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Series Preview: Mariners (0-0) vs. Angels (0-0)

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The Mariners open the season against the Angels with a three-game series at home. The 2015 baseball season is upon us!

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, April 6

1:10 pm

Angels

RHP Jered Weaver

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Tuesday, April 7

7:10 pm

Angels

LHP C.J. Wilson

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Wednesday, April 8

7:10 pm

Angels

RHP Matt Shoemaker

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners (2014)

Angels (2014)

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

94 (12th in AL)

111 (2nd in AL)

Angels

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-11.7 (7th)

0.9 (4th)

Angels

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (9th)

97 (5th)

Angels

Bullpen (FIP-)

87 (1st)

90 (3rd)

Mariners

Opening Day. A national holiday. The hope on the horizon for five long months. The beginning. The Mariners enter the season with the highest expectations since 2010 and are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Mariners are opening the season at home for the first time since 2008 with a three-game series against the Angels. Last year, the Angels posted the best record in baseball on the back of a great offense and a surprisingly good pitching staff.

Welcome to my series preview series. If you’re a regular Lookout Landing reader, welcome back. If you’re a new face, welcome home. Above, you’ll see the upcoming series laid out in the barest of details: probable pitchers, game times, and an overview of the Mariners and their opponents. Below, you’ll see the Mariners’ opponents laid out in more detail: key players, pitcher analysis, and individual pitch metrics (Pitch Arsenal Score). Finally, you’ll get a view of the big picture: AL West and Wild Card standings.

The Angels:

The Angels’ offseason was relatively quiet, making a few trades but resisting the urge to spend big on the free agent market. The biggest move the Angels made was trading away their starting second baseman, Howie Kendrick. He will be replaced by Johnny Giavotella, an acquisition from the Royals. Josh Hamilton’s drug relapse was another major storyline during the offseason. The Angels were just recently notified that Hamilton won’t be suspended for his substance abuse but his balky shoulder will keep him out of action for a while anyway.

The Angels will probably end up being the Mariners’ primary competition for the division title this year. Their offensive core remains anchored by the best player in baseball and an aging, three-time MVP award winner. Their pitching staff probably won’t be as good as they were last year but will receive some young reinforcements in Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano.

Key Players

CF Mike Trout Mike Trout had what might have been his worst season as a major leaguer last year. He won the MVP award anyway. There’s no question that the Angels would look a lot worse without him in the lineup everyday. Both Steamer and ZiPS are projecting a "bounce back" season for Trout. He may not reach the previous 10 fWAR heights of his first two years in the majors but he’ll still be the best player in baseball.

1B Albert Pujols Pujols was injury free last year and produced a 124 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR for the Angels. He’s now 35-years-old and deep into the decline phase of his career. Instead of offensive production 50 or 60% above league average, we can expect production around 25% above league average. That’s still very useful in the middle of the order and his value to the Angels shouldn’t be overlooked just yet.

2B Johnny Giavotella – Johnny Giavotella probably won’t be a decisive factor for the Angels this year. He will be replacing a player who averaged 3.4 fWAR over the last five years. He was able to win the starting gig this spring, kicking Josh Rutledge to Triple-A, and will look to build on a solid minor league track record. The only problem is, he has over 450 major league plate appearances of decidedly below average performance. He’s just 27-years-old so he could still figure everything out. Because the Angels desperately need someone to step into the hole Howie Kendrick left.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Jered Weaver (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

213 1/3

19.0%

7.3%

8.9%

32.9%

3.59

4.19

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

87.5 mph;

22.22%

86.5 mph;

29.1%

78.2 mph;

19.3%

79.9 mph;

10.1%

70.0 mph;

19.3%

Weaver_PAgraph

Five years of declining velocity corresponds to five years of declining results. Jered Weaver will make the Angels’ Opening Day start again but he’s not the same pitcher he has been. As a fly-ball pitcher, he’s benefitted from his home park immensely and has become increasingly reliant on inducing weak contact instead of the strikeout. He’ll enjoy the same park benefits in Safeco and has generally pitched very well against the Mariners. His pitch arsenal is fairly average. He’s able to induce enough whiffs with his fastball, changeup, and curveball to run decent strikeout rates but his fly-ball tendencies bring his overall pitch scores down.

LHP C.J. Wilson (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

175 2/3

19.8%

11.2%

11.3%

47.8%

4.51

4.31

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.5 mph;

32.8%

91.7 mph;

19.8%

88.5 mph;

8.5%

85.9 mph;

12.5%

82.7 mph;

9.6%

77.2 mph;

16.8%

Wilson_PAgraph

C.J. Wilson had his worst season as a starter last year. He posted five-year lows in strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate and accumulated just 0.9 fWAR for the Angels. He was unable, or unwilling, to find the zone and his walk rate spiked as batters just refused to swing at pitches outside the zone. That’s reflected in his pitch arsenal scores. At his peak, he was generating whiffs with his three fastballs and his breaking pitches but his fastballs have all deteriorated. Now, he’s just left with his breaking pitches and batters aren’t waiting for him to get deep enough in the count to use them.

RHP Matt Shoemaker (2014 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

136

22.8%

4.4%

9.4%

41.2%

3.04

3.26

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

91.3 mph;

25.2%

91.0 mph;

26.1%

84.4 mph;

21.2%

81.8 mph;

18.5%

76.2 mph;

8.9%

Shoemaker_PAgraph

Matt Shoemaker may have been the biggest surprise for the Angels last year (I say "may have" because of Garrett Richards’ breakout season). He accumulated 2.7 fWAR in just 121 innings as a starter. He was able to transfer decent minor league strikeout rates and excellent control into major league success despite mediocre results in the minors. He generally leans on his two fastballs and his splitter. It’s the latter pitch that get’s the most attention—mainly because there are so few splitters in the modern game—but his best pitch may be his slider. He’ll use it to generate a ton of whiffs against righties. His overall pitch arsenal score is pretty disappointing considering his excellent results last year—the ground ball rates on his pitches would be more concerning if he didn’t play half of his games in Anaheim.

The Big Picture:

The AL West (2014)

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Angels

98-64

.605

-

-

Athletics

88-74

.543

10.0

-

Mariners

87-75

.537

11.0

-

Astros

70-92

.432

28.0

-

Rangers

67-95

.414

31.0

-

The Angels ran away with the AL West last year, locking up the division by mid-September. Much of that was due to the Athletics’ epic collapse down the stretch—they went 22-33 in August and September. The Mariners also faded down the stretch and ended up missing the Wild Card by a single game.

The Wild Card Race (2014)

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Royals

89-73

.549

+1.0

-

Athletics

88-74

.543

-

-

Mariners

87-75

.537

1.0

-

Indians

85-77

.525

3.0

-

Yankees

84-78

.519

4.0

-

The second Wild Card spot and the success of the Royals last year has led teams like the Padres and the White Sox to accelerate their rebuilding plans. The Royals’ success wasn’t born overnight but they were able to succeed by playing .500 baseball for the majority of the year and then hitting a hot streak in September and October all the way to the World Series.

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