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Series Preview: Mariners (28-21) vs. Padres (20-31)

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The Mariners take on their natural rivals, looking to get back on track after a bad weekend.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Monday, May 30 | 1:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Padres

Mariners

RHP Andrew Cashner

RHP Nate Karns

35%

65%

Tuesday, May 31 | 12:40 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Padres

Mariners

RHP James Shields

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

38%

62%

Wednesday, June 1 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Padres

RHP Felix Hernandez

LHP Christian Friedrich

60%

40%

Thursday, June 2 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Padres

LHP Wade Miley

RHP Colin Rea

55%

45%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Padres

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

112 (2nd in AL)

76 (12th in NL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-11.7 (14th)

-3.8 (10th)

Padres

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

107 (10th)

102 (10th)

Padres

Bullpen (FIP-)

83 (6th)

106 (11th)

Mariners

Well, the good news is the ugly weekend series against the Twins didn’t affect the Mariners’ playoff odds too much. Baseball Prospectus continues to be the most optimistic, keeping the Mariners’ odds above 70%. They took a big tumble in FiveThirtyEight’s projections all the way to 58% and the Rangers are just a percentage point ahead at 59%. FanGraphs provides a nice middle ground splitting the difference between the other two sites at 64%. The Mariners will need every win they can get from their natural rivals. They’re in the midst of a 17-game stretch without an off day and will be playing the Rangers six times in the next two weeks.

The Padres:

The Padres’ spree of acquisitions last year amounted to a 74-win season and a whole lot of disappointment. Now they’re stuck in the awkward place between a full rebuild and mediocrity. This year hasn’t been any better. They haven’t been the worst team in baseball thanks to the Braves and the Reds but it hasn’t been pretty in San Diego. Trade rumors have already started flying as they look to sell off whatever they can this summer. Their farm system isn’t completely barren and their pre-season trade of Craig Kimbrel brought in a number of promising youngsters.

Key Players

1B Wil Myers Problems with a single wrist can usually be overcome. Wil Myers has had chronic issues with both of his wrists and it’s derailed a once promising career. He hasn’t missed any time to injury yet this year but the Padres can no longer count on him for a full year. On top of his injury problems, he’s also had to learn two new positions the last two years. Defensively, he’s gone from one of the worst defenders in baseball as a center fielder to an above average first baseman. But he’s been unable to find any consistency offensively. He’s just 25 years old so he still has time to settle into a permanent role at first, but those injury concerns will always loom.

RF Matt Kemp Matt Kemp was never the most patient hitter but he’s taken his aggressive approach to the extreme this year. He’s swinging at almost 60% of the pitches he sees but his contact rate hasn’t improved at all. The result is a walk rate that’s the second lowest among all qualified batters and an odd slash line of .228/.238/.455. The power is there but his overall offensive line is still 20% below average.

LF Melvin Upton Jr. – After two terrible seasons in Atlanta, Melvin Upton rebounded with a 1.6 fWAR campaign last year. His offensive line was 10% better than league average and he continued to be an asset in the outfield. He’s hitting line drives more often than ever before and his power has returned to where it was with the Rays. He still strikes out a ton so his offensive ceiling is limited but his defense will help him be an asset for whichever team ends up with him this summer.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Andrew Cashner

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

40 2/3

16.0%

9.9%

9.8%

46.4%

4.87

4.51

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

95.2 mph;

36.3%

94.2 mph;

35.3%

86.6 mph;

11.2%

85.8 mph;

7.6%

82.7 mph;

9.6%

Cashner PA

Andrew Cashner possesses a tantalizing fastball with plus velocity and movement, but he doesn’t have the secondary pitches to fully take advantage of it. A plus fastball can carry a pitcher so far before the league starts to hone in on it and that’s what’s plagued Cashner this year. It’s not that batters are mashing his fastball, they’re just waiting for him to throw anything else. When he throws his fastball, batters are hitting just .232 and slugging just .313. But when he throws any other pitch, batters are taking advantage of him to the tune of .345/.709. His walk rate has increased to the point where it’s well below average and a one year spike in strikeout rate last year seems like a mirage.

RHP James Shields

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

64 2/3

21.2%

8.7%

12.3%

48.1%

3.06

3.90

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

91.5 mph;

31.2%

90.5 mph;

11.0%

87.5 mph;

20.0%

84.1 mph;

21.5%

78.1 mph;

15.3%

Shields PA

In his first season with the Padres, James Shields looked like a completely new pitcher. Both his strikeout rate and walk rate jumped up around six points and he was plagued with a serious case of dinger-itis. After a career of pitching in the strike zone around half the time, he started avoiding the zone like the plague as a Padre. His Zone% was the fourth lowest among qualified pitchers last year and I don’t think it’s a personal preference. Over the last two years, Padres’ pitchers have the lowest Zone% in the majors. Pitching outside the zone would explain some of the walk rate issues he’s shown but he’s also generating the highest whiff rates of his career too. Shields’s strikeout rate and walk rate have both regressed back towards his career norms this year and his home run rate has normalized as well. It took him a year, but it looks like he’s finally adjusted to the Padres way.

LHP Christian Friedrich

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

16 1/3

15.3%

13.9%

0.0%

53.2%

1.65

3.60

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

91.3 mph;

34.6%

91.0 mph;

24.6%

83.8 mph;

14.2%

85.6 mph;

6.6%

77.1 mph;

20.1%

Christian Friedrich was once a top prospect in the Rockies organization but giving up 80 runs in 19 starts isn’t a great way to start out a career. After being moved to the bullpen last year, the Padres have given him another change in the rotation. He’s responded by giving up just three runs in three starts but he’s also walked almost as many batters as he’s struck out. It’s hard to gauge what to expect from Friedrich because of the Coors effect and he’s bounced between the rotation and the bullpen. He certainly won’t maintain his 1.65 ERA and his 3.60 FIP is only so low because he has yet to give up a home run this year.

RHP Colin Rea

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

50 1/3

16.3%

10.0%

10.0%

43.2%

4.47

4.58

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

93.2 mph;

35.3%

93.0 mph;

20.4%

88.5 mph;

20.4%

85.2 mph;

5.9%

79.4 mph;

18.0%

Rea PA

A 1.08 ERA in Double-A last year helped Colin Rea fly through the Padres organization last year. He wound up making his major league debut in August and pitched very well all things considered. His fastball isn’t too impressive, though he is able to generate some good movement with it. His best pitches are his cutter and his curveball. He’ll throw his cutter to both righties and lefties with a whiff rate a little bit above average. His curveball isn’t a swing-and-miss pitch. Instead, he locates it low in the zone to pick up called strikes, and when batters make contact, they pound it into the ground.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

29-21

.580

-€”

W-W-L-W-W

Mariners

28-21

.571

0.5

W-W-L-L-L

Angels

22-28

.440

7.0

L-L-W-L-L

Astros

22-29

.431

7.5

W-W-L-W-W

Athletics

22-29

.431

7.5

L-L-L-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Orioles

28-20

.583

+0.5

L-L-W-L-W

Mariners

28-21

.571

-€”

W-W-L-L-L

Indians

26-22

.542

1.5

W-W-L-W-L

White Sox

27-24

.529

2.0

L-L-L-L-L

Blue Jays

26-26

.500

3.5

W-W-W-W-L

The Rangers leapfrogged the Mariners by taking two of three from the Pirates over the weekend. They’ll travel to Cleveland for a three game series against the Indians who find themselves in second in AL Central. The White Sox have continued to fall in the standings after being swept by the Royals, pushing their losing streak to six games. The Astros and Angels beat up on each other over the weekend and now the rest of the AL West sits clumped together with 22 wins apiece. The Tigers are in Anaheim, the Twins travel to Oakland, and the Astros are in Arizona to start this week.