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Series Preview: Mariners (3-3) vs. Dodgers (3-3)

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The Mariners wrap up their brief road trip with a rare visit to Dodger Stadium.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, April 13

7:10 pm

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Dodgers

RHP Brandon McCarthy

Tuesday, April 14

7:10 pm

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Dodgers

TBD

Wednesday, April 15

7:10 pm

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Dodgers

LHP Brett Anderson

Mariners (2014)

Dodgers (2014)

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

94 (12th in AL)

116 (2nd in NL)

Dodgers

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-11.7 (7th)

-11.3 (13th)

Dodgers

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (9th)

93 (2nd)

Dodgers

Bullpen (FIP-)

87 (1st)

100 (11th)

Mariners

After an exciting, if stressful, weekend of baseball, the Mariners head down the coast to Los Angeles. This time, they’re facing the other team in LA, the Trolley Dodgers. The last time the Mariners played in Dodger stadium was in 2009 where they took two of three (with Garrett Olsen getting a win against Hiroki Kuroda!). Taijuan Walker will look to impress the entire country as the game on Wednesday will be aired on ESPN2—a rare National TV broadcast for the Mariners.

After three years of mediocrity under the troubled ownership of Frank McCourt, the Dodgers were sold to an ownership group that has infused the organization with loads of cash. They’ve led baseball in payroll for the last two years now. The biggest moves they made this offseason were poaching Andrew Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays to become the President of Baseball Operations and signing Farhan Zaidi away from the Oakland Athletics to become the new General Manager. These two shrewd executives come from two organizations that are notorious for their lack of resources. Now, with seemingly unlimited resources, Friedman and Zaidi will attempt to take the Dodgers from good to great with a huge margin for error. They already moved an albatross of a contract, signed a couple of mid-tier starting pitchers to modest contracts, and traded for a young catcher and a few veteran middle infielders.

The Dodgers:

The Dodgers entered the season with high expectations. They look like they’ll be the best team in the NL West and could make a deep playoff run. Despite these high expectations, the Dodgers have started the season 3-3 and just lost two of three in Arizona. That sounds a little familiar… The Mariners thankfully miss the Dodgers top two pitchers for this series, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. The Dodgers third starter, Hyun-jin Ryu is currently nursing an injured shoulder so the Dodgers have been carrying an extra bench bat for the first few games of the season. That will have to change Tuesday when a fifth starter (who has yet to be officially announced) will need to be added to the roster.

Key Players

RF Yasiel Puig One of the most exciting players to watch in baseball, Yasiel Puig has singlehandedly inflated the market for Cuban players. Teams are handing out huge contracts to Cuban players like Jose Abreu, Rusney Castillo, and Yasmani Tomas, hoping to find the next superstar. Only Abreu has been better than advertised, while the jury is still out on Castillo and Tomas. In his two years in the Majors, Puig made a number of adjustments to his plate approach that have made him an offensive force at the plate. When he first came up, he was a free swinger with little plate discipline leading to a below average contact rate. When he did make contact, the ball was hit hard and far but it wasn’t a sustainable approach. Last year, he increased his contact rate, lowered his swing rate, and showed much better plate discipline.

1B Adrian Gonzalez Adrian Gonzalez has started off this year on fire. Through three games, he had five homers and was his slash line was a ridiculous .769/.769/2.077. After three more games, his slash line is a more human .609/.667/1.391. Obviously, he won’t keep this up forever—I just wanted to see slugging percentages with numbers in front of the decimals. He’s declined from his peak where he was producing around 50% better than the league average at the plate. Now, he’ll be around 25–30% better than league average with plus defense at first to boot.

CF Joc Pederson The Dodgers were so eager to trade away Matt Kemp because they had his successor waiting in the wings. Joc Pederson has been a top prospect since 2012 and is finally getting a chance to show what he can do at the Major League level. He brings an exciting power/speed profile and his plate discipline looks advanced for being just 23-years-old. He’s gotten off to a good start this year and should be a fixture in the Dodgers’ lineup for years to come.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Brandon McCarthy (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

200

20.9%

4.0%

16.3%

52.6%

4.05

3.55

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

94.2 mph;

14.9%

93.7 mph;

46.1%

92.1 mph;

14.3%

88.0 mph;

0.7%

82.2 mph;

23.8%

McCarthy_PAgraph

Brandon McCarthy was finally able to put together a healthy season last year and looked like a completely different pitcher. He was able to add two miles per hour in velocity, transforming himself from a soft-tossing, fly ball pitcher into a groundball inducing, strike out machine. Much of these improvements were overshadowed by the spike in home run rate and a high BABIP, leading to results that didn’t match his peripherals. His improvements don’t seem to be a mirage either. In his first start of the year, he was able to maintain his improved velocity, struck out nine in five innings, and gave up two home runs—a microcosm of what he did last year.

RHP Scott Baker (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

80 2/3

16.6%

4.2%

11.5%

25.3%

5.47

4.78

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

90.4 mph;

37.4%

90.2 mph;

26.1%

84.8 mph;

6.7%

82.3 mph;

29.8%

Baker_PAgraph

The starter for Tuesday’s game hasn’t been officially announced but it looks like Scott Baker will be taking the mound with David Huff a longshot alternative. Both would have to be added to the 40-man roster so I don’t expect an announcement until late Monday or early Tuesday. Since Baker is the most likely candidate, I included his stats above. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing much to say. He hasn’t changed much from his brief stint with the Mariners in Spring Training last year and we shouldn’t see any surprises. He’ll limit walks, but that’s about the extent of his strengths. He doesn’t strikeout many and his extreme fly ball profile has led to a significant home run problem.

LHP Brett Anderson (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

43 1/3

16.1%

7.2%

3.3%

61.0%

2.91

2.99

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.1 mph;

24.8%

90.1 mph;

24.8%

83.2 mph;

6.0%

81.2mph;

33.8%

75.1 mph;

10.1%

Anderson_PAgraph

Brett Anderson has been in the league since 2009 and in that time he’s made a total of 82 starts. He’s missed over 55% of his starts due to injury over the last five years. He throws his slider about a third of the time which is probably the root of his injury problems. When he is on the mound, he’s shown an intriguing mix of control and an ability to generate ground balls. That’s led to some excellent marks in FIP and xFIP but he’ll still struggle with the home run at times. It seems like his success is dependent on his velocity, and after one start this season, his velocity hasn’t changed from last year. That doesn’t bode well for him.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

3-3

.500

-

L-L-W-L-W

Mariners

3-3

.500

-

L-L-L-W-W

Athletics

3-4

.429

0.5

W-L-W-L-L

Rangers

3-4

.429

0.5

L-W-L-W-L

Angels

2-4

.333

1.0

W-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Royals

6-0

1.000

+2.0

W-W-W-W-W

Blue Jays

4-2

.667

-

L-W-W-L-W

Mariners

3-3

.500

1.0

L-L-L-W-W

Orioles

3-3

.500

1.0

W-L-L-W-L

Rays

3-3

.500

1.0

L-W-L-W-W

Hey, look at that, the Mariners are tied for first place in the West and the Angels are in last place now! There’s still nothing to glean from these standings. The Royals have carried their hot streak from last season over to the start of this season, sweeping the White Sox and the Angels. They aren't even the best team in their division though—the Tigers look like the 1927 Yankees through six games with a plus-31 run differential.