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Julio Rodríguez Talks About Hitting | FanGraphs Baseball

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Julio Rodríguez is having a down year with the bat. Three months into the preseason, the 23-year-old Seattle Mariners center fielder is slashing just .257/.308/.343 with seven home runs and a 92 wRC+, numbers below .279/.338/.495 with 135 wRC+ and 60 home runs over his first major league campaign. There is a pair of silver linings, however. One is that Rodríguez was significantly better in the second half of the 2023 season (.942 OPS) than he was in the first half (.721). Another Seattle record. Even though the star is performing below his usual levels, the Mariners are 45-36 and sit atop the AL West. If Rodríguez could repeat last season’s second-half comeback — something you might not want to bet on — that would go a long way toward helping fuel Seattle’s postseason push.

In the 104th installment of our Talks Hitting series, Rodríguez discussed his early development as a hitter, how he balances staying on course with the need for change, and the perspective he takes when looking at his stat sheet.


David Laurila: How did you start learning to play?

Julio Rodríguez: “Little League. I just took the bat with my father and started swinging it.”

Laurila: Do you consider yourself a natural hitter?

Rodriguez: “Always, yes. I can say that. In Little League, I had my coach and all that, but my dad was a big part of it, too. There was a point where he was kind of my coach before I went to this school in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He and the other coaches helped me.”

Laurila: What is your father’s baseball background?

Rodriguez: “He just played amateur — he didn’t do professional work — but he loved the game. That’s why I started playing.”

Laurila: What about hitting the instructions on your way to school?

Rodriguez: “Most of the time they just let me do my thing. They know that I had a real feeling to hit, that it came naturally to me, that I had to do it. There were guys helping me obviously – how any coach would do that – but it was little things here and there. There was nothing difficult.”

Laurila: What if you get pro football? Did the instructors want you to change anything about your setup, where you held your hands, things like that?

Rodriguez: “It wasn’t much, to be honest. I mean they try here and there, but it doesn’t feel like it’s me. I didn’t feel like I was really enjoying it, so I just went back to my base and started hitting like I am.”

Laurila: In other words, if I looked at your video from when you first signed and compared it to now, I would actually see this guy…

Rodriguez: “No. It could be different. You might go from where you’re coming from to how I’m uploading… maybe. I feel like you are not the same. You are always changing. Your body, the way you feel, changes. You have to ride those waves like a hitter. Sometimes you feel like you’d better hit the ground with both feet. You are more open. Sometimes you are a little closed off. Again, he rode that wave.”

Laurila: That said, hitters have their fundamentals, things that have always worked for them. OK?

Rodríguez: “Yes. I mean, sometimes when what we’re doing isn’t working, your idea isn’t working. Sometimes you don’t really need to change, you just have to have a better way. But sometimes you need to change some things. It’s a matter of finding out what it’s worth.”

Laurila: When you say attitude and approach, do you mean you slow your game down and be very patient, basically waiting for your pitch?

Rodriguez: “That can be a thing sometimes. But sometimes you just drink. Or you could be chasing platforms. And sometimes you get your points but you miss them. There are many things that can make you suffer.”

Laurila: What is usually the cause when your period is off? Is it understandable?

Rodriguez: “I mean you are late. That’s all it is. Sometimes you fix late. Sometimes you’re just not there mentally. I don’t know. There are many things that can affect you.”

Laurila: Changing direction a bit, are you paying close attention to your hit metrics?

Rodriguez: “Those things are great, but the way I try to look at it is, ‘How did I help the team win that day?’ Sometimes the data doesn’t always reflect those things. I think a lot of people are getting away from what’s really important in the game. What I like to watch is, ‘How did I impact the game to help us win?’ Maybe we had a guy on third base and I brought him in; I chased the field which was a bit outside but I ran. For me personally that would be more important than swinging in a good place.”

Laurila: If you win on the side, which of your individual stats is the most important to you?

Rodriguez: “Like I said, it doesn’t matter how good you are. You can be the best player, but if you don’t win you don’t do anything. I guess. I don’t really care how much I made if we didn’t win. I care about the things I do if I help our team win that day.”

Laurila: Another change in approach. Is hitting fun?

Rodriguez: “If you can hit, it’s fun. I think most people would agree with that. If you don’t hit… I mean, who likes not being good at something? Hitting is hard. So, it’s fun, but you have to accept the struggles. As a hitter, you know you’re going to struggle. You won’t struggle either.”


Previous “Talks Hitting” interviews can be found at these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Jacob Berry, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Justice Bigbie, Cavan Biggio, Charlie Blackmon, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley , Will Brennan, Jay Bruce, Triston Casas, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Garrett Cooper, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Austin Hays, Nico Hoerner, Jackson Holliday, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Jacob Hurtubise, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Jace Jung , Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Royce Lewis, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Marcelo Mayer, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Graham Pauley, Luke Raley, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Nolan Schanuel, Marcus Semien, Giancarlo Stanton, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Story Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Brice Turang, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto , Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Bobby Witt Jr. Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis.

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