Mike Zunino was expected back soon after the All-Star Break. While it was all but guaranteed he’d return by Tuesday to catch James Paxton, Zunino’s ankle appears properly healed and he should be in the lineup to catch Marco Gonzales this afternoon.
Depending on your feelings for the Free-Swingers and Mash M’s catcher, this is either a huge relief or fails to move the needle. Despite Freitas mashing his first career MLB home run against the Angels a week and a half ago, Chris Herrmann’s more impressive bat and superior positional versatility won out for retaining the backup catcher role.
The entirety of the Mariners lineup has been slumping for approximately three weeks, and it would be just dandy if Zunino brought a bit more consistency at the plate with him. He’s continued to tear the cover off the ball, but between an unsavory 5.0% BB rate and the third-highest swing-and-miss rate in baseball, he, much like Ryon Healy, is finding it’s hard to make much happen if you hit it hard on the ground or right at people.
Still, Zunino’s defense has been exemplary this season, and for no other reason than that his return is a wind in the Mariners’ sails. Particularly in their losses to the Colorado Rockies, Seattle’s backup backstops were exposed by baserunners. Baserunners are 15/17 (88.2%) stealing against David Freitas, 8/11 (72.7%) against Chris Herrmann, and were 3/3 (you can figure this one out) against now-retired Mike Marjama. Zu has held runners to a 21/35 rate (60.0%).
Here’s to more controlling the zone, and controlling the basepaths.