Series Preview: [Location] Angels @ Seattle Mariners

Seattle: 4-6
California: 6-4

GAMES

Game 1: Felix Hernandez vs Jered Weaver
Game 2: Carlos Silva vs Jon Garland
Game 3: Erik Bedard* vs Joe Saunders*

Not quite how we imagined the top of our rotation to slot up, but hey, we'll take it. Let's be perfectly blunt here, the Mariners own a clear advantage in each of these matchups with only the first one potentially not a significant difference.

We've documented extensively the issues with Jered Weaver's past results, though to his credit, his start to 2008 is closer to legit. He has so far generated far more swinging strikes than usual for him, making his 11 Ks in 13.3 innings mark on according to the regression analysis I did before. This might be due to an increase use of a cut-fastball as it's certainly not the case of Weaver's stuff improving since his average velocity is actually down from previous years. The walks on the other hand are lower than expected. Of course, this is all based on way too small a sample to draw anything meaningful.

Garland is simply not a good pitcher at all. He doesn't strike people out and he doesn't get groundballs. He does keep walks down, but not enough to offset the pitiful strikeout rate. Garland misses fewer bats than Jarrod Washburn even, a feat I thought impossible.

While Saunders is adequate, he's not the best pitcher in the AL and is thus inferior to Bedard. Saunders is almost exclusively a fastball-changeup pitcher and neither pitch is extraordinary with his fastball barely topping 90 and his changeup above 80 meaning there's a little under 10 mph difference between the two. Adequate, but that's all.

Likely Starters:
C Mike Napoli
1 Casey Kotchman*
2 Maicer Izturis^
3 Chone Figgins^
S Erick Aybar^
L Garret Anderson*
C Torii Hunter
R Gary Matthews Jr.^
D Vladimir Guerrero

Rightfield and DH seem to be interchangeable thus far for the Angels and 2B could end up back in the hands of Howie Kendrick at some point during this series. Izturis and Aybar are not formidable bats up the middle, though they are fine glovesman along with Kotchman.

It's not often you see four switch-hitters in the same lineup and I'm fairly confident that you've never seen an entire infield that could be hitting from the left side. The first two games of this series with Felix and Silva hurling might see the Angels featuring six batters hitting from the SafeCo friendly left side. Thank god Wilkerson should be starting both of those games and on the plus side, it should help keep balls away from Ibanez in left.

Overall through 11 games the Angels offense profiles as analogous to last year's Mariner squad. There is some decent power throughout the lineup, but very little in the way of patience, neither in drawing walks (22, close to last in the AL) nor in taking pitches (3.44, last in the AL).

CONTEXT

The Tampa series ended on a pretty down note with the first shutout of the season, but lets not have the end overshadow the first two contests and even in that final game in which the offense looked anemic, the Mariner hitters had their fair share of well-struck balls and did draw four walks. Starting Batista in the 7th was insane, but we have to expect that to happen with our organization. In the end, it's a series win, making it 2 out of 3 for the year. If we're 3-of-4 after this weekend, we'll all be pretty pleased.

The Angels are hurting right now with not just Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey out but Francisco Rodriguez dinged up and Howie Kendrick suffering his becoming-routine hand problems. The Mariners have their three best starters facing off against arguably the Angels three worst. This is way too early for the series to mean much on the long-term consequences of the season, but the emotion is obviously jacked up for this series. We would all prefer to be in first place before Lackey returns.

The key to getting there is going to be continuing to stay patient at the plate and help drive up the pitch counts of the starters and getting to the bullpen. Normally a staple of strength for the Angels, they've been hit with the aforementioned injuries and general ineffectiveness. That isn't to say the Mariner bats should aspire to just hold serve against Weaver/Garland/Saunders -- no, that trio is ripe for teeing-off on -- but more a recognition that the patient approach is going to pay nice dividends for the offense should they continue to execute it.

The Mariner defense also needs to right itself. The entire team looked sloppy in Baltimore and though they looked significantly better in every aspect in Tampa, the defense is still a little wonky beyond just the normal hamster-wheel range of super nice guy Raul Ibanez. Beltre and Yuni have made their share of great plays and also had an avoidable gaffe or two so far. Not to go Morgan on y'all, but some defensive consistency would help.

THIS SERIES BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

African Amber
Mac and Jack's Brewing. Redmond, WA

What's there to say? You should all have had this beer by now if you're a beer drinker of legal age near Seattle. Amber and cloudy with a nutty/yeasty aroma with subtle hints of melon behind it. Caramel and hops become present in the taste which stays strong throughout the finish. With apologies to Derek, this is probably the Seattle beer.

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