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Series Preview: Mariners (82-70) at Astros (67-86)

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The Mariners continue their epic, end of the year road trip with a three-game series in Houston.

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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, September 19

5:10pm

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Astros

RHP Brad Peacock

Saturday, September 20

4:10pm

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Astros

LHP Dallas Keuchel

Sunday, September 21

11:10am

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Astros

RHP Collin McHugh

Mariners

Astros

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

91 (12th in AL) | 92

96 (10th in AL) | 97

ASTROS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

8.9 (7th) | 19.8

-67.8 (15th) | -60.6

MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

101 (8th) | 102

101 (7th) | 102

ASTROS

Bullpen (FIP-)

85 (1st) | 83

106 (14th) | 105

MARINERS

The Mariners faced the Astros just eleven days ago and lost two of three at home. The Mariners' playoff odds when they started that series? 51.9%. After splitting the series with the Angels, their playoff odds sit at 34.9% today. Those odds, from FanGraphs, are calculated using a combination of the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, but with the A's basically giving away games at this point, you have to think that our chances are a bit higher. As frustrating as the Mariners have been, they're still alive in the race and playing important games in mid-September. And they haven't been as frustrating as the A's.

After the series with the Angels, I wasn't really surprised to see the sharp drop in the Mariners overall fielding ranking. It seems like the Mariners are barely hanging on to their focus as the season winds down. The baseball season is a marathon and we're into the home stretch. Hopefully the win last night will light a fire under these guys.

The Astros:

Since the Mariners and Astros last faced each other, the Astros have gone 2-5 against the Angels and Indians. Last night, the Astros and Indians battled into the 13th inning, with the Indians emerging victorious. The Astros will have their last chance to play spoiler this year in this series against the Mariners -- they wrap up the season with games against the Rangers and the Mets.

Key Players

C Jason Castro - After a breakout year last year where he was able to post 4.3 WAR as the Astros' starting catcher, Jason Castro has taken a major step back this year. His strikeout rate has jumped to just under 30% and his walk rate has been cut to just under 7%. If he wasn't defensively sound, the Astros might be in the market for a new starting catcher. But, he's been rated as an above average framer this year and he been throwing out runners at a league average rate.

1B Jon Singleton - A top prospect in the Astros organization for a few years now, Jon Singleton dealt with off-field issues that have prevented him from meeting the expectations placed on him. He's finally graduated from the minors this year but he has scuffled at the major league level. His batting profile is pretty similar to Chris Carter at this point -- huge power with a huge strikeout rate. He is walking at an above average rate so that bodes well for his development. At this point in his career, he's an extreme three true outcome hitter.

2B Jose Altuve - Once notable because of his small stature, Jose Altuve has broken out this year to post an excellent 4.4 WAR this year, good for fourth among AL second basemen. He's been able to accomplish this after retooling his swing mechanics over the winter which has allowed him to cover more of the plate leading to a contact rate that is higher than ever -- particularly on pitches outside of the zone. He's also been able to add a ton of value with his legs, swiping 51 bases with an 88% success rate. All of his value comes on the offensive side as the advanced fielding metrics have graded him out decidedly below average (UZR thinks he's the worst in the AL this year).

DH Chris Carter - Chris Carter is a powerful man. He's second in the AL with 36 home runs and he's been on fire since the All-Star Break - his wRC+ since then is a robust 171. He started off the year pretty slowly but he made some adjustments with his swing which has allowed him to make contact more often (64% 1st half contact rate, 67% 2nd half contact rate; 41% 1st half O-contact rate, 46% 2nd half O-contact rate). His walk rate is down this year but he's more than made up for it with his extreme power.

CF Dexter Fowler - Dexter Fowler joined the Astros this year after a trade from the Colorado Rockies. Many questioned whether or not Fowler would be able to maintain his offensive numbers outside of the friendly confines of Coors Field. I'd say he's emphatically answered, "Yes." He's been 25% better than the average batter this year and most of that value has come from his ability to get on base. His 14% walk rate ranks fifth in the AL and he's been able to prove that his high batting average on balls in play from his days in Colorado weren't a product of the park he was playing in (his .341 BABIP is right in line with his career mark of .347).

Probable Pitchers

RHP Brad Peacock

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

123 2/3

20.1%

11.7%

10.9%

36.8%

4.80

4.78

Pitches

Four-seam

Slider

Knuckle Curve

Changeup

92.2 mph;

57.0%

83.2 mph;

15.5%

76.4 mph;

18.4%

80.6 mph;

8.0%

Brad Peacock has filled out the back-end of the Astros' rotation for the last two years. A former number one prospect with the Nationals, Peacock has never really put it all together. He's been able to strike out a decent number of batters in his career but his lack of control has been his undoing. His batted ball profile is pretty fly ball heavy and that's driven up his home run rate. His fastball is decidedly below average but his slider and curveball are both decent offerings. He'll use them to generate whiffs against both righties and lefties which has allowed him to avoid a significant platoon split. Peacock hasn't made a start since his start in Seattle eleven days ago. In that start, he held the Mariners scoreless in five innings, giving up just four hits, striking out six and walking two. He was able to play to his strengths in Safeco as more than two thirds of his batted balls were in the air. Minute Maid Park is much less forgiving than Safeco although he's been able to limit the damage against him at home this year.

LHP Dallas Keuchel

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

192

17.8%

6.1%

9.7%

63.0%

3.00

3.28

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Slider

Changeup

89.7 mph;

17.9%

89.6 mph;

40.6%

86.1 mph;

5.2%

79.7 mph;

20.9%

79.2 mph;

15.1%

Dallas Keuchel has seemingly put everything together this year and has become one of the best starters in the AL. He has the best groundball rate in baseball with almost two thirds of the balls put in play against him on the ground. It all starts with his two-seam fastball. It's been the most valuable two-seamer in the majors according to its pitch values and he throws it often. He'll use his secondary pitches when he's ahead in the count but his strikeout rate isn't elite. Since batters are pounding out grounders, he's been able to avoid a significant home/away split.

RHP Collin McHugh

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

148 2/3

25.3%

6.7%

9.1%

41.7%

2.66

3.07

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

91.4 mph;

38.3%

88.9 mph;

2.1%

85.7 mph;

31.3%

72.8 mph;

23.0%

83.6 mph;

5.1%

Collin McHugh seemingly came out of nowhere to toss a great season for the Astros this year. His success has been pretty legitimate too. His whiff rate is a robust 11%, better than what Yu Darvish, David Price, and Gio Gonzalez have posted this year. It gets even more impressive when you look at his individual pitches -- he's been able to get double digit whiff rates with his slider and his curveball (13% for his slider and 17% for his curve). Against righties, his whiff rates become even more impressive. Four of his five pitches have a double digit whiff rate against righties. As you can imagine, righties have not fared well against him -- they're hitting just .188 against McHugh this year. McHugh completely dominated the Mariners the last time around to the tune of one run on two hits, four strikeouts and no walks in eight innings. He does have a noteworthy home/away split, like you might imagine, but he's still been effective when pitching at home.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

xAngels

95-58

.621

-

L-W-L-W-L

Athletics

83-69

.546

11.5

W-W-L-L-L

Mariners

82-70

.539

12.5

L-L-W-L-W

Astros

67-86

.438

28.0

W-W-L-L-L

Rangers

60-92

.395

34.5

W-W-W-W-W

The Angels wrapped up the AL West two days ago against the Mariners and are now just playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Rangers have done their best to play spoiler, sweeping the Athletics and the Braves in consecutive series. Now they face the Angels over the weekend and hope to continue their six-game winning streak.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Royals

83-68

.550

+0.5

W-L-W-L-W

Athletics

83-69

.546

-

W-W-L-L-L

Mariners

82-70

.539

1.0

L-L-W-L-W

Indians

79-73

.520

4.0

L-L-W-W-W

Yankees

78-74

.513

5.0

L-L-L-W-W

The Royals begin a crucial three game series against the Tigers today. Just half a game separates these two teams in the AL Central so we should be rooting for a sweep by either team. The A's, having been swept by the Rangers, find themselves on the brink of dropping out of their playoff spot. They take on the Phillies over the weekend. The Indians continue to be a dark horse in the Wild Card race; they travel to Minnesota over the weekend. The Yankees and the Blue Jays continue to flip flop places on the fringe of the race; they started a four-game series against each other yesterday, with the Yankees drawing first blood.

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