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Series Preview: Mariners (69-75) vs. Angels (72-70)

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After a disappointing weekend, the Mariners hope to play spoiler to the Angels' dwindling postseason hopes.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, September 14

7:10 pm

Angels

RHP Garrett Richards

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Tuesday, September 15

7:10 pm

Angels

RHP Nick Tropeano

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Wednesday, September 16

7:10 pm

Angels

RHP Jered Weaver

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners

Angels

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

101 (5th in AL)

95 (12th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-28.1 (12th)

-1.8 (6th)

Angels

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

107 (11th)

107 (12th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

103 (11th)

95 (8th)

Angels

After losing two of three to one of the worst teams in baseball, the Mariners slim playoff hopes were totally dashed. They’re resigned to play spoiler to the rest of the AL West for the remainder of the season.

That opportunity starts with six games against the Angels over the next two weeks. These two teams haven’t met since just before the All-Star break. A strong first half of the season has come almost completely undone after a prolonged team-wide slump in August. The Angels sit three games back in the Wild Card race and must leapfrog the Twins and the Rangers. Luckily, they play both those teams four times over the next three weeks.

The Angels:

The depths of the Angels’ August slump are pretty astounding. In August, they ran a -72 run differential. Their offense hit just .221/.281/.344 collectively and both of their high profile stars were culprits. In the American League, only the Mariners’ pitching staff gave up more runs in August than the Angels’. They’ve rebounded slightly in September and recently won two of three against the Astros.

Key Players

CF Mike Trout Mike Trout "suffered" through 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 every day. He was mired in a prolonged slump for most of August which brought his overall offensive numbers down to his career averages. Think about that, a 101 wRC+ in 29 games brought his season wRC+ down to his career average. Prior to August his wRC+ of 188 was a career high.

1B Albert Pujols Albert Pujols is enjoying his highest offensive production since 2010 when he was still with the Cardinals. After a torrid June in which his wRC+ was 207 in 27 games, he’s fallen back to earth due to an August slump. He’s pounding the ball into the ground more often in the second half the season and that’s affected his power output and BABIP. He’s also dealing with a flare up of his plantar fasciitis that has relegated him to designated hitting for the rest of the year.

RF Kole CalhounKole Calhoun has already surpassed the 3.7 fWAR he accumulated last year, making him one of the most valuable outfielders in the league. A higher strikeout rate has pulled his overall offensive numbers down but he’s still hitting for a good amount of power and walking at a league average rate. His improvements in the field have provided the most additional value. UZR thinks he’s been the second best right fielder in baseball this year but DRS has him only two runs above average this year; the reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

3B David FreeseSince a wRC+ of 132 in his breakout year in 2012, David Freese’s offensive profile has settled in at around six percent above league average. He’s regained some of the power he hasn’t seen since that breakout year but that’s been offset by a dip in BABIP. Even though his ISO is at a three year high, he’s also putting the ball on the ground more often. Defensively, a horrendous 2013 where he was one of the worst third basemen in baseball seems more like an outlier now. He’s put together two years of average defense in LA and that’s helped him recover some of his overall value.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Garrett Richards

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

174 2/3

19.5%

8.0%

10.9%

54.1%

3.71

3.79

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Slider

Curveball

96.1 mph;

48.1%

96.2 mph;

14.3%

87.8 mph;

31.8%

79.9 mph;

5.7%

Richards PA

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 but his results haven’t returned to their otherworldly levels from last year. He’s throwing his four-seam fastball much more often, but despite that pitch’s above average whiff rate, he’s seen a drop in strikeout rate. He’s also seen a bump in walk rate. Even though his peripherals are trending the wrong way, Richards has continued to cause batters to generate weak contact against him—opposing batters produce hard contact against him just 23% of the time, the sixth best mark in the majors. As long as he’s avoiding hard contact, he should continue to find success.

RHP Nick Tropeano

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

20 2/3

18.5%

4.4%

0.0%

38.8%

5.66

2.08

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

91.7 mph;

44.2%

92.1 mph;

12.8%

82.7 mph;

22.4%

80.9 mph;

20.1%

Nick Tropeano made his Major League debut against the Mariners last year while he was with the Astros. He was traded to the Angels in the offseason and has made four spot starts throughout the year. In his minor league career, he’s racked up high strikeout rates while keeping his walk rate below league average. His best pitch is his changeup and he relies on it to generate a decent amount of whiffs. His slider looks more like a curveball (it has very little horizontal break) but PITCHf/x classifies it a slider. It’s also a decent weapon for him. Since he relies so heavily on the changeup, he’s run a slight reverse platoon split in his brief career.

RHP Jered Weaver

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

137 2/3

13.2%

4.6%

9.6%

35.5%

4.71

4.72

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

84.4 mph;

26.7%

83.6 mph;

21.6%

75.4 mph;

19.0%

76.8 mph;

11.1%

67.9 mph;

21.6%

Weaver PA

Five years of declining velocity corresponds to five years of declining results. Jered Weaver’s fastball isn’t the slowest fastball in the majors (that belongs to knuckleballer R.A. Dickey) but it’s close. He’s lost the ability to generate whiffs with any of his pitches and his strikeout rate has fallen to a career low. 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 has improved his walk rate as well but he can only do so much with his deteriorating arsenal.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Astros

77-66

.538

-

L-W-L-L-W

Rangers

75-67

.528

1.5

L-L-W-L-W

Angels

72-70

.507

4.5

L-W-W-W-L

Mariners

69-75

.479

8.5

W-W-L-W-L

Athletics

61-82

.427

16.0

W-L-L-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Yankees

78-64

.549

+3.0

L-L-L-L-W

Rangers

75-67

.528

-

L-L-W-L-W

Twins

74-68

.521

1.0

L-W-W-L-W

Angels

72-70

.507

3.0

L-W-W-W-L

Indians

70-71

.496

4.5

L-W-W-W-L

The Rangers held on to their tenuous spot in the Wild Card by winning their series against the Athletics over the weekend. They have their sights on a bigger prize as they face the Astros for four games in a battle for the AL West division lead. The Twins stuck with the Rangers stride for stride over the weekend as they defeated the White Sox in Chicago. They’ll face the reeling Tigers hoping to move up in the standings.

After their disappointing showing against the Rockies, the Mariners have "fallen" to the thirteenth draft spot with eighteen games left to play. Boston has skyrocketed up the standings on the backs of a resurgent offense. That leaves the Diamondbacks and the White Sox between the Mariners and a protected draft pick.