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Series Preview: Mariners (56-52) at Orioles (60-47)

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The Mariners head to Baltimore after the trade deadline with a revamped outfield.

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Otto Greule Jr

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, August 1

4:05pm

Mariners

LHP Roenis Elias

Orioles

LHP Wei-Yin Chen

Saturday, August 2

4:05pm

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Orioles

RHP Miguel Gonzalez

Sunday, August 3

10:35am

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Orioles

RHP Chris Tillman

Mariners

Orioles

Edge

Batting (wRAA)

-47.5 (15th in AL)

16.3 (7th in AL)

ORIOLES

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

25.3 (4th)

32.6 (2nd)

ORIOLES

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

101 (6th)

112 (15th)

MARINERS

Bullpen (ERA-)

84 (2nd)

91 (8th)

MARINERS

Well, that was one of the most exciting trade deadlines in recent memory. The Mariners added two outfielders in Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia at the cost of Nick FranklinAbraham Almonte, and Stephen Kolscheen. Scott has excellent write ups for these two trades here and here.  Also, James Paxton will be making his triumphant return to the starting rotation on Saturday after dealing with a strained lat in his side. It's a new look Mariners team headed into the dog days of August.

The Mariners just played the Orioles at home less than a week ago and lost three of four. The good news is that they're playing in Baltimore this weekend -- the Mariners have a .306 weighted on base average on the road, eighteen points higher than their home mark. But we can't use simple home/road splits to assume the offense will automatically hit better if they're not playing in Safeco -- just like we can't assume they'll hit better against lefties with the additions of Jackson and Denorfia. The Mariners have a new outfield, let's see where it takes them.

On the other side, the Orioles made just one move yesterday, adding reliever Andrew Miller from the Red Sox -- he should bolster their already decent bullpen. This season, the Orioles have risen to the top of the AL East on the backs of their excellent position players. They're seventh in the league in weighted runs above average and their mediocre pitching is buoyed by great defense behind them.

The Orioles:

Almost ten years ago I took in a game at Camden Yards and it's still one of the best ballparks I've visited. The most enduring memory of that game was the heat -- the game on Sunday is an afternoon game in August incidentally --and trying to find the plaque marking the spot where Griffey hit the warehouse during the 1993 Home Run Derby. All nostalgia aside, the Orioles sit atop the AL East with a one and a half game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays. They just took two of three against the Angels and have won seven of their last ten games.

Key Players

1B Chris Davis - I feel like Chris Davis has been around forever, never truly fulfilling all of that promise until last year. He finally put it all together and had a remarkable season last year, hitting 53 home runs in the strikeout era. Each year since arriving in Baltimore, his swing rate has fallen and his walk rate has skyrocketed. Even though he's still striking out thirty percent of the time, he's learned to take a pitch or two and is punishing the one's he hits. This year he's been plagued by a nagging abdominal injury and his batting average on balls in play is a paltry .256 -- teams have been employing the shift much more often this year against him.

3B Manny Machado - It's hard to believe that Manny Machado just turned 22 in July. After his knee surgery during the offseason, it took him a few months to round in to shape but he's definitely found his hitting stroke recently-his weighted on base average in July was a robust .430.

CF Adam Jones - Once a promising Mariners prospect, Adam Jones was traded to the Orioles in The-Trade-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. He's developed into an offensive force for the Orioles and is on pace to hit thirty home runs for the third consecutive year. His defense in centerfield grades out below average, limiting his overall value, but he's nonetheless an essential piece of the Orioles rise to the top of the AL East.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Wei-Yin Chen

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

117

16.8%

4.1%

13.0%

41.1%

3.92

4.32

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

91.7 mph;

44.5%

91.3 mph;

20.9%

82.2 mph;

13.7%

75.1 mph;

8.2%

83.2 mph;

12.2%

The Mariners faced Wei-Yin Chen last Thursday and were shut out by the lefty. Chen's profile is fairly similar to our own Hisashi Iwakuma -- a crafty lefty who limits walks but gives up a few too many home runs. Chen relies on his fastballs, both his four-seam and two-seam, to establish the strike zone and generates whiffs with his slider.

RHP Miguel Gonzalez

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

102 2/3

16.8%

8.5%

12.4%

38.4%

3.77

5.14

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

91.3 mph;

34.9%

90.9 mph;

20.3%

84.2 mph;

12.0%

76.5 mph;

17.1%

83.8 mph;

15.4%

The Mariners faced Gonzalez on Sunday and knocked him around for eight hits but only scored once. The difference between his ERA and his FIP is pretty telling. He doesn't get enough strikeouts to be truly effective, he walks too many, and gives up too many home runs yet he's able to outperform his peripherals a la Chris Young. All of his pitches are below average except for his slider which he mainly uses against righties.

RHP Chris Tillman

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

136

15.0%

8.8%

8.2%

40.0%

3.97

4.40

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

90.7 mph;

49.8%

90.5 mph;

10.8%

85.8 mph;

7.2%

74.9 mph;

17.1%

82.2 mph;

14.2%

This former Mariner prospect was also part of The-Trade-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. In Baltimore, he's been a mid-rotation starter masquerading as their staff ace. When I looked at his FanGraphs page, the first thing that struck me was the significant drop in strikeouts this year -- down to 15% after averaging around 20% the last two years.  I noticed that his fastball velocity is down a few miles per hour and he's having a harder time getting swinging strikes. Oddly, PITCHf/x has been classifying his curveball as a knuckle curve this year as he's dropped velocity on that pitch too.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

66-41

.617

-

L-W-L-W-W

Angels

64-43

.598

2.0

W-L-L-W-W

Mariners

56-52

.519

10.5

W-L-W-L-W

Astros

44-65

.404

23.0

L-W-L-W-L

Rangers

43-65

.398

23.5

W-L-W-L-L

The trade deadline started off with a bang as the Athletics completed two trades before most of the west coast was out of bed. The A's added Jon LesterJonny Gomes, and Sam Fuld and sent Yoenis Cespedes and Tommy Milone packing. I, for one, will not miss seeing Cespedes terrorize the Mariners in a green uniform 20+ times a year. The Mariners continue to drop behind the A's and the Angels and will continue to attempt to compete for a single-game playoff spot.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

64-43

.598

+5.5

W-L-L-W-W

Blue Jays

60-50

.545

-

W-W-W-W-W

Mariners

56-52

.519

3.0

W-L-W-L-W

Royals

55-52

.514

3.5

W-W-L-L-W

Yankees

55-52

.514

3.5

L-W-L-L-L

The Mariners have fallen three games behind a surging Blue Jays team that has won six straight. The revamped outfield for the Mariners, plus the return of James Paxton should bolster this roster into August but the Blue Jays will be getting some key players back from the disabled list soon too. A series win for the Mariners is important this weekend as the Blue Jays play the Astros this weekend and could extend their lead in the Wild Card race.

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