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Series Preview: Mariners (7-11) at Rangers (7-11)

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The Mariners head out on a ten-game road trip, starting with three games in Arlington.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, April 27

5:05 pm

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Rangers

RHP Yovani Gallardo

Tuesday, April 28

5:05 pm

Mariners

LHP J.A. Happ

Rangers

LHP Ross Detwiler

Wednesday, April 29

5:05 pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Rangers

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

Mariners (2014)

Rangers (2014)

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

94 (12th in AL)

89 (15th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-11.7 (7th)

-26.7 (10th)

Mariners

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (9th)

115 (15th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

87 (1st)

99 (10th)

Mariners

The Mariners travel to Texas in the midst of a string of thirteen games, with the next ten occurring on the road. They wrapped up their long homestand with a disappointing 4-5 record and will try to salvage what’s left of April. They’ll face a Rangers squad that has gone 2-3 since the last time these two teams met.

Excluding the blowout loss to the Athletics on April 10, every single game the Mariners have played has been decided by three runs or less. The Rangers and the Mariners are actually quite similar by runs scored and allowed. They sit 10th and 11th in runs scored and 12th and 13th in runs allowed in the American League. Where the Mariners have seen their games consistently decided by a close margin, the Rangers have been much more volatile. They’ve lost three games by eight or more runs and have won three games by six or more.

The Rangers:

This weekend, rumors were swirling about a potential trade where the Rangers would acquire Josh Hamilton from the Angels in exchange for a large sum of cash. Nothing is official yet but this seems to be the most logical and feasible solution to the nightmare the Angels have created for themselves. Hamilton enjoyed his greatest success in Texas and the Rangers have a definite need in the outfield that he would fill. He’s still recovering from a shoulder injury so he wouldn’t be immediately available but this seems like the best case scenario for all parties involved.

Key Players

3B Adrian BeltreAdrian Beltre has seemingly found a way to defy father time. His average wRC+ since leaving the Mariners in 2009 is 138.6 and those are his age 31-35 seasons. Sure, his power has declined a bit but he’s adjusted his batted ball profile and plate approach. He’s walking more often and he’s hitting more line drives than ever before while avoiding fly balls and infield popouts. Despite hitting just 19 home runs last year, his wRC+ was 141, which perfectly aligns with his norms over the last five years.

1B Prince FielderThe range of outcomes for Prince Fielder is so wide after undergoing cervical-fusion surgery on his neck. There’s just no way to know how durable he’ll be or if he’ll return to anywhere near his previous level of production. He’s been able to accumulate sixteen hits in the Rangers’ first ten games but only two of them have been for extra bases. If he is able to stay healthy, he makes this team much better and should provide at least a little thump in the middle of the order.

RF Shin-Soo ChooShin-Soo Choo suffered through the worst season of his career last year. Much of that was due to the variety of injuries he suffered through. Because so many of his teammates were lost to injury, Choo played through elbow and ankle injuries for most of the season before being shut down in September. He should be fully recovered this year and will look to rebound from his rough season last year. When healthy, he’s able to run a 100 point split between his batting average and his on base percentage while also providing a little bit of power.

2B Rougned OdorRougned Odor impressed in his brief debut last season, compiling a 90 wRC+ over 114 games as a 20-year-old. He’s gotten off to a slow start this year, hitting just .140 with a single home run. Much of that can be attributed to bad luck as his BABIP is just .163 despite an increase in line drives. He has also doubled his walk rate which should complement his power and bodes well for his development at the plate.

CF Leonys MartinLeonys Martin was quietly the fifth most valuable center fielder in the American League last year by fWAR. Much of that value comes from his great defense at a premier position but his bat also shows some promise. He was able to tap into some decent power in the minors that hasn’t yet translated to the Majors. Adding additional power to the offensive profile he’s already established could push him even higher on that list. Until then, he’ll be a glove first center fielder who can contribute on the basepaths and occasionally with the bat.

SS Elvis AndrusDisastrous luck with injuries isn’t the only reason the Rangers have imploded over the last two years. Elvis Andrus is a prime example of reckless spending that has hamstrung the organization (Choo and Fielder being the other examples). Andrus was one of the best shortstops in the league for five years between 2009 and 2013. At the beginning of 2013, the Rangers signed Andrus to an eight-year extension that only just now kicked in this year. At the time, it seemed like a great deal. Andrus was just 24-years-old and had just finished a four-year stretch where he averaged 3.3 fWAR. Fast-forward two years and that deal seems like an albatross and a warning against extending young players too early. After just 18 games, Andrus is the already the least valuable shortstop by fWAR and does not look like he’s made any adjustments at the plate or in the field to recoup any of his value.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Yovani Gallardo (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

192 1/3

17.9%

6.6%

12.1%

50.8%

3.51

3.94

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.3 mph;

37.3%

92.4 mph;

18.1%

86.5 mph;

0.7%

88.2 mph;

24.6%

80.0 mph;

19.3%

Gallardo_PAgraph

The Rangers acquired Yovani Gallardo this offseason from the Brewers. At one point in his career, Gallardo was striking out almost a quarters of the batters he faced. Over the last two years, that ability has slowly eroded. As his strike outs have left his arsenal, his ability to generate ground balls has slowly improved. Despite the higher ground ball rate, he has still shown a proclivity to give up too many homers. This shifting skill set doesn’t really paint a picture of a pitcher who would sit atop a rotation but that’s the situation the Rangers and Gallardo are in. His best pitch is his curveball but he throws his slider more often. He’ll throw both his breaking pitches to righties and lefties alike which has allowed him to mitigate his platoon split—he even ran a reverse split last year. When the Mariners faced Gallardo on April 17, he was able to work around eight baserunners to hold them scoreless over six innings despite not being particularly dominant.

LHP Ross Detwiler (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

63

14.2%

7.7%

7.4%

46.3%

4.00

4.16

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

94.4 mph;

41.4%

93.3 mph;

44.2%

85.6 mph;

4.3%

79.8 mph;

9.8%

Detwiler_PAgraph

Last year, Detwiler was exclusively used out of the National’s bullpen. He saw a 1 mph increase in his average fastball velocity that hasn’t transitioned with him back to the rotation. This year, his average fastball velocity is sitting around 92-93 mph, more in line with his career norms. And there will be fastballs. About four out of every five pitches he’s thrown over his career has been a fastball. Last year, among pitchers who threw at least 60 innings, his fastball percentage was fifth highest in the majors. As a starter, he’ll mix in his change and curve more often but neither is anything to write home about. Detwiler was the starter in that infamous comeback game. He lasted just two and a third innings, giving up five runs and homers to Austin Jackson and two to Nelson Cruz.

LHP Wandy Rodriguez (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

26 2/3

16.0%

6.4%

25.6%

42.4%

6.75

7.41

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

89.9 mph;

21.6%

89.4 mph;

32.5%

84.2 mph;

13.6%

75.4 mph;

32.3%

Rodriguez_PAgraph

Between 2007 and 2012, Wandy Rodriguez was one of the better starters in the Majors—he ranked 25th in fWAR during that period. Elbow and knee injuries wiped out his 2013 and 2014 seasons and now he finds himself getting one last chance with the depleted Texas Rangers. His four-seamer has completely deteriorated so he’s started to rely on his sinker more often. Despite throwing more sinkers, his groundball rate hasn’t seen a corresponding increase. Rodriguez’s signature pitch is his curveball but its effectiveness has slipped with the rest of his arsenal.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

11-7

.611

-

W-L-W-W-W

Angels

9-10

.474

2.5

L-W-W-W-L

Athletics

8-12

.400

4.0

W-L-L-L-L

Mariners

7-11

.389

4.0

L-W-W-L-L

Rangers

7-11

.389

4.0

W-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Royals

12-6

.667

+1.5

W-L-W-L-L

Rays

11-8

.579

-

W-W-W-W-W

Red Sox

10-9

.526

1.0

L-L-W-L-L

Angels

9-10

.474

2.0

L-W-W-W-L

Blue Jays

9-10

.474

2.0

W-W-L-L-L

FanGraphs’ projected standings think the Mariners still have the third highest chance of making the playoffs in the American League and the highest chance to win the AL West. This would be a great time to start turning the season around.