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Series Preview: Mariners (10-15) at Angels (11-14)

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The Mariners wrap up their long road-trip with a three-game series against the Angels in Anaheim.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, May 4

7:05 pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Angels

RHP Matt Shoemaker

Tuesday, May 5

7:05 pm

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Angels

RHP Garrett Richards

Wednesday, May 6

7:05 pm

Mariners

LHP Roenis Elias

Angels

LHP C.J. Wilson

Mariners

Angels

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

95 (10th in AL)

81 (13th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-14.1 (15th)

6.3 (2nd)

Angels

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

104 (8th)

112 (11th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

99 (8th)

104 (10th)

Mariners

It’s relieving to know that the Angels have gotten off to as bad a start as the Mariners. Heading into the season, the Angels were expected to be our primary rivals for the AL West division title. After just a month of play, the Angels are just a game ahead of the Mariners in the standings. Surprisingly, it’s the Angels’ offense that has been the main culprit. Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun are carrying the offense while three of their starters are hitting more than 50% below league average—Chris Iannetta is running a wRC+ of -3! It’s a good thing their pitching has been as good as—oh, that’s not right.

The Angels:

The Angels were just swept by the Giants in San Francisco over the weekend. They’re in the midst of a 13-game stretch without an off day and will face the Astros this coming weekend. With the Josh Hamilton Saga behind them, the Angels have now lost two major contributors to their league-leading offense from last year. With a depleted farm system, there are few reinforcements on the horizon. This offense could be one major injury away from mediocrity.

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. Giavotella has been one of the few bright spots on this team to start the year. He’s playing great defense at second while contributing a league average offensive line which makes him a valuable piece at a key position.

RF Kole Calhoun – Kole Calhoun accumulated 3.7 fWAR last year, making him one of the most valuable outfielders in the league. He’s carried that performance over to this year and is carrying the Angels’ offense with Mike Trout. His offensive line is almost 50% better than league average as he’s benefitted from a high BABIP—fueled by a ridiculous 37% line drive rate—and a jump in his walk rate.

SS Erick AybarLast year, Erick Aybar posted his best fWAR total of his career. Much of that was due to elite defensive numbers per UZR. However, DRS thought he was just average defensively so his WAR total and his UZR numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Even if he’s just average defensively, a league average bat makes him an above average shortstop in this league.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Matt Shoemaker

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

21

18.7%

5.5%

12.9%

26.9%

6.00

4.86

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

89.5 mph;

34.9%

89.4 mph;

21.1%

83.3 mph;

22.9%

81.1 mph;

14.7%

74.4 mph;

6.4%

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 gets 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. Shoemaker has already dealt with a minor oblique injury this year. His strikeout rate is down four points from last year but he’s still limiting his walks. He’s really getting killed in the air—his ground ball rate is the lowest in the Majors and he’s already given up four homers in four starts.

RHP Garrett Richards

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

18

19.2%

13.7%

6.7%

62.5%

3.00

3.97

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Slider

Curveball

95.6 mph;

55.9%

96.2 mph;

8.4%

87.2 mph;

32.1%

78.2 mph;

3.7%

Richards_PAgraph

Garrett Richards had shown promise as a prospect and in limited time in the Majors so perhaps his breakout year last year shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. His incredible year last year was cut short by a nasty knee injury in August. He returned to the Angels ahead of schedule and has made three starts already this year. Unfortunately, his results haven’t returned to their otherworldly levels from last year. He’s pitched just 18 innings so we can’t make many assumptions about his abilities yet, but his velocity hasn’t returned to last year’s levels yet and he’s throwing his sinker at a much lower rate. Since he missed all of Spring Training and the first few weeks of the season, it’s probable that he’s still rounding into shape.

LHP C.J. Wilson

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

33

17.0%

7.4%

2.4%

40.0%

2.73

3.14

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.3 mph;

27.5%

90.7 mph;

34.0%

87.9 mph;

5.4%

85.5 mph;

16.2%

82.9 mph;

7.7%

78.0 mph

9.3%

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. Through five starts this year, he’s been able to get his walk rate under control but his strikeout rate hasn’t rebounded. His overall numbers are helped by a miniscule home run rate which should regress towards league average as the season moves forward.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

18-7

.720

-

W-W-W-W-W

Angels

11-14

.440

7.0

W-W-L-L-L

Athletics

11-15

.423

7.5

L-L-W-L-W

Mariners

10-15

.400

8.0

W-L-L-L-L

Rangers

8-16

.333

9.5

L-L-L-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Royals

16-9

.640

+3.0

L-W-W-L-L

Orioles

12-11

.522

-

W-W-L-W-W

Twins

13-12

.520

-

L-W-W-W-W

Rays

13-12

.520

-

L-W-W-L-L

Red Sox

12-13

.480

1.0

L-W-L-L-L

The Astros are all alone atop the division and have the best record in the league. They'll look to beat up on the Rangers to start this week. Both the Angels and the Athletics haven’t been able to take advantage of the rest of the division and find themselves stuck in the mud with the Mariners. The A’s travel to Minnesota to start the week. After stringing together four wins in a row, the Twins find themselves over .500 and tied for the second Wild Card spot after a month of play.