Mariners to Tentatively Poke AL East with Stick

MARINERS (40-54) Δ Ms RAYS (48-45) EDGE
HITTING (wOBA) -79.2 (30th) 10.7 -32.5 (24th) Rays
FIELDING (BABIP) 34.7 (2nd) 1.2 -19.5 (24th) Mariners
ROTATION (tRA) 1.7 (16th) -2.5 24.2 (7th) Rays
BULLPEN (tRA) -3.1 (18th) -1.2 1.3 (15th) Rays
OVERALL (RAA) -45.9 (23rd) 8.1 -26.6 (20th) RAYS
Explainer

The Rays swept their season opening three-game series against the Yankees and then have played .500 ball, 45-45, since. That's a queer way of looking at things, but it's what popped into my head. Perhaps because there's a guy outside who's been mowing his lawn for, I swear, three hours. Wait, how are those related? I'm just writing stuff that's currently happening to me and hoping that it comes out making sense. Look, a crow! That signifies, uhh, bad news for the Rays because Rays are like sunbeams, which are light, which are white, which are the opposite of black!

Nailed it.

Batter PA P/PA Slash line nBB K (sw) 1B/2B/3B/HR Sw% Ct% Qual+
J Montero 27 3.9 .458/.500/.708 2 2 (2) 7 / 3 / 0 / 1 46 79 108.7
C Wells 45 3.9 .317/.378/.585 4 11 (10) 9 / 0 / 1 / 3 52 65 160.4
M Saunders* 43 4.0 .282/.419/.436 4 9 (8) 7 / 3 / 0 / 1 47 73 90.8
J Jaso* 20 3.6 .278/.350/.444 2 5 (5) 4 / 0 / 0 / 1 50 83 115.1
K Seager* 46 3.5 .256/.326/.395 3 6 (5) 7 / 3 / 0 / 1 48 86 78.6
B Ryan 37 3.8 .242/.297/.394 3 8 (8) 4 / 3 / 1 / 0 51 76 86.5
I Suzuki* 49 3.4 .292/.306/.354 1 5 (5) 12 / 1 / 1 / 0 54 92 50.4
D Ackley* 45 4.1 .190/.244/.333 3 8 (5) 5 / 1 / 1 / 1 44 88 65.3
J Smoak^ 44 3.7 .150/.227/.350 4 13 (8) 2 / 2 / 0 / 2 50 78 128.6
M Olivo 29 3.1 .172/.172/.172 0 8 (8) 5 / 0 / 0 / 0 57 69 35.5

P/PA = pitches per PA [avg~3.8], nBB = uBB + HBP, Sw = swinging [avg~45%], Ct = contact [avg~81%], Qual+ = a measure of quality of batted balls [avg=100, higher is better]

Casper Wells has an immense difficulty making contact. It's a weird juxtaposition with his hacky-looking swing that you see and imagine nobody adopts unless it enables easy contact with the ball. It certainly doesn't look powerful. And yet, Casper drives the ball well, when he manages to hit it.

Batter PA P/PA Slash line nBB SO (sw) 1B/2B/3B/HR Sw% Ct% Qual+
L Scott* 37 3.9 .400/.432/.829 2 10 (9) 6 / 4 / 1 / 3 44 68 175.8
J Keppinger 37 3.9 .310/.459/.483 8 2 (0) 5 / 3 / 1 / 0 35 92 95.5
B Zobrist^ 45 4.1 .257/.467/.457 9 8 (6) 4 / 4 / 0 / 1 33 75 110.4
B Upton 45 3.9 .308/.400/.513 5 11 (8) 8 / 2 / 0 / 2 45 71 180.5
D Jennings 39 4.2 .286/.359/.400 4 9 (6) 8 / 1 / 0 / 1 39 82 97.8
J Lobaton^ 26 4.1 .190/.346/.238 5 2 (1) 3 / 1 / 0 / 0 48 96 48.5
E Johnson^ 36 3.6 .219/.278/.281 3 10 (5) 5 / 2 / 0 / 0 51 74 56.2
C Pena* 45 3.9 .190/.244/.333 3 18 (12) 5 / 1 / 1 / 1 42 76 133.9

Those are some crazy good approach numbers from Jeff Keppinger, who I've mentioned before in the context of making a lot of contact. Not only that, but he's been very selective as well and as a result, quite difficult to strike out as you see here with zero swinging punch outs over the past fortnight. And he's drawn eight walks in the same period, over just 37 plate appearances.

MARINERS Δ Ms RAYS EDGE
INFIELD 18.5 (4th) 3.2 -11.5 (24th) Mariners
OUTFIELD 16.2 (8th) -2.0 -8.1 (21st) Mariners
RBBIP 0.293 (3rd) .000 0.314 (19th) Mariners
OVERALL 34.7 (2nd) 1.2 -19.6 (24th) MARINERS
Explainer

Remember how the Rays capitalized on the market inefficiency regarding defense? And then how recently, just this year in fact, they were extolled for all their infield shifting? And yet... hmm.

20 JUL 16:10

JAMES SHIELDS HISASHI IWAKUMA
chart chart

Hisashi Iwakuma has two different sinking pitches that I both call sinkers because I don't think the world needs 17 different names for fastballs based on minute differences in movement. That has worked fine until just now with these two purple bars in a row. Now I have to go re-do stuff. Thanks, Hisashi.

21 JUL 16:10

ALEX COBB JASON VARGAS*
chart chart

I hadn't made the connection between the current date and how quickly the trade deadline was coming until yesterday. Tuning out the national media really helps in avoiding a time suck of speculation and the fervent reporting of "said", "might" and "could" as if those were actually news. Transactions are news. Rumors are not.

22 JUL 10:40

MATT MOORE* BLAKE BEAVAN
chart chart

After this day game, the Mariners have to fly all the way back to Seattle and then play a Monday night game against the Yankees. That's tough. But after the muddle through the Yankees, they'll get a break with another four-game set against the Royals, albeit this time at home.

Reliever BF Str% nBB Ct% K(sw) GB% HR Qual- LI
T Wilhelmsen 40 63.9 3 81.0 10 (6) 51.9 0 38.8 2.1
O Perez* 40 72.9 2 81.9 8 (6) 27.6 0 88.4 0.9
C Furbush* 39 66.9 3 73.6 12 (8) 52.2 1 126.1 1.3
B League 35 58.8 2 80.0 3 (2) 40.0 0 82.7 1.5
S Kelley 27 64.0 0 66.0 8 (7) 26.3 1 80.2 1.2
S Delabar 27 63.8 4 60.5 10 (8) 46.2 1 122.7 0.6
L Luetge* 26 65.5 2 69.8 8 (5) 68.8 0 44.3 1.1

Str% = strike rate [avg~63%], Ct% = contact rate [avg~78%], GB% = groundball rate [avg~45%], Qual- = a measure of quality of batted balls [avg=100, lower is better], LI = leverage [avg~1.2]

American league relief pitchers thus year have averaged a 64% strike rate and a 78% contact rate. The Mariners bullpen of late has looked slightly better on both counts, which helps to explain why their ranking has been rising over the past couple months.

Reliever BF Str% nBB Ct% K(sw) GB% HR Qual- LI
W Davis 52 61.8 6 71.0 17 (14) 44.8 2 115.6 0.8
J Howell* 42 59.6 4 80.0 7 (6) 61.3 0 46.1 0.8
J McGee* 38 69.3 2 75.0 10 (8) 34.6 3 182.6 1.3
B Badenhop 36 64.3 3 96.0 2 (1) 41.9 1 127.1 1.0
F Rodney 33 69.7 1 68.4 10 (10) 59.1 0 59.2 2.0
K Farnsworth 27 57.7 6 70.7 7 (5) 50.0 0 77.6 1.4
J Peralta 24 64.2 2 70.5 7 (6) 26.7 2 148.4 1.2

I didn't know a relief pitcher was able to stick with a contact rate as high as Burke Badenhop has. How does he get strikeouts? He throws mostly a fastball, that averages about 90mph, and this season he has 11 swinging strikeouts and 17 called strikeouts. It's fascinating. I hope he pitches while I'm watching at some point because I'm curious what his movement looks like.

Series Beer(s): African Amber
I know I've highlighted this beer before. This is also my fifth year -- wow, fifth year? -- of doing these previews so there's only so many different beers I can go through. Right now my mind is frazzled after 10 hours of Batman in IMAX and a 4am bedtime, coupled with a 9am wake up. So I can't really think through a lot of stuff and so here's an easy choice.

And that's perfect because that's what, to me, Mac & Jack's always is. That's not denigrating it by the way. Mac & Jack's is almost if not ubiquitously available in Seattle. It's rarely my first choice beer but mostly because I always prefer to try something new first and I've had lots of Macs. But like returning home after a long trip, sometimes you don't want to think or ponder or consider anything. You want reliably good and that's what African Amber is. Always there, always good. For me, anyways.

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