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Series Preview: Mariners (75-63) at Rangers (53-86)

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The Mariners continue the playoff chase in Texas with a four-game series against the Rangers.

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Otto Greule Jr

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Thursday, September 4

5:05pm

Mariners

LHP Roenis Elias

Rangers

LHP Robbie Ross

Friday, September 5

5:05pm

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Rangers

RHP Scott Baker

Saturday, September 6

5:05pm

Mariners

RHP Chris Young

Rangers

RHP Nick Martinez

Sunday, September 7

12:05pm

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Rangers

LHP Derek Holland

Mariners

Rangers

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

91 (13th in AL) | 91

87 (15th in AL) | 89

MARINERS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

17.6 (5th) | 19.3

-13.4 (9th) | -14.7

MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (8th) | 98

110 (15th) | 111

MARINERS

Bullpen (FIP-)

82 (1st) | 81

94 (7th) | 94

MARINERS

Since this is the first time I've covered the same team in a series preview, there'll be a few new things you'll see. First, above, in the team break down, I've included the numbers from the last time the Mariners played the Rangers in italics. This way, we get a chance to see how each team has changed since they last faced each other. Below, I've included sections from my previous Rangers preview in italics and have added new content in addition to what I've already written. That way, you'll still get all of the coverage plus a bonus. Where applicable, I've updated and added information for players previously covered. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see anything else in duplicate team previews.

The Mariners and the Rangers recently faced each other just a week ago in a pretty disappointing series in Seattle. Since then, the Rangers have gone 1-6 against the Astros and the Royals. The Mariners on the other hand have gone 3-3 against the Nationals and the Athletics. Now, the Mariners travel to Texas for a four-game series over the weekend.

The past few weeks have not been good for our starting rotation. Just a week ago their FIP- was 98 and has since jumped up four points. Felix looked good yesterday and Paxton's arm should be fresh. I'm not excited to see Iwakuma and Young in the launching pad that the Ballpark in Arlington Globe Life Park in Arlington can be, even with the weak Rangers lineup.

The Rangers:

Injuries continue to plague the Rangers. Shin-Soo Choo didn't play against the Mariners a week ago because of a bone spur in his left elbow. They also broke the Major League record for number of players used in a single season this week -- that number is now up to 61. They were just swept by the Royals and have lost their last five straight.

Key Players

SS Elvis Andrus - One of the few Rangers who hasn't caught the injury bug, Elvis Andrus has nonetheless taken a step back this year. Andrus has been an excellent fielder in the past but it seems like he's lost a step this year. His range in the field is not what it used to be and his base running score and his stolen base totals are down. His bat isn't making up the difference either as his wRC+ of 78 this year matches his mark from last year. The Rangers have an abundance of young infielders and it seems like Andrus could be on the outside looking in next year.

2B Rougned Odor - One of those young infielders is Rougned Odor. He's the youngest player in the majors this year and probably wouldn't have made it this far if it hadn't been for the multitude of injuries. His raw skill is apparent however. He's been able to achieve a wRC+ of 82 despite being underdeveloped at just 20-years-old. He doesn't walk much but he's got some pop in his bat. He should be pushing for a regular spot on next year's team alongside Jurickson Profar.

CF Leonys Martin - Leonys Martin has quickly established himself as the regular center fielder for the Rangers after just two years in the majors. He's a plus defender who has a great arm in center. Offensively, he relies on his speed to provide the most value.

3B Adrian Beltre - Adrian Beltre is perhaps the lone bright spot on the Rangers team even though he's spent some time on the disabled list (albeit briefly). After five years of league average offense on the Mariners, Beltre has taken his play to a completely new level. In the five years since leaving Seattle, he has averaged a 138 wRC+ and almost 6 WAR per year. His elite defense has slipped a bit and the advanced defensive metrics are calling him just above average this year. Still, his 4.8 WAR this year is far and away the best mark on the team.

RF Alex Rios - At the trade deadline, there were many pundits who thought the Mariners would make a move for Alex Rios. Instead, they acquired Austin Jackson and it turns out, they're running almost identical batting lines this year. Rios has dealt with a myriad of minor injuries this year but hasn't spent any time on the disabled list. These injuries have taken their toll on every aspect of his play, batting, base running, and fielding. It all adds up to replacement level play from a player who was supposed to be part of the core of the team.

LF Shin-Soo Choo - As I mentioned above, Choo will miss the rest of the season with an elbow injury.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Robbie Ross

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

70 1/3

14.2%

7.4%

13.8%

53.5%

5.63

4.81

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

90.4 mph;

63.4%

90.6 mph;

11.4%

83.0 mph;

15.0%

75.6 mph;

5.1%

85.2 mph;

4.5%

Robbie Ross is essentially a two-pitch pitcher. He leans on his four-seam and two-seam fastballs and sprinkles a slider, curve, and changeup as change of pace pitches. He doesn't get many whiffs with his fastballs. Instead, he's been able to get batters to pound the ball into the ground at a pretty high clip. This year, he's been pretty unlucky on the balls that haven't been on the ground. His home run rate way above league average and that's driven his ERA sky high.

RHP Scott Baker

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

72 1/3

15.7%

4.4%

9.4%

26.2%

5.23

4.43

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Slider

Changeup

89.9 mph;

9.0%

89.2 mph;

53.0%

81.4 mph;

29.5%

83.8 mph;

7.4%

Remember when the Mariners signed Scott Baker this offseason but he was cut because he hadn't fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery? Well, in their search for anyone who could throw a baseball, the Rangers picked him up and he's thrown over seventy innings for them this year. They haven't been particularly good innings but it's nice to see him facing Major League batters again. His pitch selection has changed significantly since his injury. He's now a sinker baller who also has a decent slider. What's odd is he doesn't generate as many grounders with his sinker as you'd think. In fact, his batted ball profile is all wonky. He's running a pretty substantial line drive rate (24.5%) but he's also generating an above average rate of infield flies (16.2%). It all adds up to a pretty mediocre pitcher though.

RHP Nick Martinez

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

110 1/3

12.4%

10.1%

9.1%

34.0%

5.14

5.30

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

91.1 mph;

57.5%

90.9 mph;

7.5%

84.3 mph;

13.8%

76.0 mph;

7.3%

82.7 mph;

11.6%

Nick Martinez was drafted in 2011 in the eighteenth round and here he is in 2014, a member of the Rangers rotation. If the Rangers hadn't been decimated by injuries, Martinez's ascent might have made for an amazing story. As it is, he's simply organizational depth that the Rangers are tossing out there every five days. He leans heavily on his four-seam fastball as it's his only decent offering. His slider and changeup usage follow the standard platoon routines and he almost exclusively uses his curveball against lefties when he's ahead in the count. When he faced the Mariners on August 26th, he was knocked around for six hits and gave up five runs in just five innings. He walked four and didn't strike anyone out. In that start, he threw the lowest percentage of fastballs in his young career and instead leaned on his secondary pitches. It didn't work out for him the first time so let's see if he readjusts.

LHP Derek Holland

(2013 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

213.0

21.1%

7.2%

8.8%

40.8%

3.42

3.44

Pitches

Sinker

Slider

Knuckle Curve

Changeup

93.2 mph;

48.6%

83.2 mph;

26.7%

76.4 mph;

17.1%

84.8 mph;

7.6%

Derek Holland's injury is a great microcosm of the Rangers season. He injured himself in January after he fell down his stairs and his recovery has taken almost the entire season. He made his first start of the year on Tuesday and pitched fairly well against the Royals. He reinvented himself in 2012, abandoning his four-seam fastball in favor of a sinker that he now throws almost half the time. He's still throwing his excellent slider and will use it to rack up strikeouts against lefties. His curveball and changeup are reserved for righties and they're both decent pitches.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

83-55

.601

-

W-W-W-L-L

Athletics

79-60

.568

4.5

L-L-W-L-L

Mariners

75-63

.543

8.0

L-W-L-W-W

Astros

61-79

.436

23.0

L-W-W-W-W

Rangers

53-86

.381

30.5

L-L-L-L-L

While the AL West is all but out of reach for the Mariners, we were able to prevent the Athletics from gaining any ground on the Angels. The Angels lost two of three against the Astros and start a four-game series in Minnesota today.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

79-60

.568

+3.0

L-L-W-L-L

Tigers

76-63

.547

-

W-L-W-W-L

Mariners

75-63

.543

0.5

L-W-L-W-W

Indians

71-66

.518

4.0

W-W-L-L-W

Yankees

71-66

.518

4.0

W-L-L-L-W

The Mariners are right where we left off before the Athletics series, a half-game behind Detroit for the second Wild Card spot. The Tigers will wrap up their series against the Indians today and then face the Giants at home over the weekend. The Indians will face the White Sox at home beginning tomorrow. The Yankees continue to hang around in the Wild Card hunt. They finish their series against the Red Sox today and will face the Royals at home this weekend.

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