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Series Preview: Mariners (68-73) vs. Rockies (58-82)

In their last interleague matchup of the year, the Mariners host the Rockies this weekend.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, September 11

7:10 pm

Rockies

RHP Chad Bettis

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Saturday, September 12

6:10 pm

Rockies

LHP Yohan Flande

Mariners

LHP Roenis Elias

Sunday, September 13

1:10 pm

Rockies

RHP Kyle Kendrick

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Mariners

Rockies

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

102 (4th in AL)

95 (12th in NL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-24.7 (12th)

15.1 (10th)

Rockies

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

108 (12th)

117 (14th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

105 (11th)

99 (10th)

Rockies

The Mariners have continued to play well enough to stick around on the fringes of the Wild Card race. Salvaging the last two games from their series against the Rangers helped them stay six games back with twenty-one games left to play. While making the playoffs would still be a minor miracle, the mediocrity of the American League has continued to give us a glimmer of hope where there should be none. Facing the cellar dwellers of the NL West this weekend should help maintain that glimmer.

The Mariners’ park adjusted offense is now above league average for the first time this year. It’s also the fourth best mark in the American League and tenth best in baseball. While their stretch of hot play has been driven almost completely by the offense, the pitching staff has also helped by allowing just 4.1 runs per game over the last ten games, an improvement over their season average of 4.5 runs allowed per game.

The Rockies:

The Mariners faced the Rockies a month ago in Colorado where they took two of three from them and were an inning away from sweeping the series. In the month since that series, the Rockies have fallen further in the standings and now have the fourth worst record in the majors (or, put another way, the fourth pick in next year’s draft). They’ve recently split three consecutive four-game series with their division rivals (the Diamondbacks, the Giants, and the Padres).

Key Players

3B Nolan Arenado Nolan Arenado has slowly improved every aspect of his game in his three years in the majors. Maybe that’s why his breakout this year has flown under the radar, because it’s just the natural progression of his development. His power output has exploded and he’s on pace to double his home run total from last year. His defense at third base is elite and he’s only a few months older than Mike Trout. His emergence is one of the main reasons the Rockies didn’t completely reset before the trade deadline.

RF Carlos Gonzalez There were many who expected the Rockies to trade Carlos Gonzalez before the trade deadline. He’s signed for just two more years and injuries have taken their toll on his playing time and his performance. He’s enjoyed a fairly healthy season this year but his offensive totals aren’t anywhere near his previous peaks. He’s also played much better as the season has gone on and could see a resurgence the farther away he gets from his injury-riddled year last year.

CF Charlie Blackmon Charlie Blackmon was a revelation last year. He raced out to a 115 wRC+ in the first half of 2014 before falling back to earth in the second half. His improvements we’re a mirage however. He almost doubled his walk rate last year and has almost doubled it again this year. He’s cut his whiff rate from 8.7% to 6.5% while maintaining his high contact rate. Now that he’s getting on base at a much higher rate, he’s become a much better leadoff man for the Rockies.

2B DJ LeMahieuOnce a part-time utility infielder, DJ LeMahieu has slowly improved his play during his five years in the majors. This year, a high BABIP of .383 has helped him post a league average offensive line and the best offensive output of his career. Some of that BABIP luck is driven by an increase in the amount of line drives he’s hitting. He’s also cut down on his whiff rate by swinging at pitches outside the zone less often and his walk rate is the highest it’s ever been. A decent glove at a key infield position has helped him accumulate 2.7 fWAR, second highest among NL second basemen.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Chad Bettis

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

91

18.5%

8.2%

13.8%

49.3%

4.95

4.24

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.6 mph;

47.0%

91.7 mph;

12.1%

85.5 mph;

16.3%

87.1 mph;

7.4%

74.7 mph;

17.3%

Bettis

Chad Bettis was the Rockies’ second round pick in the 2010 draft. His development has been hampered by a number of injuries including shoulder injury that forced him to miss all of 2012. He’s bounced between the rotation and the bullpen in his career and hadn’t excellent in either role until this year. He’s finally healthy and some of the skills that he showed off as a fringe prospect are now showing up in the majors. He’s added a sinker and a curveball to his repertoire which diversifies his options when attacking batters. Those improvements have helped him increase his strikeout rate and his ground ball rate.

LHP Yohan Flande

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

60

15.3%

8.2%

26.7%

62.8%

4.65

5.54

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Slider

91.1 mph;

52.5%

85.5 mph;

27.0%

85.0 mph;

18.7%

Flande PA

Yohan Flande is a bit of an enigma. Among all starters who have pitched at least 60 innings, his ground ball rate is second highest in baseball. However, his home run rate is by far the highest in baseball and it isn’t even close. More than a quarter of the fly balls batters hit off him leave the yard. And this unbelievably high home run rate isn’t a product of Coors Field either; his home run rate on the road is twice as high as it is at home! When he’s pitching away from the "friendly" confines of home, two out of every five fly balls is jacked out of the park. That’s…well, that’s just bad.

RHP Kyle Kendrick

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

122 1/3

11.9%

7.0%

17.5%

38.8%

6.25

6.16

Pitches

Sinker

Cutter

Splitter

Curveball

89.6 mph;

44.0%

87.0 mph;

24.4%

82.1 mph;

20.8%

79.1 mph;

6.9%

Kendrick PA

Since 2010, Kyle Kendrick has pitched 958 innings in the majors—44th most in that time frame. In those 958 innings, he’s accumulated just 3.8 fWAR. That is by far the worst fWAR per inning ratio among any pitcher who has pitched anywhere near the amount of innings Kendrick has pitched (Bronson Arroyo and Jeremy Guthrie come closest). He signed with the Rockies this offseason to fill innings and he’s at least done that capably. As an extreme fly ball pitcher, pitching in the thin air of Denver has pushed his home run rate sky high.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

76-64

.543

-

L-W-L-L-W

Rangers

73-66

.525

2.5

L-W-W-L-L

Angels

70-69

.504

5.5

L-W-L-L-W

Mariners

68-73

.482

8.5

W-L-L-W-W

Athletics

60-80

.429

16.0

L-L-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Yankees

77-61

.558

+4.5

L-W-W-L-L

Rangers

73-66

.525

-

L-W-W-L-L

Twins

72-67

.518

1.0

W-L-W-L-W

Angels

70-69

.504

3.0

L-W-L-L-W

Indians

69-70

.496

4.0

W-W-L-W-W

The Athletics helped out the rest of the AL West by winning two of three against the Astros, snapping their five-game losing streak. Unfortunately, the Twins were able to win a series against the Royals and continue to sit just behind the Rangers in the Wild Card race. The Angels were able to salvage a game in their series against the Dodgers. The Indians have quietly climbed to within a game of .500 and are now sitting just four games back of the second Wild Card spot.

This weekend, the series with the most playoff implications for the Mariners is the Angels-Astros series. To keep that glimmer of hope alive, the Angels have to continue to fall in the standings and so rooting for the Astros is in the Mariners best interest. The Rangers host the Athletics over the weekend, hoping to solidify their hold on their playoff spot. The Twins travel to Chicago to face the White Sox and the Indians got a four-game series against the Tigers started last night.