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Series Preview: Mariners (52-60) vs. Orioles (56-54)

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The Mariners wrap up their brief homestand with a three-game series against the Orioles.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, August 10

7:10 pm

Orioles

LHP Wei-Yin Chen

Mariners

LHP Vidal Nuno

Tuesday, August 11

7:10 pm

Orioles

RHP Chris Tillman

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Wednesday, August 12

12:40 pm

Orioles

RHP Kevin Gausman

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners

Orioles

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

97 (10th in AL)

101 (5th in AL)

Orioles

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-17.4 (11th)

12.9 (3rd)

Orioles

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

105 (7th)

108 (11th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

101 (10th)

83 (2nd)

Orioles

The Orioles will be the only team above .500 the Mariners will play for the rest of August. If a miracle was in the future, now would be the time to take advantage of the soft underbelly of the American League. Despite what their record might say, the Mariners have been one of the hottest teams in the league in August. Their 114 wRC+ this month ranks fourth in the AL and the rotation has the best FIP- in the league. This is what this team should look like when everything is clicking.

The Orioles:

With the Blue Jays going all-in and the Yankees discovering the fountain of youth, the Orioles have been trying to hang around in the Wild Card race. Adopting the Mariners’ patented L-W-L pattern over the last 10 games hasn’t helped them gain any ground however. They added Gerardo Parra at the trade deadline to solidify their outfield but their true need is in the rotation. Banking on three starters who sport a FIP over 4.00, a 24-year-old fireballer, and Ubaldo Jimenez doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Key Players

CF Adam Jones Adam Jones has always had an aggressive approach at the plate, but this year, something’s changed. He still isn’t walking very often but his strikeout rate has dropped by almost five points! He’s avoiding strikeouts by making contact with 80.8% of the pitches he swings at—the highest contact rate of his career. His power is still present so it doesn’t seem like he’s selling out to make contact at all costs. After years of negative defensive ratings from UZR and DRS, Jones has been one of the best center fielders in the league over the last two years. This newfound defensive prowess gives him a nice boost to his overall value.

3B Manny Machado Manny Machado has also enjoyed some newfound success with a different plate approach. He’s become much more selective at the plate and that’s led to a higher walk rate and a lower strikeout rate. He’s breaking out in a big way this year. He’s been the fourth most valuable player in the majors and he just turned 23. Putting two major knee surgeries behind him, he’s hitting for more power, running with more vigor, and playing the field with excellence. Along with Bryce Harper, he’s joined Mike Trout as the best players in baseball under 25.

2B Jimmy Paredes Last year, Steve Pearce had a surprising breakout season, accumulating 4.9 fWAR in just 102 games for the Orioles. He’s come crashing back down to earth this year with a slash line of just .227/.290/.392. Enter Jimmy Paredes, a 26-year-old utility player with just 145 games at the Major League level over four seasons prior to this year. Like Pearce, Paredes started out on fire but has since come crashing back to earth. He’s sporting a 22 wRC+ in the second half of the season making the first three month of the season look like a flash in the pan.

1B Chris DavisAfter a miserable 2014 in which he accumulated just 0.8 fWAR and was suspended for violating the PED policy, Chris Davis has returned in a big way this year. His power has returned to its previous levels and his BABIP has rebounded from the dismal .242 mark last year. He’s pulling the ball more than ever and teams have responded by shifting on him in almost every at-bat. His batting average won’t reach his previous career highs but he should continue to blast home runs over the defense and get on base at a decent clip to continue to be one of the better first baseman in the league.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Wei-Yin Chen

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

130

19.8%

5.6%

13.9%

40.1%

3.32

4.46

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

92.5 mph;

53.0%

91.7 mph;

12.3%

83.5 mph;

9.8%

83.7 mph;

17.2%

73.8 mph;

7.8%

Chen PA

Wei-Yin Chen’s strikeout rate has steadily fallen since his Major League debut in 2012 until this year. He’s now striking out more batters than ever before but he’s running the highest FIP of his career. He’s been able to outperform his peripherals, pushing his ERA more than one full run lower than his FIP. He leans on his four-seam fastball more than half the time. He’ll mix in a sinker, a splitter, and a slider with an occasional curveball. All of his pitches have dropped in effectiveness this year except his fastball. He’s generating about 25% more whiffs with his four-seamer which may be the sole reason behind the increase in strikeout rate. In his last outing against the Mariners, he pitched seven innings, giving up four runs on eight hits and struck out four.

RHP Chris Tillman

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

113 2/3

16.8%

8.8%

7.8%

43.2%

4.35

4.03

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

92.8 mph;

57.3%

92.3 mph;

8.2%

87.5 mph;

6.5%

84.1 mph;

12.7%

76.7 mph;

15.1%

Tillman PA

Chris Tillman has established himself as a mid-rotation, innings eater with two years of 200+ IP. He doesn’t generate enough strikeouts to be at the top of a rotation but he generally limits baserunners helping him outperform his peripherals. Last year, he was able to avoid being hurt by the homer by inducing more groundballs and less hard contact. This year, his hard contact rate is even lower and he’s generating more grounders than ever. With a curveball that induces contact on the ground more than any other curveball in baseball, no wonder his batted ball profile has changed recently. He’s also recently added a sinker that’s he’s been using occasionally when he needs to get a groundball out. His bread and butter is still his rising four-seam fastball but the changes to his repertoire have helped him become a more effective pitcher.

RHP Kevin Gausman

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

53 1/3

19.6%

6.2%

10.3%

42.4%

4.56

4.06

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Splitter

Curveball

97.0 mph;

67.6%

95.3 mph;

4.3%

88.9 mph;

2.3%

86.0 mph;

17.3%

82.0 mph;

8.3%

Gausman PA

Earlier this season, Gausman was working out of the bullpen and bouncing between Triple-A and the majors in a massive underutilization of his talent. The Orioles found a spot for him in the rotation after the All-Star break and the results have been mixed. The fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Gausman’s pedigree is top notch but the Orioles haven’t committed to him as a starter or a reliever. He has the stuff to excel in either role. His primary pitch is a fastball that has the third highest average velocity in baseball. He compliments his plus fastball with a very promising split-change and the rare curveball.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

61-52

.540

-

L-W-L-L-L

Angels

59-51

.536

0.5

L-W-W-L-W

Rangers

55-55

.500

4.5

W-W-L-W-L

Mariners

52-60

.464

8.5

W-L-W-L-W

Athletics

51-62

.451

10.0

L-L-W-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Blue Jays

61-52

.540

+0.5

W-W-W-W-W

Angels

59-51

.536

-

L-W-W-L-W

Orioles

56-54

.509

3.0

L-W-L-W-L

Rays

56-56

.500

4.0

W-L-L-W-W

Rangers

55-55

.500

4.0

W-W-L-W-L

The Blue Jays are 8-1 since the trade deadline and are reaping the benefits of going all-in to claim a playoff berth this year. They’re now just a game and a half behind the Yankees in the AL East after sweeping them this weekend. Oakland is lined up to be their next victim. The A’s are coming off an excellent weekend series against the Astros where they took three of four and continued Houston’s spiral back towards the pack. The Astros are on the road facing the Giants to start this week while the Angels travel to Chicago to face the White Sox.