clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (13-11) at Athletics (13-13)

New, comments

The Mariners head out on the road this week. Their first stop is in Oakland for a three-game series.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Monday, May 2 | 7:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Athletics

RHP Nathan Karns

RHP Kendall Graveman

50%

50%

Tuesday, May 3 | 7:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Athletics

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

RHP Sonny Gray

49%

51%

Wednesday, May 4 | 12:35 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Athletics

RHP Felix Hernandez

RHP Sean Manaea

56%

44%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Athletics

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

103 (5th in AL)

88 (15th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-2.7 (9th)

-10.9 (15th)

Mariners

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

95 (3rd)

121 (15th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

80 (5th)

73 (2nd)

Athletics

The last time the Mariners had a winning record in April was back in 2009. They’ve now won five straight series and memories of the first homestand of the year are in the distant past. The M’s aren’t stringing together a bunch of wins in a row either, just consistent play from every part of the team.

On the other hand, the Athletics have somehow managed to stick around .500 despite scoring the second lowest number of runs in the AL. Their position players have accumulated just 0.4 fWAR total on the year and their starting rotation hasn’t done much better. It’s their completely overhauled bullpen that’s helped them stave off disaster. Their run differential isn’t actually that bad, only -9, so it’s not like they’re playing way over their heads. I wouldn’t expect another sweep in this series, by either team.

The Athletics:

With this series, the A’s are finishing up a 16-game stretch where they’ve gone 7-6. Their starting rotation has been struck by a few injuries, including potential Tommy John surgery for Chris Bassitt. Luckily for them, they’ve got some pretty good depth to draw from including their top pitching prospect Sean Manaea who will start on Wednesday. Over the weekend, they joined the rest of the AL West in beating up the Astros, winning two of three at home.

Key Players

LF Khris Davis Since his debut in 2013, Khris Davis has posted an ISO of .236, a mark better than Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Abreu. And like you’d expect from any power hitter, his strikeout rate is very high. It’s not prohibitively high but it definitely limits his ceiling. Last year, he was able to almost double his walk rate which made him a much more rounded threat at the plate. A slow start this year has seen him give back all of the improvements and more.

C Stephen Vogt Last year, Stephen Vogt posted an offensive line 15% better than league average, the best mark for a catcher in the American League. But if you look a little closer, it was a tale of two halves. Prior to the All-Star break, Vogt posted a Posey-esque slash line of .287/.374/.498. In the second half of the season, he completely collapsed and his offensive production fell well below league average. Neither his outstanding first half nor his terrible second half is reflective of his true talent level. It’s a good bet he’ll post another above average offensive season for the A’s, they’re just hoping it comes more consistently than last year.

3B Chris Coghlan Way back in 2009, Chris Coghlan won the NL Rookie of the Year award with the Marlins. He just couldn’t replicate the same kind of performance he enjoyed in his debut season and found himself tossed aside by Miami just a few years later. He caught on with the Cubs and immediately found new life as righty-mashing, utility player. He’s accumulated 5.4 fWAR since 2014, seen time at five different positions, and posted an offensive line 14% better than league average. With Danny Valencia on the disabled list, he’s been the A’s regular third baseman but he’ll see time all over the diamond once Valencia returns.

RF Josh Reddick – Since joining the Athletics in 2012, Josh Reddick has lowered his strikeout rate every year like clockwork. He whiffed just 6.2% last year and made contact at a career high rate. But his transformation into a high-contact hitter hasn’t come at the expense of his power. His isolated power hasn’t dropped below .150 and he’s averaged .183 during his time in Oakland. His above average offensive line combined with his strong defense makes him one of the best right fielders in the game.

CF Billy Burns – Billy Burns makes contact at a similar rate as Josh Reddick, but his hits don’t leave the park. In his first full season in the majors, Burns swung at the first pitch more often than any other player. That aggressiveness and his plus plus speed helped him post a .294 batting average but his ability to draw a walk suffered because of it. He had strong walk rates in the minors so a higher on-base percentage isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. More concerning is his 20.7% infield fly ball rate, second highest in the majors. He can’t leg out popups so he’ll need to figure out how to avoid them to maintain his high batting average on balls in play.

SS Marcus Semien – When the Athletics acquired Marcus Semien from the White Sox in exchange for Jeff Samardzija, he was a second baseman who had an impressive offensive résumé. The A’s decided to try him out at shortstop where his offense would be a huge asset. Instead, he committed more errors than any other player and cost the Athletics almost a full win on defense per UZR. He worked intensively with infield guru Ron Washington during the year and his defensive play improved as the year went on. An average defender at short combined with an above average offensive line makes for a very valuable piece.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Kendall Graveman (2016 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

22 1/3

20.0%

7.4%

25.0%

58.8%

4.03

5.20

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

92.8 mph;

5.8%

92.2 mph;

40.1%

87.4 mph;

29.7%

85.3 mph;

10.3%

79.0 mph;

14.1%

Graveman PA

Kendall Graveman came over in the Josh Donaldson trade and quickly established himself as a back end starter for the Athletics last year. He’s able to combine a great ground ball rate with good command to drive his ERA lower than you might expect. Much of that is driven by the heavy sinker he throws a majority of the time. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have the weapons in his arsenal to maintain a high strikeout rate. His cutter generates a decent amount of whiffs and he’s throwing it more often this year leading to a slight bump in strikeouts early this season. Despite keeping the ball on the ground often, he’s been plagued by a case of dinger-itis which has pushed his career FIP above 4.50.

RHP Sonny Gray (2016 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

28 1/3

21.5%

12.4%

15.0%

60.8%

3.81

4.29

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

93.0 mph;

43.4%

93.0 mph;

21.4%

90.1 mph;

2.4%

88.6 mph;

10.0%

85.0 mph;

8.6%

81.2 mph;

14.3%

Gray PA

If Kendall Graveman could figure out how to strikeout an above average amount of batters, he would look an awful lot like Sonny Gray. That may be simplifying it a bit too much. Gray has been able to outperform his defense-independent peripherals by limiting walks and forcing batters to pound the ball into the ground. He’s also been able to evolve his signature curveball into a slider that generates a good amount of whiffs. Those two breaking balls and his sinker give him three plus weapons in his arsenal. He’s lost a few ticks off his fastball this year and has given up an uncharacteristically high amount of walks. Both could be indicators of injury—or just early season struggles.

RHP Sean Manaea (2016 Stats - Triple-A/MLB)

IP

K%

BB%

ERA

FIP

23

25.3%

8.4%

2.74

2.97

Sean Manaea was acquired by the Athletics in the Ben Zobrist trade last year and immediately leapt to the top of the organization’s prospect lists. Across three levels in 2015, he was able to post a 2.95 ERA with an excellent strikeout rate at every stop. He was aggressively assigned to Triple-A to start this year and rewarded the A’s with three excellent starts for Nashville. He made his major league debut against the Astros this past weekend and was knocked around a bit. His best pitch is his fastball, which can reach up to the mid-90s. He has a slider and changeup that have both shown promise but are inconsistent pitches for him at this point.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

14-11

.560

-

W-W-W-W-L

Mariners

13-11

.542

0.5

W-L-W-W-L

Athletics

13-13

.500

1.5

L-L-W-W-L

Angels

12-13

.480

2.0

W-W-L-L-W

Astros

8-17

.320

6.0

L-W-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Tigers

14-10

.583

-

W-W-W-W-W

Orioles

14-10

.583

-

W-W-W-L-L

Mariners

13-11

.542

1.0

W-L-W-W-L

Royals

13-11

.542

1.0

L-L-L-L-W

Athletics

13-13

.500

2.0

L-L-W-W-L

The Rangers had their four-game winning streak broken by the Angels last night. They’re barely holding onto the top spot in the AL West and travel to Toronto for a four-game series to start the week. The Angels travel to Milwaukee to face one of the worst teams in the National League. The Astros host the only other American League team with a worse record than they have, the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers have leapt to the front of the Wild Card race on the heels of a five-game winning streak; they'll play in Cleveland against the struggling Indians.