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Series Preview: Mariners (21-13) vs. Angels (13-21)

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The Mariners look to continue to beat up on their division rivals in a three-game series against the Angels.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Friday, May 13 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Angels

Mariners

RHP Nick Tropeano

RHP Nathan Karns

41%

59%

Saturday, May 14 | 6:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Angels

Mariners

RHP Jhoulys Chacin

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

40%

60%

Sunday, May 15 | 1:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Angels

Mariners

LHP Hector Santiago

RHP Felix Hernandez

39%

61%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Angels

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

108 (3rd in AL)

93 (10th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-13.8 (14th)

11.3 (4th)

Angels

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

102 (8th)

127 (14th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

80 (4th)

101 (11th)

Mariners

With their walk-off win on Wednesday, the Mariners improved their record in extra-innings games to 5-1 and their record in one-run games to 8-5. It hasn’t been the bats that have come through in these close games, it’s been the bullpen. As a group, the relief corps have produced the highest Win Probability Added of any team in baseball, and it’s not really close either. Yes, some of their peripherals indicate regression may be coming, but they’ve also performed really well when the Mariners needed it most. Guess which batter leads the majors in Win Probability Added? It’s Robinson Cano!

The Angels:

Heading into the season, I said that an injury to Mike Trout was the Angels’ worst-case scenario. It turns out injuries to everyone except Mike Trout was the worst-case scenario. Three-fifths of their projected starting rotation is on the 60-day disabled list with their best starter facing Tommy John surgery. Their big offseason acquisition will be out for a couple of months and their closer will probably miss all of May. They’re in the midst of a six-game losing streak, struggling through consecutive sweeps at the hands of the Rays and the Cardinals.

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 only 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. Unfortunately for the Angels, Simmons tore a ligament in his thumb and will miss the next two months.

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 .185/.261/.347.

RF Kole Calhoun Kole Calhoun was finally able to play through an entire year without any major injuries but his offensive production took a dive after establishing a profile 25% better than league average the previous two years. A big jump in his strikeout rate and falling walk rate seemed to be the main culprits. He’s managed to lower his strikeout rate back to his previous norms and has raised his walk rate this year, and all of a sudden his offensive production is back to 25% better than league average. Combine his good bat with excellent defense in right field and the Angels have a very nice compliment to Mike Trout.

3B Yunel Escobar Last year, Yunel Escobar threw caution to the wind and started swinging at almost half the pitches he saw, whether or not they were in the zone. His contact rate in the zone and out of the zone barely moved and this newfound aggression helped him post an offensive line 20% better than league average. He’s been even more aggressive this year and his contact rate still hasn’t moved. He’s also hitting for more power than ever before which has helped him post the highest wRC+ of his career. It’s an interesting career path for a 33-year-old but it seems like it’s paid off.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Nick Tropeano

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

31 2/3

25.2%

11.9%

14.0%

29.5%

3.69

4.88

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Splitter

Slider

91.7 mph;

50.1%

82.9 mph;

20.8%

80.4 mph;

3.5%

80.9 mph;

25.7%

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.

RHP Jhoulys Chacin

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

26 2/3

23.1%

6.8%

17.4%

48.1%

5.40

3.91

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

90.9 mph;

25.8%

89.9 mph;

29.3%

88.0 mph;

16.5%

84.7 mph;

7.7%

82.4 mph;

13.7%

78.8 mph;

7.0%

Jhoulys Chacin spent six years in Colorado showing some ability to generate strikeouts and groundballs. Poor command and the realities of pitching a mile above sea level limited his upside. After his first full season of play in 2010, his strikeout rate never again reached 20% and he even lost some of his ability to keep the ball on the ground. After washing out of the Indians and Diamondbacks organizations, he signed a minor league contract with the Braves this spring. He’s still only 28 years old and the five starts he’s made this year have looked promising. He’s striking out batters again and he’s improved his walk rate. The Angels traded for him a few days ago and he’ll be making his first start for his new team on Saturday.

LHP Hector Santiago

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

42

19.2%

8.5%

12.3%

40.2%

4.07

4.70

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.3 mph;

61.0%

89.4 mph;

1.4%

84.1 mph;

24.3%

81.9 mph;

10.0%

75.7 mph;

3.4%

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 ball 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.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Mariners

21-13

.618

-

W-L-W-W-W

Rangers

20-15

.571

1.5

W-W-L-W-W

Athletics

14-21

.400

7.5

L-L-L-L-L

Astros

14-22

.389

8.0

W-W-L-W-L

Angels

13-21

.382

8.0

L-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Red Sox

22-13

.629

+2.0

W-W-W-W-W

Rangers

20-15

.571

-

W-W-L-W-W

Indians

16-15

.516

2.0

L-W-L-W-L

Blue Jays

18-18

.500

2.5

L-L-W-W-L

Royals

16-18

.471

3.5

L-L-L-W-L

Outside of the Mariners and Rangers, the rest of the AL West is in free fall mode. The Astros managed to climb out of the cellar with a series win against the Indians. Unfortunately, they’re in Boston over the weekend facing the best offense in the majors and they already lost the first game of the four-game series 11-1. The Athletics have won just a single game in the month of May and have allowed 51 runs in their last four games. They’re in Tampa this weekend facing the Rays. The Rangers managed to keep pace with the Mariners by taking two of three from the White Sox; they’ll host the Blue Jays over the weekend.