The Mariners are a staff that loves a catchy slogan. Go to batting observe or a pregame exercise and you may see a number of gamers sporting shirts with extra acronyms than an intro-level enterprise course: “DMGB” (Doesn’t Matter, Get Better) is fashionable, as is “27 outs , no extra” favored by Perry Hill’s pupils, whereas pitchers typically sport “DTZ,” standing for Dominate the Zone (previously CTZ, Control the Zone). That final one has been round for almost all of the Dipoto period, so acquainted now that it fades to background noise, and often makes itself most evident when Mariners pitchers are effectively mowing by way of opposing lineups. But the DTZ philosophy makes itself identified within the batter’s field, as properly.
Last yr, the Mariners as a staff noticed a mean of three.94 pitches per plate look—second-highest within the AL behind solely the Yankees, and tied with Atlanta for sixth-most in baseball. That’s a tick off the place they have been in 2021, once they have been second-highest in all of baseball, once more simply trailing the Yankees, at 4 pitches/PA; in 2019, for as depressing as that Mariners staff was in different areas, they led all of baseball at 4.11 pitches/PA.
Part of how the Mariners have risen up these ranks—they ranked lifeless final in pitches/PA in 2018—is by figuring out and buying gamers who management the strike zone. Specifically, the Mariners have made it clear they’ve a middle-infielder kind: they worth gamers who can grind out at-bats, get on base, restrict free outs through strikeouts, and play robust protection behind their pitchers. JP Crawford, who does all of these issues, is entrenched at shortstop, a lot in order that the staff did not even entertain wanting into the bonanza of shortstops obtainable in free company this season. Second base, nevertheless, has been an extended search.
In their quest to seek out an on a regular basis reply at second, the Mariners have taken Shakira’s recommendation and gone on, tried every little thing. They’ve tried buying and selling for it (Adam Frazier, Dee Strange-Gordon). They’ve tried growing the gamers themselves (Donovan Walton; finish of record). They’ve tried a trade-develop hybrid (Shed Long Jr., Abraham Toro). They’ve tried waiver wire/profession minor-leaguer see-if-it sticks performs (Kevin Padlo, Jack Mayfield, Austin Nola earlier than they determined he was extra helpful as a catcher). They’ve tried gamers whose names have been misplaced to Mariners historical past (Eric Campbell?). They’ve tried to bend it with not one, however two Beckhams (Gordon and Tim). They’ve tried issues they actually should not have (the 21 video games Ty France performed second base in 2021). They’ve even tried what many followers have been hollering for them to do that season and shoveled cash into the issue (Robinson Canó, unsurprisingly probably the most helpful Mariner second baseman by WAR on this record, and it isn’t shut.).
This yr, the staff might be working again the primary choice, with a twist. When the Mariners acquired Adam Frazier previous to the 2022 season, Frazier, coming off an All-Star season, was clearly the staff’s on a regular basis second base resolution, with Dylan Moore doing what he is all the time achieved as a Mariner and filling in wherever the staff wanted. In 2022, that meant coming in as a bench participant or a defensive alternative. Excluding the pandemic-shortened season, DMo had a career-low in plate appearances final season, and a lot of the defensive reps he bought have been within the Mariners’ terminally-shorthanded outfield.
But after years of transferring him everywhere in the diamond as a super-utility participant, Moore’s function with the staff has by no means appeared so clear-cut. The Mariners changed Frazier with Kolten Wong this season and signaled their intent to platoon DMo with the lefty Wong, whose profession wRC+ towards lefties is simply 80. By distinction, Moore’s handedness splits are less drastic: a 112 wRC+ towards lefties vs. 92 towards righties.
Some of that might be publicity. Wong is a ten-year vet of the bigs with an intensive observe file, whereas Moore—acquired within the “profession minor-leaguer/see-if-it-sticks” mannequin outlined above—has solely restricted work over 4 seasons, together with a pandemic-shortened one. Wong additionally matches the mildew of the Mariners participant who dominates the zone, strolling quite a bit and infrequently placing out. Moore, however, nonetheless hasn’t been in a position to resolve his strikeout points, persistently arising empty a couple of third of the time. Moore is particularly susceptible to sliders, the pitch he sees most frequently after the fastball; that top strikeout charge is due partly to sliders, a pitch he whiffs at 35% of the time with a Okay% of just about 43%.
Sliders are notoriously powerful pitches to hit, and you may’t actually blame DMo for wanting foolish on this one:
That was a troublesome at-bat for DMo, although; he fell into an 0-2 gap nearly instantly with two known as strikes on curveballs, and was compelled right into a defensive swing. In an 0-2 depend, DMo’s OPS is a couple of hundred factors decrease than Wong’s (.483 vs. .582).
But in that very same sport, DMo additionally did this:
(I encourage you to hearken to that with the sound on, as there may be an amusing trio of sounds one after the opposite: the crack of Moore’s bat, the play-by-play announcer interrupting the colour commentator with some evaluation of his personal ( “uh oh”), and a primal scream of exultation that may have come from DMo himself.)
I’ve made a meal on Twitter out of exaggeratedly pondering how the petite DMo, together with his Disney-princess waist, can create such thunderous energy. (Certainly Brooks Raley has given him an help in that division.) But sadly, that energy hasn’t flowed persistently. After a breakout in 2020, DMo took a step again in 2021. After producing a +7 RV (run worth) on fastballs in 2020, he registered a -10 RV on the pitch in 2021, when he noticed about twice as many. His xBA of .202 was within the backside 2% in baseball. And the facility breakout that we have been hoping for after his 2020 marketing campaign by no means happened, as his common exit velocity fell from the higher percentile of the league to the underside 10%. Instead of seizing the second base job for good, Moore discovered himself once more relegated to a bench participant in 2022.
While he did not fairly recapture his stunning energy surge in 2022, Moore did enhance on his 2021. Not within the strikeouts division, as pitchers will insist on throwing him sliders, however DMo did stroll extra in 2022. Most encouragingly, the facility numbers began to slip again in direction of the purple from the icy-blue depths of 2021. He began discovering the barrel once more, as he did in his breakout season; his 13% barrel charge is double MLB common, and his common exit velocity ticked again up (though nonetheless under MLB common). What this means is there’s nonetheless loads of energy in DMo’s bat; he simply has to persistently unlock it by discovering pitches he can injury.
And for all that foofaraw about his vulnerability to sliders, DMo truly grinds out pretty lengthy plate appearances, on common. In 2020, DMo noticed the bottom variety of pitches per plate look in his profession, averaging simply 4.1 pitches/PA. That quantity has steadily grown as he is absorbed the Mariners’ “D the Z” philosophy, all the way in which as much as 4.47 in 2022. (Fun reality: of the 22 PAs he is taken in a 3-0 depend, he is by no means as soon as swung. Would wish to see DMo get the greenlight simply as soon as.) His Swing/Take knowledge suggests that truly, DMo would not chase too typically; he sees nearly precisely the identical breakdown of pitches as a mean participant, however is much better than most gamers at shedding pitches within the “chase” zone—nearly 10 share factors higher than common. This permits DMo to work deeper counts and hunt a pitch he can injury.
Except he might be doing a greater job damaging mentioned pitches. DMo truly swings less within the “coronary heart” zone—that juicy pink heart—than the common participant. In his breakout season, DMo swung nearly league-average at pitches within the coronary heart, resulting in a +2 run worth, however as he is began taking extra pitches per plate look, he is gotten less aggressive within the zone. For a participant who strikes out as a lot as DMo, you’d anticipate him to be a manner freer swinger, however that is not the case. In 2022, Moore’s swinging strike charge was about 18%, decrease than the MLB common (19.2%). On the opposite hand, his known as strike charge was 35%—nearly ten share factors greater than the MLB common.
What it comes all the way down to is an id disaster. The Mariners need their center infielders to be OBP machines, minimizing strikeouts and maximizing contact. But that is not the participant Dylan Moore is, at his coronary heart. Trapped within the non-Herculean physique of a minor-league grinder utility infielder is a power-hitting second baseman craving to interrupt free. And swinging for the fences is perhaps the way in which DMo secures himself extra enjoying time at a place the Mariners have struggled to fill for years.