clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (2-4) vs. Rangers (3-4)

New, comments

The Mariners wrap up their first homestand of the year by hosting a familiar foe.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Mariners

7:10 pm

Rangers

RHP Colby Lewis

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners

7:10 pm

Rangers

LHP Derek Holland

Mariners

LHP Wade Miley

Mariners

12:40 pm

Rangers

RHP A.J. Griffin

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Mariners (2015)

Rangers (2015)

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

101 (5th in AL)

96 (12th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-23.6 (13th)

20.8 (4th)

Rangers

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

106 (11th)

106 (10th)

Rangers

Bullpen (FIP-)

103 (10th)

103 (9th)

Rangers

That was a discouraging way to start the first homestand of the year. The Mariners have faced a left-handed starter in two-thirds of their games so far in this young season; as a team, they’ve hit just .170/.282/.358 against southpaws. For the first time since joining the Rangers, Cole Hamels isn’t scheduled to start in a series against the Mariners. Instead, the Mariners draw the two righties in the Rangers’ rotation. Texas split a four-game series against the Angels over the weekend.

Here’s what I wrote about the Rangers just a week ago: After a mediocre first half of the season, the Rangers started playing excellent baseball at just the right time. The addition of Cole Hamels certainly helped, but in August and September, their offense was as good as any other in the American League. These two team had surprisingly similar pitching staffs last year. The Rangers are hoping for healthy years from oft injured starters like Derek Holland and Martin Perez and Yu Darvish will be returning from Tommy John surgery later this year. If healthy, their starting rotation should be much better than the collection of starters they used last year.

The Rangers:

The injury bug has already hit the Rangers this year. A strained calf muscle has sidelined Shin-Soo Choo for a month and Robinson Chirinos fractured his forearm after being hit by a pitch. To replace Choo, the Rangers have called up one of their top prospects, Nomar Mazara. Their catching situation is a little more dire. There are no internal candidates who seem like they could step into the role, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rangers look outside their organization again to fill this new hole.

Key Players

RF Nomar Mazara – Shin-Soo Choo’s injury has opened up an opportunity for the 20-year-old Nomar Mazara. He’s been a top prospect in the Rangers organization since being signed as a 16 year old in 2011. He’s only accumulated 101 plate appearances at Triple-A so the jump to the majors will be a big test for him. But as a highly advanced hitter with a smooth swing and excellent power, his ceiling is through the roof. He got off to a quick start in his debut, going 3-for-4 with a mammoth home run off Jered Weaver.

DH Prince FielderAfter his potentially career-threatening neck injury in 2014, Prince Fielder barely missed a step in his return to the field. He played in 158 games last year and put up a .305/.378/.463 slash line. His isolated power dipped to the lowest full season mark of his career and we can probably expect 20+ home runs a year instead of the 30+ we saw earlier this decade. His batting average looks like it was supported by a high BABIP without a significant change in his batted ball profile. A regressing BABIP and maybe a little bit more power should give Fielder an offensive line around 25% above average again.

2B Rougned Odor With Robinson Cano and Jose Altuve playing in the same division, it can be easy to forget that Rougned Odor has the talent to be better than both of them. Last year, he played his way out of a job early in the year and then played his way right back onto the team. From June 15—the day he was recalled from Triple-A—through the end of the season, Odor hit .292/.334/.527 good for a 126 wRC+. He’s just 22 years old and his performance over the last four months of the year indicate a high ceiling for him. He may not reach that ceiling this year, but he should be a core piece for the Rangers for years to come.

LF Ian Desmond Ian Desmond’s ability to transition to the outfield is certainly something to watch for early this year but his offensive woes may be more important to the Rangers success. After breaking out in 2012 with a 128 wRC+, Desmond’s offensive abilities have slowly deteriorated. Last year he managed just an 83 wRC+ while striking out almost 30% of the time. He’s still capable of hitting for power, and his new home park should help too, but as long as his strikeout rate is climbing, his overall offensive contributions will be limited.

3B Adrian Beltre Here’s a thing about Adrian Beltre: He tore a ligament in his thumb on May 31 and spent 21 days on the disabled list. That isn’t nearly enough time to heal from that kind of injury but instead of struggling to hit for the rest of the season, he slashed .305/.357/.479 over the last four months of the year. He’ll turn 37 on Thursday, but he’s still one of the best third basemen in the league and he’s ready to add to his Hall of Fame résumé.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Colby Lewis (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

204 2/3

16.5%

4.9%

8.9%

33.7%

4.66

4.17

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

89.4 mph;

37.0%

88.3 mph;

13.8%

84.2 mph;

6.0%

83.6 mph;

35.2%

77.9 mph;

7.9%

Lewis_PA

The consummate innings eater returns to the Rangers for another year in the middle of their rotation. By his standards, Colby Lewis actually had a very good year last year. He posted a top 10 walk rate and was able to keep the ball in the yard more often. His strikeout rate took a dive and he struggled to keep runners from scoring leading to a 4.66 ERA. His extreme fly ball rate will prevent him from posting a similar home run rate so he’ll need to maintain his improved walk rate and see a bounce back in strikeout rate if he wants to repeat his success. More likely is another year with a FIP around 4.50 at the back of the Rangers’ rotation.

LHP Derek Holland (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

58 2/3

16.7%

6.9%

17.5%

41.9%

4.91

5.30

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

94.3 mph;

37.0%

93.6 mph;

22.5%

86.1 mph;

9.1%

83.5 mph;

18.9%

77.9 mph;

12.6%

Holland PA

Derek Holland hasn’t made more than 10 starts in a year since making 33 in 2013. A knee injury wiped out most of his 2014 season and he strained a muscle in his back in his first start of the 2015 season. When he was healthy, he combined a decent strikeout rate with an ability to limit walks. Unfortunately, he’s also prone to the long ball and it’s dogged him throughout his career. He built a lot of his prior success on the strength of his slider, but he’s moved away from the pitch in favor of a curveball. Without his one plus pitch, he’s just a back-of-the-rotation starter with a dinger problem.

RHP A.J. Griffin (2013 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

200

20.8%

6.6%

12.5%

32.1%

3.83

4.55

Another injury-prone starter with a dinger problem, A.J. Griffin has found new life as the Rangers’ fifth starter. Tommy John surgery wiped out all of 2014 and most of 2015 for Griffin and he made just four minor league starts last year. He has a career strikeout-to-walk ratio over three but a big case of homer-itis has limited his potential. Because he’s so far removed from his last healthy season, it’s hard to know what to expect from him. His repertoire consists of a rising fastball, a good cutter, and a slow, looping curveball. He doesn’t have enough velocity to take advantage of the rising action of his fastball so hitters can square it up very easily. He’s an odd fit for the Rangers but he’s most likely out of a job when Yu Darvish returns mid-season.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

4-3

.571

-

W-L-W-W-W

Rangers

3-4

.429

1.0

L-L-W-W-L

Mariners

2-4

.333

1.5

W-W-L-L-L

Angels

2-4

.333

1.5

L-W-L-L-W

Astros

2-4

.333

1.5

L-L-L-W-L

With their sweep of the Mariners, the Athletics have taken an early lead in the division. They begin a three-game series at home against the Angels. The Astros are one of the last few teams to make their home debut in the second week of the season; they begin a four-game series against the reigning world champion Royals.