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Series Preview: Mariners (54-61) at Red Sox (50-64)

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The Mariners hope to keep their season alive as they begin a three-game series in Boston.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, August 14

4:10 pm

Mariners

LHP Mike Montgomery

Red Sox

RHP Joe Kelly

Saturday, August 15

10:35 am

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Red Sox

LHP Wade Miley

Sunday, August 16

10:35 am

Mariners

LHP Vidal Nuno

Red Sox

LHP Henry Owens

Mariners

Red Sox

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

97 (10th in AL)

94 (13th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-17.7 (11th)

-16.0 (10th)

Red Sox

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

105 (7th)

106 (9th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

104 (10th)

114 (15th)

Mariners

The last time the Mariners played a three-game series in Boston in August, they swept the Red Sox in dramatic fashion. I don’t know if you believe in miracles, but if the Mariners want to continue to hang on to hope, they’ll need a similar result again this year. Even taking two of three would keep the Mariners on that magical .640 pace.

This year has been as disappointing for Red Sox fans as it has been for Mariner fans (except there really is no hope for Boston right now). They spent over $300 million this offseason to bring in free agents Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Justin Masterson and signing trade acquisitions Rick Porcello and Wade Miley to contract extensions. Those five players have been worth a combined -1.2 fWAR this year, with Ramirez (-1.1) and Sandoval (-1.3) the worst offenders. The organization is in an awkward position where they’re paying way too much for too little production but have a strong core of young players who will form the core of the next great Red Sox team. A full rebuild is probably off the table but a slow reset will be painfully long and difficult.

The Red Sox:

The Red Sox are fighting with Oakland for the worst record in the American League. They’re 4-6 in August and a miserable 8-17 since the All-Star break. The Mariners took two of three from the Red Sox when they visited Seattle earlier this year.

Key Players

CF Mookie Betts Mookie Betts is one of the most exciting young players in the Majors right now. He’s combining excellent fielding in center field with speed on the basepaths and a league average bat to great success. His advanced plate discipline is uncharacteristic for a 22-year-old in his first full season in the Majors. His strikeout rate is the lowest among batters under 23-years-old and he’s patient enough to work an average amount of walks. He also has a bit of pop in his slight frame which should help him push his production above league average as he develops.

SS Xander Bogaerts A top prospect in the Red Sox system since 2010, Xander Bogaerts disappointed in his first full season in the Majors last year. There wasn’t any one area where Bogaerts really struggled either. His walk rate was down from his minor league average but his swing rate and his contact rate were near league average. He wasn’t whiffing at an extreme rate either despite a strikeout rate over 23%. He’s still just 22-years-old so he has a lot of time to develop but he’s showing signs of progress already. This year, he’s already cut his strikeout rate down to 15% but his walk rate hasn’t rebounded. A high .368 BABIP is fueling his high batting average but his batted ball profile hasn’t changed much from last year where his BABIP was just .296.

LF Hanley Ramirez – After getting off to a hot start, Hanley Ramirez has come crashing back down during the dog days of summer. His walk rate has cratered and his BABIP is an abnormally low .267. He’s still hitting for power but his overall offensive line is just over league average. His dreadful defense is a larger problem. He’s been the worst defender in baseball per UZR and the second worst per DRS. It’s a Raul Ibanez-level shit show and his poor play has completely sapped his overall value.

3B Pablo Sandoval – Another major acquisition this offseason, Pablo Sandoval has been even worse than Hanley Ramirez. His offensive production has fallen well below league average as he isn’t hitting for power and his hard hit rate is at the lowest point of his career. In the field, he’s been almost as bad as Hanley Ramirez which is a new development for Sandoval. His defensive numbers and his reputation had been pretty good before this year but the stark contrast between the past and what the advanced metrics say now tells me he can’t be counted on to provide any value on the field anymore.

DH David Ortiz – At least it’s business as usual for the face of the Red Sox, David Ortiz. He has continued to chug along, posting an offensive line above league average for the 16th consecutive season. As the weather warmed up, his bat has followed suit. He’s been on fire since the All-Star break, posting a 203 wRC+ in the 24 games since then. Forty percent of his home runs this year have come in the second half and he’s basically carrying this team by himself right now.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Joe Kelly

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

93 2/3

19.2%

8.3%

13.3%

44.9%

5.96

4.29

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

96.8 mph;

30.2%

96.4 mph;

38.2%

85.7 mph;

9.7%

86.6 mph;

12.5%

80.4 mph;

9.4%

Kelly PA

Joe Kelly has always had a blazing fastball but his strikeout rate has never matched what you might expect from someone with his stuff. He added velocity to his fastball this year and it’s now the third fastest among all starters in baseball. With that extra velocity, his strikeout rate has jumped over 19%, a three point increase over his previous career norms. Unfortunately, poor luck, a high BABIP, and the homer have all conspired to drive his ERA way up. To be fair, his walk rate isn’t sparkling either and he isn’t generating as many grounders despite throwing a much higher number of sinkers this year. He previously held the Mariners to just one run on five hits and three walks, striking out two.

LHP Wade Miley

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

132 2/3

17.1%

8.6%

9.7%

48.9%

4.68

4.07

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.0 mph;

26.0%

91.7 mph;

32.7%

83.9 mph;

17.9%

85.6 mph;

15.9%

78.0 mph;

7.6%

Miley PA

Last year, it looked like Wade Miley had taken a step forward as his strikeout rate spiked over 20% for the first time in his career. Those additional strikeouts were generated with the help of a slider with additional velocity and vertical movement which he threw more often. Well, his slider usage is back in line with his previous norms (although the speed and shape haven’t changed), and would you look at that, his strikeout rate has fallen back to 17%. He’s struggled to induce whiffs with either of his breaking balls but the real problem is his fastball. That pitch has lost a lot of effectiveness and batters are sporting an ISO of .215 against it.

LHP Henry Owens

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

10

16.7%

11.9%

0.0%

24.1%

3.60

3.20

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.7 mph;

37.2%

89.5 mph;

27.8%

78.5 mph;

16.7%

78.3 mph;

8.3%

73.1 mph;

10.0%

FanGraphs ranked Henry Owens the #3 prospect in the Red Sox organization and 33rd overall. He’s spent most of the year in Triple-A where he’s posted middling results. He’s always struggled with his command and his walk rate of over 10% isn’t inspiring much confidence. His strikeout rate plummeted noticeably as well but he got the call when Rick Porcello went on the disabled list. He will be making his third major league start against the Mariners on Sunday. His fastball is pretty decent, sitting 90-92 with good movement. His changeup is his best pitch and his curveball is above average. That strong three pitch mix should help him continue improving and eventually stick in a major league rotation.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

62-53

.539

-

L-L-L-L-W

Angels

60-54

.526

1.5

W-L-L-L-W

Rangers

56-57

.496

5.0

W-L-L-L-W

Mariners

54-61

.470

8.0

L-W-L-W-W

Athletics

51-65

.440

11.5

W-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Yankees

62-51

.549

+2.5

L-L-L-L-W

Angels

60-54

.526

-

W-L-L-L-W

Rays

58-56

.509

2.0

L-W-W-W-W

Orioles

57-56

.504

2.5

W-L-W-L-L

Twins

57-57

.500

3.0

L-L-W-W-L

The Blue Jays continued to set the world on fire, sweeping the Athletics at home and launching themselves atop the AL East by a half game. The Yankees snapped a five-game losing streak yesterday but now face the Canadian juggernaut over the weekend. The Angels were able to come back and defeat the indomitable Royals bullpen last night; they wrap up their four-game series against the best team in the AL this weekend. The Rays have a little hot streak going and are now just two games behind the Angels in the Wild Card race. They’ve successfully hovered around .500 all year but need some help to get over that hump; they travel to Texas to face the Rangers this weekend.