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Series Preview: Mariners (7-8) at Angels (7-9)

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The Mariners wrap up their first long road trip of the year with a three-game series in Anaheim.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Friday, April 22

7:05 pm

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Angels

RHP Nick Tropeano

Saturday, April 23

6:05 pm

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Angels

LHP Hector Santiago

Sunday, April 24

12:35 pm

Mariners

LHP Wade Miley

Angels

RHP Matt Shoemaker

Mariners (2015)

Angels (2015)

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

101 (5th in AL)

97 (10th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-23.6 (13th)

18.0 (5th)

Angels

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

106 (11th)

109 (14th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

103 (10th)

93 (8th)

Angels

The Mariners have gotten off to a great start on the road early this season. In nine games away from Safeco Field, they have a +20 run differential. It isn’t just the offense playing up outside of the run suppressing environment in Safeco either. The pitching staff has posted a 2.73/3.77/4.19 pitcher slash line on the road. Sure, they’ve enjoyed some good batted ball luck and have stranded more than their fair share of runners, but it’s still nice to see a string of good games on the road after that disastrous homestand.

Injuries have already started to take their toll on the Angels. Promising lefty Andrew Heaney was sidelined with a forearm injury after just one start and the strong side of their left field platoon, Daniel Nava, was placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. The Angels’ margin to make the playoffs was already so razor thin so these injuries aren’t a great way to get the year started.

The Angels:

The Angels have had an odd start to their season. They swept the Athletics to begin the second week of play only to be swept by the previously winless Twins the very next series. Both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols have gotten off to slow starts, though Trout has shown signs of life recently. They’re coming off their own long road trip where they recently split a four-game series with the White Sox.

Key Players

CF Mike Trout Since 2012, Mike Trout has accounted for 35% of the Angels’ position player fWAR. That should tell you all you need to know about his importance to this team. There just aren’t many holes in his game with his strikeout rate being the only thing you can criticize, but after a big spike in 2014, he was able to lower his strikeout rate by three points last year. He’s even managed to improve his defensive metrics in center field. Only the ascent of Bryce Harper can challenge his place atop the baseball hierarchy.

SS Andrelton Simmons The only thing standing between Andrelton Simmons and stardom is a league average batting line. He’s unquestionably the best defensive shortstop in the game, saving more runs per DRS than any other defender since his debut. In his first full season in the majors, he posted a 91 wRC+ with an impressive display of power. That year, he was extremely pull happy, hitting just 17.3% of his balls in play to the opposite field. His pull rate has steadily declined since then and his power has disappeared along with it. A spike in line drive rate helped him regain some offensive value last year but he just doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to be a slap hitter with a decent batting average.

DH Albert Pujols Albert Pujols enjoyed a massive power rebound last year, as he launched 40 home runs pushing his isolated slugging back over .200. A lingering foot injury sapped him of any speed on the basepaths and a line drive rate of just 15.9% meant that his batting average on balls in play was a paltry .217 however. That injury is still nagging him and he’s gotten off to a very slow start this year, hitting just .148/.224/.262.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Nick Tropeano (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

37 2/3

23.6%

6.2%

4.5%

38.5%

3.82

2.60

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Slider

91.5 mph;

56.2%

82.7 mph;

21.1%

80.5 mph;

20.0%

Tropeano PA
In his limited time in the majors, Nick Tropeano has shown off some tantalizing potential. His excellent secondary pitches help him cover up a fastball that is average at best. His changeup and slider both have whiff rates over 40% and allow him to run strikeout rates upwards of 20%. His pedestrian fastball has held him back from truly taking advantage of his full potential. His batted ball profile leans heavily towards fly balls and he struggled with a home run problem in the minors. That hasn’t been the case in the majors and you have to believe his career 2.1% home run rate will regress towards league average sooner or later.

LHP Hector Santiago (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

180 2/3

20.9%

9.2%

10.2%

29.9%

3.59

4.77

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

90.9 mph;

61.0%

86.9 mph;

10.4%

83.4 mph;

16.5%

80.5 mph;

6.9%

74.7 mph;

5.1%

Santiago PA

Last year, no other American League pitcher threw more four-seam fastballs than Hector Santiago. He’s added some velocity to the pitch this year and is throwing it even more often. After his last start in Chicago, he said, "I'm just gonna throw heaters. Prove to me you can hit it, and I'll start pitching." With his fastball heavy approach comes a ton of fly balls—only Chris Young had a lower ground ball rate last year. A lot of those fly balls leave the park but the ones that don’t turn into outs more often than not. That’s helped him outperform his average peripherals year after year pushing his career ERA a full run lower than his career FIP.

RHP Matt Shoemaker (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

135 1/3

20.4%

6.2%

14.0%

39.2%

4.46

4.59

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

90.8 mph;

31.9%

90.5 mph;

24.1%

84.3 mph;

21.5%

81.9 mph;

14.2%

75.7 mph;

7.5%

Shoemaker PA

After a very promising debut in 2014, Matt Shoemaker took a big step back last year. His strikeout-to-walk ratio fell from 5.2 to 3.3 and he could not keep the ball in the park. With a history of bad home run rates during his minor league career and a fly ball heavy batted ball profile, it’s unlikely Shoemaker will ever regain the heights of 2014. Still, his decent strikeout and walk rates will allow him to survive toward the back of the Angels rotation.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

10-6

.625

-

L-W-W-W-W

Athletics

9-7

.563

1.0

W-W-W-W-W

Mariners

7-8

.467

2.5

W-L-L-W-W

Angels

7-9

.438

3.0

L-W-L-L-W

Astros

5-11

.313

5.0

L-W-L-L-L

Are the Astros back to being the Lastros? After a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rangers, Houston is tied with the Twins for the worst record in the American League. They return home to face the similarly disappointing Red Sox. The Rangers hope to continue their winning streak in Chicago against the White Sox. The other hot team in the AL West is the Athletics. They just completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees in New York and are in Toronto this weekend.