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Series Preview: Mariners (83-72) at Blue Jays (78-77)

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The Mariners head to Canada to take on the Blue Jays in a critical four-game series.

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Otto Greule Jr

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, September 22

4:07pm

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Blue Jays

LHP J.A. Happ

Tuesday, September 23

4:07pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Blue Jays

RHP R.A. Dickey

Wednesday, September 24

4:07pm

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Blue Jays

LHP Mark Buehrle

Thursday, September 25

4:07pm

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Blue Jays

RHP Marcus Stroman

Mariners

Blue Jays

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

92 (12th in AL) | 89

105 (4th in AL) | 108

BLUE JAYS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

6.7 (7th) | 20.3

-17.2 (10th) | -9.8

MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (9th) | 100

101 (6th) | 100

BLUE JAYS

Bullpen (FIP-)

86 (1st) | 83

102 (12th) | 105

MARINERS

About a month and a half ago, the Mariners and the Blue Jays faced off in a three-game series in Seattle that was the most important series of the season up to that point. At that point, both teams were playing well and were tied in the standings right behind the Royals and the Angels (remember when the A's led the division...). Fast forward to the second to last series of the season and that series in Seattle looks like a turning point in the season for both of these teams. After their thorough beating by the Mariners in that series, the Blue Jays have gone 15-18 and all but dropped out of the Wild Card race. On the other side, the Mariners sweep of the Blue Jays confirmed their place as a legitimate contender yet they've only gone 18-17 since that series in August.

The Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have struggled through another mediocre season. They've battled through some injury problems and its clear that their roster has some major holes in it. They seem to be playing hot and cold right now. They had a stretch of eleven wins in fifteen games to finish August and start September but they followed that up with a six game losing streak that they finally broke this last weekend. With nothing to play for, they're hoping to play spoiler to the Mariners and the Orioles to wrap up the season.

Key Players

DH Edwin Encarnacion - Encarnacion has dealt with some minor injuries this season but it hasn't really shown in his offensive output. His 150 wRC+ is sixth in the AL and his Isolated Power is the highest it's ever been. Dips in contact rate and walk rate have affected his overall line but he's still a dangerous hitter in the middle of this lineup.

1B Adam Lind - Another Blue Jays' hitter who has dealt with minor injuries throughout the year, Adam Lind hasn't been able to provide much value to the Jays. Last year he was able to ride a high batting average on balls in play and newfound patience at the plate to post a 131 wRC+. This year, his batting average on balls in play is even higher and he's maintained his plate discipline improvements to post a 144 wRC+. The funny thing is, most of his power has gone missing -- he's only hit six home runs this year and his home run to fly ball ratio is an anemic 8.0%. ESPN Home Run Tracker tells me that the average distance of his home runs this year has been almost 400 feet so it seems like he's just getting unlucky when it comes to mashing taters

CF Colby Rasmus - It's pretty telling of the amount of injuries the Blue Jays are dealing with when I'm talking about Colby Rasmus as a key player in this series. Still just 28, he's oscillated between very good years (4.0+ WAR in 2010 and 2013) and very poor years (below 1.0 WAR in 2011, 2012, and this year). He's very hard to pin down as a player. Last year, he was an elite defender in center according to all the advanced metrics and then he's been terrible this year. Last year, he posted an excellent 129 wRC+ in just 118 games but has regressed to just average this year.

RF Jose Bautista - Since 2010, Jose Bautista has accumulated 186 home runs, the most in the majors during that time period, and his 157 wRC+ ranks fourth. Those totals are even more impressive when you consider the injuries that have forced him to miss over one hundred games in the past two years. Since we last saw Bautista, he's been able to improve his power numbers and his walk rate to boost his overall line and his 158 wRC+ is a three-year high.

SS Jose Reyes - It seems like injuries are the name of the game when talking about the Blue Jays. Jose Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays just a year after signing an impressive six-year contract worth over $100 million in 2012. Sadly, various injuries have forced him to miss over 30% of the Blue Jays' games in the year and a half since joining the team. When healthy, he brings an above average offensive profile built on speed.

IF Munenori Kawasaki - I think we all know who is really holding this team together -- Munenori Kawasaki. It's rare to see a ball player who plays with such unreserved joy for the game these days. Even though his on-field play is severely lacking, his off-field antics and charisma have made him a cult hero in Toronto. Of all the recent former Mariners, I miss watching Muni the most. I only wish he had stayed in Seattle longer so that the Munenori Kawasaki Fan Club could have a larger chapter.

Probable Pitchers

LHP J.A. Happ

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

144 2/3

20.0%

7.7%

11.0%

39.1%

4.35

4.25

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

92.6 mph;

56.2%

92.5 mph;

16.0%

83.2 mph;

7.5%

77.7 mph;

11.0%

85.2 mph;

9.4%

J.A. Happ has filled the back-end of the rotation for three teams in his career, the Phillies, the Astros, and now the Blue Jays. His fastballs are his only plus pitch and he uses them to get strikeouts at an above average clip. However, walks and home runs have severely limited his upside and so we find him here as the Blue Jays' fifth starter. His offspeed pitches are all below average so he doesn't feature pronounced lefty/righty splits. The last time Happ faced the Mariners, he gave up five runs on seven hits, struck out one and walked one over six innings. He's actually pitched much better at home this year -- opponents are hitting just .239 off of him at Rogers Centre and his ERA is a fine 3.23 (5.67 on the road).

RHP R.A. Dickey

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

202 2/3

19.1%

8.0%

11.1%

42.5%

3.82

4.33

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Knuckleball

83.1 mph;

6.3%

82.5 mph;

4.7%

76.8 mph;

88.9%

When I started researching which pitches R.A. Dickey threw, I was surprised by the amount of disparate information I was finding based on the different pitch classification systems. They all agreed on the use of his knuckleball, I think he's the only one of his kind left in the majors. As for his secondary pitches, I found data for a two-seamer, a changeup, and, oddly, an eephus (PITCHf/x has him throwing an eephus which I assumed were misclassified knuckleballs). Ultimately I went with the data at Brooks Baseball since they seem to be the most consistent from year to year. After his Cy Young year in 2012, Dickey has had a hard time with his home park during his stint with the Blue Jays. In his previous start against the Mariners, a two-run home run by Kendrys Morales in the first was all it took to beat Dickey. He allowed a number of base runners (four walks, seven hits) but was able to escape with only the two runs allowed.

LHP Mark Buehrle

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

194

13.1%

5.4%

6.8%

43.6%

3.53

3.77

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Curveball

Changeup

83.8 mph;

19.8%

83.5 mph;

31.3%

80.2 mph;

12.7%

71.5 mph;

13.3%

78.1 mph;

23.0%

The very definition of crafty lefty, Mark Buehrle has been spinning his stuff since 2000 and is still going strong. He had a few people talking about a resurrected career and even early Cy Young consideration earlier this year -- through May, he had nine wins and a 2.33 ERA. A rough summer has brought his overall line back to earth but he's still been an effective and valued member of the Jays' rotation. Relying on guile and deceit, he won't strikeout many and won't walk many either. His home run rate is a miniscule 6.8% -- that alone can explain some of the increased effectiveness seen from him this year.

RHP Marcus Stroman

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

126 2/3

20.5%

5.4%

6.6%

53.9%

3.77

2.89

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Cutter

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

93.6 mph;

44.5%

92.7 mph;

12.3%

90.6 mph;

15.1%

86.1 mph;

8.0%

82.6 mph;

13.8%

85.7 mph;

6.2%

Marcus Stroman was the Blue Jays' first round draft pick in 2012 and has been on the fast track to the majors since then. Just twenty-three, his numbers compare pretty favorably to our own King Felix at the same age. He's getting strikeouts, limiting walks, and inducing a high amount of grounders. Those are the ideal skills for a pitcher and he's been able to show them off in his rookie year. He is still a twenty-three-year-old rookie and it shows in his ERA. When no one is on base, opponents are hitting just above the Mendoza line but as soon as someone reaches base, opponents are hitting .332 off of him and that's really hurt his run prevention. Once he's been able to settle into the league and develop a but further, I'd expect those numbers to regress towards his fielding-independent numbers.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

xAngels

96-60

.615

-

W-L-L-W-L

Athletics

85-70

.548

10.5

L-L-W-L-W

Mariners

83-72

.535

12.5

L-W-W-L-L

Astros

69-87

.442

27.0

L-L-L-W-W

Rangers

62-93

.400

33.5

W-W-W-L-W

Back in August, when the A's were still leading the AL West, it seemed like this second-to-last series between the Angels and Athletics would have major implications for who won the division. Now, one team is fighting for their playoff lives and the other is simply concerned with wrapping up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. We're rooting for the Angels to sweep or win the series.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

85-70

.548

+0.5

L-L-W-L-W

Royals

84-70

.545

-

L-W-L-L-W

Mariners

83-72

.535

1.5

L-W-W-L-L

Indians

81-74

.523

3.5

W-W-L-W-W

Yankees

80-75

.516

4.5

W-W-W-L-W

With the two losses over the weekend, the Mariners desperately need to win the series in Toronto to stay alive in the race. They're just a game and a half behind the Royals and just two games ahead of the Indians. Luckily, those two teams play each other to start this week, including the continuation of a game where the Indians are leading 4-2 in the bottom of the tenth. We're rooting for a series win for Cleveland because anything that drops teams back into the pack should be good for the Mariners. The Yankees just dismantled the Blue Jays over the weekend and take on the Orioles to start the week. Barring any miracles, New York is all but eliminated from the race.

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