clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (9-9) vs. Houston (6-13)

New, comments

The Mariners return home to face the Astros after a very successful road trip.

Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, April 25

7:10 pm

Astros

RHP Doug Fister

Mariners

RHP Taijuan Walker

Tuesday, April 26

7:10 pm

Astros

LHP Dallas Keuchel

Mariners

RHP Nathan Karns

Wednesday, April 27

7:10 pm

Astros

RHP Collin McHugh

Mariners

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners (2016)

Astros (2016)

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

100 (7th in AL)

117 (2nd in AL)

Astros

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-5.7 (13th)

-0.4 (10th)

Astros

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

108 (9th)

110 (10th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

87 (6th)

100 (10th)

Mariners

We’re almost a month into the season and many team stats are starting to stabilize. I’ve included stats for this season above and I’ve included a first look at the Wild Card standings down below. I’m still working with last year’s numbers for the probable pitchers for now.

After winning their first four road series, the Mariners need to find a way to transfer that success to Safeco Field. They’ll face a stiff challenge during this homestand, hosting the Astros and the Royals for three games each. Looking at the categories above, the part of the roster that worried us the most during the offseason has been one of the best in the American League. The bullpen has the second highest strikeout rate in the American League and has held opposing batters to just a .161 batting average.

Heading into the season, the Astros were receiving so much hype, it felt like they were already crowned division champions. There were a few areas on their roster that were concerning but no one expected such a slow start from them. The main reason behind their struggles? Their rotation. As a group, they’re last in the American League in strikeout rate and they have the worst batting average on balls in play in the league. That combination has led to a lot of runs against them and a -20 run differential.

The Astros:

The Astros have not been able to create any kind of sustained success this year. Their six wins are spread out between a couple of three-game losing streaks and a four-game streak. They’ve played worse on the road this year, with a -18 run differential away from Houston, though much of that comes from their 16-6 loss to New York in the second game of the season. They lost a twelve-inning game against the Red Sox yesterday that ended just past midnight.

Key Players

SS Carlos Correa Carlos Correa took baseball by storm last year. He was called up at the start of June and compiled 3.3 fWAR in just four months. He showed off his power, his speed, and his hitting prowess with an offensive performance 33% better than league average. He’s just 21 years old so we should expect some ups and downs but he also has a lot of room to grow. He hasn’t even played a full season in the majors yet and he’s already one of the best shortstops in the game.

2B Jose Altuve When you think about Jose Altuve, I’m guessing you immediately think of a short, slap-hitting, speedster who won the batting title in 2014. That same player has already hit five home runs this year pushing his isolated power all the way up to .303. It’s not all small sample size noise either. He’s increased his average exit velocity from a very poor 86.2 mph to a very good 93.4 mph, comparing favorably to Bryce Harper and Nelson Cruz. Altuve probably won’t be able to maintain such a high ISO, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him crack 20 home runs this year.

1B Tyler White First base was a position of some concern for the Astros this offseason. It seemed like there were no good internal candidates to hold the position until A.J. Reed was ready for the show. Enter Tyler White. He emphatically won the competition during spring training and has been one of the best rookie hitters in baseball so far. He was more known for his ability to control the strike zone during his minor league career rather than his ability to hit for power. Well he’s striking out more than a quarter of the time in the majors but his isolated power is a robust .306. Like Altuve, he probably won’t end the year with an ISO over .300.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Doug Fister (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

103

14.0%

5.4%

12.0%

44.6%

4.19

4.55

Pitches

Sinker

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

86.7 mph;

69.8%

79.1 mph;

12.6%

82.1 mph;

10.5%

71.7 mph;

6.8%

Fister PA

Doug Fister’s success is closely tied to the velocity of his fastball. In years where his fastball averaged over 89 mph, his average FIP was 3.34; in years where he threw slower than that threshold, his average FIP is a ghastly 4.66. Fister’s walk rate is still well above average but he’s developed a home run problem as his fastball has deteriorated. The Astros had to be encouraged to see Fister hitting 90 mph during spring training this year. But in his three starts during the regular season, his fastball has averaged 86 mph, matching his average velocity from last year. I think you can guess how those three starts have gone for him.

LHP Dallas Keuchel (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

232

23.7%

5.6%

13.6%

61.7%

2.48

2.91

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

90.4 mph;

6.7%

90.5 mph;

49.8%

87.3 mph;

9.9%

79.7 mph;

13.8%

80.2 mph;

19.8%

Keuchel PA

The reigning Cy Young award winner has struggled out of the gate this year. Dallas Keuchel lived at the bottom of the zone with his sinker and got more called strikes on pitches outside of the zone than any other pitcher. With the strike zone under so much scrutiny—particularly the low strike—it was only a matter of time before the league adjusted to Keuchel’s game plan. Batters are also swinging at his pitches outside of the zone less frequently leading to a big leap in walk rate. To compensate, he’s pitching in the zone a little bit more frequently but has lost a tick or two of velocity off all of his pitches. It all adds up to a profile that’s pretty good, but not the Cy Young caliber pitcher we saw last year.

RHP Collin McHugh (2015 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

203 2/3

19.9%

6.2%

8.9%

45.4%

3.89

3.58

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

91.3 mph;

33.3%

87.6 mph;

38.9%

83.2 mph;

4.3%

73.6 mph;

23.4%

McHugh PA

In 2014, Collin McHugh came out of nowhere to strikeout more than a quarter of the batters he faced across 25 starts for the Astros. Last year, his strikeout rate fell to just under 20% and batters learned to key in on his cutter—he allowed a .309 batting average off the pitch—driving his ERA up by more than a run. Despite all the hits he was allowing, he was able to keep the ball in the yard, helping him keep his FIP at a very good level. He was still very stingy with the walks and his fastball and curveball were as good as ever. With those two weapons in his arsenal, he’s good enough to continue to post a FIP around 3.50.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Athletics

10-9

.526

-

W-W-W-L-L

Rangers

10-9

.526

-

W-W-L-L-L

Mariners

9-9

.500

0.5

L-W-W-L-W

Angels

8-11

.421

2.0

L-W-L-W-L

Astros

6-13

.316

4.0

L-L-L-W-L


The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Royals

12-6

.667

+2.0

L-W-W-L-W

Indians

9-7

.563

-

W-L-W-W-W

Rangers

10-9

.526

0.5

W-W-L-L-L

Toronto

10-10

.500

1.0

L-L-L-W-W

Mariners

9-9

.500

1.0

L-W-W-L-W

The Athletics had their six-game winning streak snapped and lost their first game on the road this year on Saturday. They’re in the midst of a 16-game stretch without an off day and will start the week in Detroit for a four-game series. After sweeping the Astros at home, the Rangers were swept themselves by the White Sox in Chicago. They return home to face the Yankees. The Angels are hosting the Royals for three games.