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Seattle Mariners vs. Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview (8/13-8/15)

The Mariners stroll into the Trop, and shrug out a pitching rotation for a series against the AL East's second best team. Wil Myers is a beast, Chris Archer is fortuitous, Erasmo Ramirez isn't fixed but there's hope.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Date Time Venue Probable Pitchers
8/13 4:10 pm Tropicana Field
Erasmo Ramirez vs. Chris Archer
8/14 4:10 pm Tropicana Field Aaron Harang vs. David Price
8/15 4:10 pm Tropicana Field Joe Saunders vs. TBA

I enjoy the Tampa Bay Rays organization. For years I read D-Rays Bay as religiously as I read Lookout Landing, and that can safely be attributed to organizational envy as well as the fantastic writers they've had over the years. I've long admired the Rays ability to draft, extend, trade, and uncover hidden gems. One of the very first articles I ever wrote about the Mariners at Bleeding Blue and Teal (later Pro Ball NW) suggested that the Mariners target Ben Zobrist to play shortstop, the year before his true breakout. The Rays of course smartly held onto him, and Zobrist has turned into one of the game's best all-around players, signed at a reasonable cost.

Tampa Bay is overlooked among the titans of the AL East every year, and yet year after year they continue to go about their effective business. They're currently trailing the Red Sox by three games, but are in line for a wild card spot if they can hold off the surging Royals.

The Rays are masters of the first base reclamation project, as they turned Casey Kotchman into a two and a half win player, and this year James Loney has already reached that mark, even though his offense has faded over the course of the year.  The Rays lead all MLB teams in WAR among position players, and part of that is due to another reclamation project picked up for a penny on the dollar in Yunel Escobar. After poor play and a bout with homophobia, the Rays snatched him on a one year deal, and he's already accumulated 3.0 WAR. Kelly Johnson also came at a bargain, and he's accumulated 1.8 WAR.

Tampa Bay has never been afraid to take on a player of questionable character. There's currently employing former Mariner Josh Lueke, who pleaded out of a rape charge in 2008 and spent time in prison for false imprisonment with violence. Lueke was recently recalled after Professor Farnsworth (I miss the old Dugout chats) was shown the door, and Luke Scott has some...interesting political views.  It's production and getting a bargain first for Tampa Bay, and you can't argue with the results they've managed to achieve.

The biggest addition to the Rays has been Wil Myers, who is is carrying a .325/.376/.509 line through his first 189 PA. He's already worth 2.0 WAR, and he's been a plus fielder and baserunner to boot. He's the best young hitting prospect in the American League, and he's been absolutely torching pitchers over the past month. Myers carries a .405/.469/.631 line since July 10th, but there's some regression likely to follow. He's sporting a .382 BABIP, and while Wil Myers hits the piss out of the ball, there's likely to be some more balls finding gloves. Wil Myers doesn't wear gloves. Viva the bare-handed batting revolution!

The Mariners roll out their worst possible series rotation, missing both Felix and Iwakuma. Erasmo Ramirez gets another crack this afternoon, and he'll face Chris Archer. Archer is having a great year from a results standpoint, but his FIP/xFIP/SIERA are all at 4.21 or worse. To top it off, Archer is allowing just a .223 BABIP so far, and his year screams massive regression is coming. Hopefully it comes tonight.

Even though I usually preview just the opponent, let's take a look at what Erasmo Ramirez has been doing since his recall. The results have been pretty poor so far, but improvement is on the way. He's still striking batters out (7.88 K/9), and while his control hasn't been so great (3 BB/9), he's been unreasonably homer happy, and his xFIP of 4.43 reflects that (compared to 5.15 FIP). Ramirez is running a 4.10 SIERA, and his BABIP is a bit high at 3.19. It's a matter of time before the results start catching up, and while Ramirez lacks the pinpoint control that made him a 3.36 ERA pitcher in 2012, if that comes back, the #3 upside still exists. Ramirez hasn't seen a whole lot of variation in his arsenal this year, though he hasn't been throwing his change quite as much. His velocity continues to increase, and his heater is averaging 93.5 mph in August.

The Mariners will be lucky to win one game of this series. At least tonight's game will be interesting to watch Ramirez and Archer. Tomorrow's game of Harang vs. Price? Not so much.