t come through in every single big moment. All I ask is that we each try to take a step back and consider how lucky we are. We are witnessing greatness from an extraordinary individual, an individual that LOVES being a Seattle Mariner.
That greatness has aided the Seattle Mariners into first place on August 28. They have not been alone in first place this late in a season since 2003.
As Dave Sims once said, “What a world to live in with Julio Rodríguez!”