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Series Preview: Seattle Mariners (54-51) at Cleveland Indians (52-53)

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The Mariners travel to Cleveland and try to get back on track.

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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Hey Lookout Landers, I've been a long time reader but now I'm getting the chance to contribute, which is very exciting. I'll be writing series previews for you/us. As we work through this first one, I thought I would explain why I included each part where necessary (in italics). If you'd like to see anything included in these previews or have any questions about the way I organized or included different pieces, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

At a Glance:

Date

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Tuesday, 7/29

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Indians

RHP Trevor Bauer

Wednesday, 7/30

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Indians

RHP Corey Kluber

Thursday, 7/31

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Indians

RHP Zach McAllister

Mariners

Indians

Edge

Batting (wRAA)

-48.0 (15th in AL)

21.0 (6th in AL)

INDIANS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

27.0 (3rd)

-51.4 (14th)

MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

101 (9th)

99 (4th)

INDIANS

Bullpen (FIP-)

62 (4th)

79 (19th)

MARINERS

To get an at a glance look at the two teams, I decided to include the table above. If you remember Matthew Carruth's series previews over at U.S.S. Mariner, this table should look pretty familiar. I broke the teams into their component parts, batting, fielding, starting pitching, and the bullpen.

  • To compare batting, I'm using weighted runs above average (wRAA) which is a measurement of cumulative run value based on weighted on base average (wOBA). I like wRAA because it gives us an easy to calculate measurement of how a team is batting compared to league average.
  • For Fielding, I'm using the FanGraphs Defensive ratings. This metric takes the fielding component of WAR and adjusts it for position and league average. I believe FanGraphs uses ultimate zone rating (UZR) as the base for this metric.

Despite having a positive run differential (+51), the Mariners are again last in the league in hitting -- they've been buoyed by excellent pitching and defense. The Indians have hit well and pitched well but have been done in by their terrible fielding. The Mariners have their top three pitchers going in the series so let's hope for a series win -- they'll need it if they want to stick around in the playoff hunt.

The Indians:

I'll be examining the opposition in each preview with notes on their key players and a look at their probable pitchers. I haven't included a section on the Mariners because, if you're reading about the Mariners regularly, you should have a good feel for how the team is doing.

Whenever I think about playing baseball in Cleveland, three nightmares come to mind: The Comeback, The Snow-pocalypse, and The Bugs. Progressive Field (née Jacobs Field) is not a pleasant place to play. The Mariners will have to overcome these terrible memories to take on an Indians team that is still in the hunt for the Wild Card. They had lost four straight before winning on Sunday. They're six and half games behind in the AL Central and just three and a half back in the Wild Card race.

Key Players

C/1B/3B Carlos Santana - On May 25, Santana went on the disabled list with a concussion suffered while he was catching. After he returned he has only played first base and designated hitter -- the third base experiment is over. Having a single position to worry about has allowed him to regain his hitting stroke -- he's slashing .298/.405/.578 since returning from the disabled list.

RHP Corey Kluber - This year, Kluber has become the ace of the Indians staff. He's third in the AL in FIP and second in WAR. If Felix and Chris Sale weren't having such amazing years, he'd probably have a chance at the Cy Young. He and Felix face off on Wednesday.

2B Jason Kipnis - After breaking onto the scene last year, Kipnis has really struggled this year. He's been worth just 0.8 WAR this year and is slashing a paltry .247/.328/.352. His walk rate is right in line with his career average and he's actually dropped his strikeout rate four points. His line actually looks remarkably similar to his 2012 line, his first full year in the majors. It seems like his year last year might have been buoyed by an abnormally high .345 BABIP.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Trevor Bauer

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

84 2/3

22.6%

8.3%

9.5%

32.5%

3.93

3.84

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

94.1 mph;

51.1%

92.1 mph;

2.6%

86.6 mph;

12.0%

81.5 mph;

15.4%

78.0 mph;

10.9%

84.0 mph;

8.1%

Once the prospect hype wore off, Trevor Bauer was just a pitcher with funky mechanics, a crazy warmup routine, and very little control. Well, it looks like he's been able to harness all of that talent and has actually been throwing strikes this year. These aren't just run-of-the-mill, Erasmo Ramirez strikes though-batters are swinging and missing at more of his pitches, particularly out of the zone. His batted ball profile skews pretty heavily towards fly balls and Progressive Field has a positive park factor for left-handed homers. Let's hope Cano, Seager, and/or Morales can run into a home run or three.

RHP Corey Kluber

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

149 1/3

26.8%

5.5%

8.0%

48.6%

2.77

2.59

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

93.0 mph;

3.4%

93.0 mph;

49.0%

88.9 mph;

26.3%

82.1 mph;

16.9%

84.8 mph;

4.1%

I already touched upon Kluber above but it bears mentioning again, he's having a monster year. Wednesday should be must see TV as two of the top three pitchers in the AL go head-to-head. Kluber has the perfect mix of strikeouts and groundouts while limiting walks. What's more interesting is that his success has come after he all but abandoned his four-seam fastball. Its usage rate is down to just three percent-it was around twenty four percent last year and around forty percent when he was first called up in 2011. Instead, he's throwing his sinker and slider combo way more often and uses his curveball to change the pace of the at bat.

RHP Zach McAllister

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

63 2/3

19.0%

9.2%

7.6%

41.5%

5.65

3.90

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

92.1 mph;

34.3%

92.0 mph;

38.3%

83.1 mph;

10.2%

77.1 mph;

9.3%

80.5 mph;

8.0%

Zach McAllister has hung around at the back end of the Indians rotation for three years now. He's an uninspiring innings-eater who throws two kinds of fastballs, a slider, a curveball, and a change piece. His four seam fastball is actually been the best it's ever been this year according to its run value but that's come at the expense of all of his other offerings-his walk rate has spiked to almost ten percent. Oddly, his FIP shows that he might be the victim of some bad luck.

The Big Picture:

Here, I'll give a glimpse of the big picture, how the Mariners are doing in the AL West and-new this year-the AL Wild Card race. I've included a column titled "Recent Form" to give us a look at how each team has performed in the last five games. This is something that should be familiar to any soccer fan and I think it's more valuable than a team's record in their last ten games (since that record could be skewed by results over a week ago).

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

65-39

.625

-

[ ]-W-W-L-W

Angels

63-41

.606

2.0

W-W-W-L-W

Mariners

54-51

.514

11.5

L-W-L-L-L

Astros

42-63

.400

23.5

[ ]-L-L-L-L

Rangers

41-64

.390

24.5

[ ]-L-L-W-L

The AL West continues to shake itself out into three tiers: the A's and Angels are two of the best teams in the majors, the Mariners are hanging around .500 with a huge pack of other teams in the league, and the Texan teams continue to fall lower and lower in the standings. At this point, competing for the division title is pretty much out of the question. The Mariners would have to leapfrog two teams and that isn't going to happen, barring any miracle a la 1995.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

63-41

.606

+8.0

W-W-W-L-W

Blue Jays

56-50

.528

-

[ ]-W-W-L-W

Yankees

54-50

.519

1.0

[ ]-L-L-W-W

Mariners

54-51

.514

1.5

L-W-L-L-L

Royals

53-51

.510

2.0

L-W-W-W-W

After a rough week at home, the Mariners find themselves a game and a half behind the Blue Jays for the second Wild Card spot. If the Mariners can hang around .500 during the dog days of August, we'll continue to be a hot streak away from claiming that second spot. That means that they're also a losing streak away from completely dropping out of this race. Holding the sixth spot, just outside of the table above, are the Indians. I'm sure they'd love to jump back over .500 in this series against the Mariners. Go M's!

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