Julio Rodríguez Talks Hitting | FanGraphs Baseball

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Julio Rodríguez is having a down year with the bat. Three months into the season, the 23-year-old Seattle Mariners center fielder is slashing just .257/.308/.343 with seven home runs and a 92 wRC+, numbers that are well below the .279/.338/.495 with a 135 wRC+ and 60 home runs he put up over his first two big league campaigns. There are a pair of silver linings, though. One is that Rodríguez was markedly better in the second half of the 2023 season (a .942 OPS) than he’d been in the first half (.721). The other is Seattle’s record. Even with the superstar performing at less than his usual standards, the Mariners are 45-36 and sitting atop the AL West standings. If Rodríguez were to repeat last season’s second-half resurgence — something you might not want to bet against — that surely would go a long way toward helping propel 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 the course with a need for change, and the perspective he takes when looking at his stat sheet.


David Laurila: How did you first learn to hit?

Julio Rodríguez: “Little League. I just picked up a bat with my dad and started swinging it.”

Laurila: Do you consider yourself a natural hitter?

Rodríguez: “Kind of, yeah. I could 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 academy in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. He, as well as some other coaches, helped me out.”

Laurila: What is your father’s baseball background?

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

Laurila: What about hitting instruction when you went to the academy?

Rodríguez: “They mostly just let me do my thing. They kind of knew that I had a real feel to hit, that it came naturally to me, what I needed to do. There were some guys who obviously helped me out — how any coach will do that — but it was just little things here and there. There was nothing drastic.”

Laurila: How about when you got to pro ball? Did the instructors want you to change anything with your setup, where you held your hands, and things like that?

Rodríguez: “There wasn’t much, honestly. I mean, they tried a little bit here and there, but it didn’t feel like it was me. I didn’t feel like I was really enjoying it, so I just kind of got back to my own basics and started hitting like I am.”

Laurila: In other words, if I looked at video of you from when you first signed and compared it now, I would basically see the same guy…

Rodríguez: “No. It would be different. You could probably go from the hand positions to how I load… maybe. I feel like you’re never the same. You’re always kind of changing. Your body, how it feels, changes. You have to ride those waves as a hitter. Sometimes you feel like you’re better hitting with both of your feet on the ground. You’re a little bit more open. Sometimes you’re a little bit more closed. Again, you’re riding that wave.”

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

Rodríguez: “Yes. I mean, sometimes when what we’re doing isn’t working it’s actually your mentality that’s not working. Sometimes you don’t really need to change, you just have to have a better approach. But sometimes you do need to change some stuff. It’s a matter of finding what it is that is costing you.”

Laurila: When you say mentality and approach, do you mean slowing the game down and being more patient, basically waiting for your pitch?

Rodríguez: “That can be a thing sometimes. But sometimes you’re just late. Or you might be chasing pitches. And sometimes you’re getting your pitches but are missing them. There are numerous things that can make you struggle.”

Laurila: What tends to be the cause when your timing is off? Is it explainable?

Rodríguez: “I mean, you’re just late. That’s all it is. Sometimes you’re gearing up late. Sometimes you’re just not there mentally. I don’t know. There are many things that can effect you.“

Laurila: Changing direction a bit, do you pay much attention to your hitting metrics?

Rodríguez: “That stuff is good, 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 kind of step away from what really matters in the game. What I like to look at is, ‘How did I impact the game to help us win?’ Maybe we had a guy on third base and I got him in; I chased a pitch that was a little bit outside but I got the run in. For me personally, that can be more important than swinging at a good pitch.”

Laurila: Winning aside, which of your individual stats are most important to you?

Rodríguez: “Like I said, it doesn’t matter how good you are. You can be the best player, but if you don’t win you’re not doing anything. That’s how I see it. I don’t really care how much I did if we didn’t win. I care about the things I do if I help our team win that day.”

Laurila: One more change of direction. Is hitting fun?

Rodríguez: “When you can hit it’s fun. I think a lot of people would agree with that. When you’re not hitting… I mean, who likes being bad at something? Hitting is hard. So, it’s fun, but you have to embrace the struggles. As a hitter, you know you’re going to struggle. You’re also going to not struggle.”


Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through 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 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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