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Series Preview: Mariners (57-54) vs. Braves (58-54)

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The Mariners return home for a two-game set against the reeling Braves.

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Mike Zarrilli

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Tuesday, August 5

7:10pm

Braves

LHP Alex Wood

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Wednesday, August 6

12:40pm

Braves

RHP Julio Teheran

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Mariners

Braves

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

87 (14th in AL)

90 (11th in NL)

BRAVES

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

25.3 (4th)

22.7 (3rd)

MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

100 (6th)

97 (3rd)

BRAVES

Bullpen (ERA-)

84 (1st)

84 (2nd)

MARINERS (using xFIP- as the tiebreaker)

After a few comments in the last series preview I decided to switch to park adjusted weighted runs created (wRC+) for the batting component of the team comparison. While I liked using weighted runs above average, a park adjusted metric will give an even more accurate picture of how the team has done compared to the league average.

The Mariners finish their home and away four-game series with the Braves and start a nine-game homestand today. In June, the Mariners traveled to Atlanta and swept the Braves with a timely home run by Stefen Romero and dominant pitching by Hisashi Iwakuma. Now the Braves travel to Seattle for a brief two-game series.

These two teams are built remarkably similar. Both rely on pitching and defense to limit runs and have a below average offense that has led to a record just above .500. Despite these similarities, the Mariners have a +54 run differential whereas the Braves have just a +9 differential. Both teams have scored exactly the same amount of runs this year (421), so even though there's a significant difference in run differential, the Braves have made the most of their limited offense.

The Braves:

The Braves come into this short series three games out of first place in the NL East and on a six-game losing streak, having been swept by the Padres and the Dodgers on this west coast swing. At the trade deadline, the Braves made a single move, adding super-utility man Emilio Bonifacio and left-handed reliever James Russell. Bonifacio will play all over the field and might even supplant B.J. Upton as the everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter. Russell should bolster one of the best bullpens in the majors.

Key Players

1B Freddie Freeman - Freddie Freeman broke out last year with a 149 wRC+ and amassed 4.7 WAR. This year started out promising but his wRC+ has steadily dropped each consecutive month of the year. Overall, his line is pretty similar to last year with a few extra walks and a batting average on balls in play closer to league average, down from his abnormally high .371 BABIP last year.

RF Jason Heyward - When he was first called up in 2010, many compared him to a young Mariners center fielder by the name of Griffey. While he hasn't blossomed into the type of star that Griffey was at his age -- injuries have led to over 100 missed games in the past three years and his struggles against lefties are well known -- he's still part of the core of this team. This year, his left/right splits have gotten even more pronounced, his wOBA against lefties is a miniscule .210 while his wOBA against righties is a mighty .373.

SS Andrelton Simmons - For a few years, we had the privilege of watching Brendan Ryan pick it at shortstop for the Mariners. Imagine a player with even better defense who can also swing a league average bat and you've got Andrelton Simmons. This year, some of Simmons' power has gone missing leading to a bit of a depressed overall line, but his batting average and on-base percentage are almost exactly the same as last year. The fielding metrics aren't as wild as they were last year but he's still an incredible defender at a premium position.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Alex Wood

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

103 2/3

23.9%

6.1%

10.8%

44.4%

3.30

3.36

Pitches

Four-Seam

Curveball

Changeup

90.1 mph;

58.1%

79.1 mph;

21.7%

83.2 mph;

20.2%

Alex Wood has bounced between the starting rotation and the bullpen this year but he's still been one of the best pitchers on the Braves. He's striking out almost a batter an inning and he's cut his walk rate to just six percent. He has just a three pitch repertoire, an excellent fastball and curveball and an average changeup. He uses his curveball as his out pitch against lefties with his changeup primarily featured against righties. He pitched out of the bullpen against the Mariners in June and gave up a game winning home run to Stefen Romero.

RHP Julio Teheran

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

157 1/3

22.5%

5.4%

8.6%

36.2%

2.69

3.38

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-Seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

91.4 mph;

41.2%

88.2 mph;

20.7%

81.3 mph;

20.2%

73.2 mph;

9.7%

81.3 mph;

8.0%

Julio Teheran finally put everything together last year after languishing in Triple-A for two years as one of the Braves top prospects. A pitcher with fly ball tendencies, he manages to keep his FIP down with high strikeout rates and low walk rates. His out pitch is his slider and he'll throw it to righties and lefties alike. But, according to his pitch values, it's actually his least effective pitch. When he makes a mistake with his slider, it becomes a pitch lefties can hammer (his ISO when throwing sliders to lefties is a whopping .238!).

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

68-43

.613

-

W-L-W-L-L

Angels

67-44

.604

1.0

W-W-L-W-W

Mariners

57-54

.514

11.0

L-W-L-W-L

Astros

47-65

.420

21.5

W-W-W-L-W

Rangers

43-69

.384

25.5

L-L-L-L-W

The Angels have climbed to within one game of the Athletics in the West after taking two of three from the Rays over the weekend while the A's lost two of three against the Royals.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

67-44

.604

+8.0

W-W-L-W-W

Blue Jays

60-53

.531

-

L-L-L-W-W

Yankees

58-53

.523

1.0

W-W-W-L-L

Royals

57-53

.518

1.5

W-L-W-W-W

Mariners

57-54

.514

2.0

L-W-L-W-L

The Blue Jays had a chance to bury the competition this weekend but lost three of four in Houston. It felt weird to be rooting for the Astros this weekend but we're all still learning how to do competitive baseball in August. Toronto starts a three-game series against the Orioles today and the Royals travel to Arizona for three against the Diamondbacks. The Yankees are also on a bit of a hot streak, winning their last three. They continue a four game series with the Tigers. Even with a split against the Braves, the Mariners should gain some ground against the Yankees and the Blue Jays.

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