Preview: Seattle Mariners (12-17) vs. Baltimore Orioles (16-11)


Aarong Harang looks to stop his early season slide against a powerful Baltimore lineup

After coming to Seattle from the Colorado Rockies early in the season, Aarong Harang has struggled as a Mariner. He's allowed six homers in 12.2 innings thus far. He hasn't thrown more than five innings in any individual game, and he's managed to make it even that far only once.

To me, it looks like Harang is living a bit too high in the zone. He's always been a strike out pitcher -- and for all of his struggles, his SO/9 is comfortably over 8 this year -- and he's pitched up in the zone his entire career. The problem is that Harang doesn't have his old stuff anymore; it's much safer to throw at the letters with a 93 MPH fastball than when you're sitting 88-89.

Here are his strike zone plots from his last two starts (thanks Brooks Baseball):



There's not a whole lot of dots in the lower part of those maps. It also doesn't help that Harang is throwing fewer than half of his pitches in the strike zone. He's falling behind in counts too often, and it's come back to bite him.

There is reason for some optimism, as Harang's been a bit unfortunate. In his career, he's allowed a home run on 10.7% of fly balls hit against him. This year, that mark is 27.3%. That won't last. Furthermore, his xFIP is 4.77, which isn't great, but at least suggests that it's possible for a pitcher with his strike out, walk, and fly ball numbers to turn in a competitive start. If Harang can just keep the ball in the yard a little more often, he's still a decent back end option.

The Mariners will have to hope his home run rate regresses, because they still don't have any appetizing options behind him. Blake Beavan has taken a pounding in the rotation and in the bullpen. Hector Noesi has pitched well in relief, but that may indicate that he's found a new home, not that he's ready for more starts. Danny Hultzen is out for a month. Erasmo Ramirez has, supposedly, just begun throwing down in Arizona. James Paxton is a mess right now. There isn't a whole lot of help if Harang continues to struggle.

He'll try and get back on his game against a good Baltimore lineup. The Orioles are 4th in the American League in home runs, and they have a number of lefties capable of driving balls into the seats. It's a challenging matchup for Harang: with an off-day tomorrow and several more on the horizon, don't be surprised if Eric Wedge decides to lean on his bullpen at the first sign of trouble.

Game time: 7:10
Location: Safeco Field
Television: ROOT Sports

Also of note, the M's have just announced that Beavan has been sent to Triple-A. Lucas Luetge is back with the team.

Beavan has been pounded this season, and his presence in the bullpen was redundant with Noesi and Yoervis Medina available to throw long. Beavan might be more of an up-and-down spot-starter than a long reliever anyway, so it makes sense to get him stretched out again in Tacoma.

Additionally, the M's could use a fresh arm tonight, particularly if Wedge does go to his relievers early in the contest. As a Rainier, Luetge struck out 19 men in 11 innings. I wouldn't expect him to maintain that ratio in the majors, but it's nice to see that he had success while he was away.

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