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Series Preview: Mariners (75-84) vs. Athletics (66-93)

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The Mariners wrap up the season with a three-game series against the Athletics.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, October 2

7:10 pm

Athletics

RHP Aaron Brooks

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Saturday, October 3

6:10 pm

Athletics

LHP Sean Nolin

Mariners

LHP Roenis Elias

Sunday, October 4

12:10 pm

Athletics

LHP Felix Doubront

Mariners

LHP Vidal Nuno

Mariners

Athletics

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

102 (5th in AL)

96 (12th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-40.4 (13th)

-46.7 (14th)

Mariners

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

106 (10th)

100 (8th)

Athletics

Bullpen (FIP-)

103 (10th)

111 (14th)

Mariners

Here we are at the end of another season. The Mariners strung us along longer than expected. They’ve had their shot at affecting the playoff picture. Now, for three days, we get to enjoy baseball without any expectations or implications. Pure, simple baseball.

The Athletics:

When Barry Zito is given two starts in September of 2015, it’s pretty indicative of the state of the Athletics’ franchise. They’ve won less than a third of their games in September and have given up almost 200 runs in just 27 games. The Mariners have gone 12-4 against Oakland this year.

Key Players

3B Brett Lawrie Brett Lawrie has never been able to replicate the gaudy numbers he put up in 43 games during his rookie year. His high energy playing style has led to a myriad of injuries that have forced him to miss 38% of his games over the last three years. The Athletics are hoping that getting him off the turf in Toronto will lead to a healthier year for Lawrie. When he is on the field, Lawrie has provided league average offensive production. A career low walk rate last year is particularly concerning. He isn’t particularly known for his patience, but if he’s not getting on base more often and isn’t hitting for as much power, it’s hard to see how he’ll produce an above average line at the plate.

1B Billy Butler Signing Billy Butler was a perplexing acquisition at the time. Butler had seen two straight years of declining offensive production in Kansas City and wasn’t about to provide any value in the field or on the basepaths. Throwing money after a declining bat-only player seems like a fool’s errand. Yet, the Athletics might have added some diversity to their lineup with a relatively rare offensive skillset.

C Stephen VogtI believe in Stephen Vogt. He made his major league debut when he was 28 and didn’t start receiving regular playing time until he was 30, but the A’s traded away Derek Norris so that Vogt could become their everyday catcher. His walk rate has jumped up to match his low strikeout rate this year and he’s hitting for more power than ever before. His home run rate should fall from its lofty heights but the plate discipline looks like it’s for real—he’s swinging at a much lower rate but still making contact at a rate similar to his career average.

RF Josh ReddickJosh Reddick suffered through an injury-plagued season last year. He’s returned with a vengeance this year but he looks like a completely different player at the plate. His strikeout rate is a miniscule 9.8% which is around half of his career average. Like Vogt, he’s swinging at the lowest rate of his career but he’s making more contact than ever before. His BABIP is fairly high but it matches his 22.1% line drive rate. The Athletics promoted a new hitting coach this year and it looks like he’s been able to instill a new hitting philosophy that values swinging to make hard contact. Both Vogt and Reddick have benefitted from this new approach and it seems like the improvements have stuck.

SS Marcus SemienMarcus Semien was acquired this offseason from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija trade. He’s made the transition to full-time shortstop this year after primarily playing second and third in the minors. Defensively, he hasn’t been very impressive—he leads the league in errors and UZR thinks he’s the worst shortstop in the game. DRS is a bit more optimistic, pegging him right around league average, but I think we can safely say his defense isn’t a strength. Offensively, he’s been right around league average with a little bit of pop in his bat. Overall, that combination makes for a league average shortstop which isn’t bad considering he’s only 24-years-old.

1B Mark CanhaA rare Rule 5 draft pick who has been better than replacement level, Mark Canha has seen his playing time increase as the year has gone on. He’s hitting for a decent amount of power and his plate discipline is right around league average. Despite being pegged as a platoon partner for Ike Davis, he’s actually hit right-handed pitching better than lefties. With Davis out for the year, Canha looks like he’s the undisputed starter for the rest of the season and will look to capitalize on an already surprising season.

CF Billy BurnsThere may not be a more aptly named player in all of Major League Baseball. Billy Burns has leveraged his blinding speed to become a useful role player for the Athletics. His speed has allowed him to run a .342 BABIP despite running the highest infield pop-up rate in baseball. When he isn’t popping up, he’s pounding the ball into the ground and legging out infield hits. He doesn’t walk or strikeout much because he swings at the first pitch of an at bat almost half the time.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Aaron Brooks

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

48 1/3

16.7%

5.4%

14.8%

42.4%

7.26

4.69

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.4 mph;

45.9%

91.4 mph;

14.0%

83.2 mph;

20.7%

86.0 mph;

14.8%

78.0 mph;

4.6%

Brooks PA

The Athletics acquired Aaron Brooks from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist trade. He was drafted in the ninth round in the 2011 draft and his minor league career was mostly unremarkable. He has shown an ability to limit walks, sporting a minor league walk rate of 3.8%. He started the year in Triple-A and was able to push his strikeout rate over 20% for the first time since Rookie ball in 2011. That improvement has surprisingly carried over to the majors where he’s made eight starts for the A’s. After a promising start, opposing batters have started to tee off on Brooks, running his ERA up to 7.26 even though his FIP is just 4.69. Much of the damage is due to an extremely high BABIP. He may not walk many but batters are still reaching base against him regularly.

LHP Sean Nolin

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

24

11.7%

9.9%

9.1%

42.9%

5.25

5.06

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

88.7 mph;

38.0%

86.0 mph;

15.3%

77.8 mph;

17.0%

83.5 mph;

16.5%

74.7 mph;

12.9%

Another fringe starter included in the Josh Donaldon trade, Sean Nolin made his debut with the A’s this September. His stuff is pretty average and his command isn’t good enough to stick at the major league level, but he's been given a chance to make fives starts down the stretch. His best pitch is his changeup which he uses almost exclusively against righties. He lacks a true out pitch and his fastball has lost some of the velocity that made him an interesting prospect in the first place. With more consistency and a few adjustments, he could develop into a back-end starter or long reliever.

LHP Felix Doubront

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

74 1/3

16.9%

8.0%

12.3%

46.6%

5.57

4.50

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Splitter

Curveball

91.5 mph;

37.9%

91.6 mph;

15.8%

87.5 mph;

20.1%

84.0 mph;

13.3%

76.2 mph;

12.8%

Doubront PA

Felix Doubront has always struggled with his control, but now he’s also struggling to generate whiffs. His strikeout rate has fallen from around 20% to 15% the last two years and it’s his changeup that looks like the culprit. That pitch has steadily become less effective since 2013. He’s almost completely abandoned the changeup in favor of a splitter this year. That pitch as well as some mechanical adjustments have helped him flip his batted ball profile. He’s inducing grounders at the highest rate of his career which has helped him keep the ball in the park.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

x-Rangers

87-72

.547

-

L-L-W-W-W

Astros

84-75

.528

3.0

W-W-W-L-W

Angels

83-76

.522

4.0

W-W-W-L-L

Mariners

75-84

.472

12.0

L-L-L-W-L

Athletics

66-93

.415

21.0

L-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

w-Yankees

87-72

.547

+3.0

W-L-L-L-W

Astros

84-75

.528

-

W-W-W-L-W

Angels

83-76

.522

1.0

W-W-W-L-L

Twins

83-76

.522

1.0

W-W-W-L-W

The AL West is all but decided after the Rangers won last night. With the other divisions wrapped up, the last spot in the playoffs comes down to the second Wild Card spot. The Astros currently hold a one game lead over both the Angels and the Twins with three games left to play. The Astros travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks who are sitting on a four-game winning streak. Houston needs to win at least two games to guarantee a one-game playoff. The Angels started a four-game series in Arlington last night and lost 3-5. Texas has little to play for now that they’ve wrapped up the division making the Angels' road to the postseason a little easier. The Twins split a doubleheader yesterday against the Indians and host the Royals during the final weekend of the season. Kansas City is still playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs making the Twins’ path to the playoffs a little harder than the Angels.

Meg did a great job laying out where the Mariners sit in the draft order. Read that article if you want to know what the Mariners have to do to receive a protected draft pick next year.