clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (18-13) vs. Rays (15-14)

New, comments

The Mariners (and Crazy Legs and LoMo) return home after a very successful road trip.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Monday, May 9 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Rays

Mariners

LHP Matt Moore

RHP Felix Hernandez

40%

60%

Tuesday, May 10 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Rays

Mariners

LHP Drew Smyly

LHP Wade Miley

49%

51%

Wednesday, May 11 | 12:40 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Rays

Mariners

RHP Chris Archer

RHP Taijuan Walker

44%

56%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Rays

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

108 (4th in AL)

99 (7th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-8.6 (13th)

-0.2 (8th)

Rays

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

98 (7th)

88 (1st)

Rays

Bullpen (FIP-)

82 (3rd)

112 (14th)

Mariners

With this three-game series against the Rays, the Mariners wrap up a 13-game stretch without an off day. By splitting their series with the Astros, the Mariners’ playoff odds have stabilized around 50%, depending on which projection system you’re using. The fact that we’re simply talking about playoff odds in early May is a nice surprise and their schedule the rest of this month looks fairly easy (TBR, LAA, @BAL, @CIN, OAK, MIN, SDP). Building a big lead in the AL West after two months of play would be huge and set Seattle up for a very fun summer.

For all the hype that the Indians and White Sox have received for their starting rotations, it’s the Rays who lead the American League in FIP from their starters. Their rotation has struck out more than a quarter of the batters they’ve faced, the highest strikeout rate in the majors, and their walk rate is the third lowest in the AL. Unfortunately, their bullpen has been one of the worst in baseball and it’s sabotaged much of the work their starters have accomplished.

The Rays:

After sweeping the Angels over the weekend, the Rays are sitting on a four-game winning streak. That streak has pushed their record over .500 and into third place in the AL East. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the former Mariners playing for the Rays. Over his last ten games, Brad Miller is hitting .387/.441/.742 with three home runs. That stretch has pushed his season line back to league average after a very slow start. Unfortunately for the Rays, Logan Morrison is showing no signs of breaking out of his funk. He has collected just eight hits in 22 games and has been one of the worst players in the majors this year.

Key Players

2B Logan Forsythe Logan Forsythe has quietly improved almost every aspect of his offensive profile over the last two years to become one of the best second basemen in the league. Much of his success last year looked like it was driven by an abnormally high BABIP but he’s taken his success even further this year. He’s hitting for more power than ever, is posting the highest walk rate of his career, and is hitting a line drive more than a quarter of the time he puts a ball in play. After a slight dip last year, his strikeout rate is back up over 20%, but it doesn’t matter too much when everything else is going so right.

CF Kevin Kiermaier The Rays’ pitching staff has one of the highest fly ball rates in baseball so it’s nice to have one of the most dynamic center fielders in the game behind them. Last year, Kevin Kiermaier was the best defender in baseball by a wide margin; UZR saw him save 30 runs while DRS was even more bullish, seeing him save 42 runs. His offensive line was two percent below league average but he still managed to post 5.5 fWAR last year. His offensive peripherals are trending the right way this year and the prospect of an elite defender at a premium position with an above average bat is reminiscent of Franklin Gutierrez circa 2009.

3B Evan Longoria The best of Evan Longoria may be in the past but he’s still just 30 years old. His elite defense has slipped to simply above average and his offensive peripherals are trending the wrong way. He’s striking out much more often and is walking at the lowest rate of his career. His contract makes him an incredible value for the Rays despite his diminishing performance but he’s clearly no longer one of the best third basemen in the league.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Matt Moore (2016 Stats)

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

36 1/3

24.2%

6.5%

16.7%

43.3%

4.95

4.18

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Curveball

94.0 mph;

63.3%

85.3 mph;

15.9%

83.1 mph;

20.7%

Moore PA

Tommy John surgery in 2014 derailed Matt Moore’s once promising career. He was able to return to the majors last year with most of his velocity recovered but was pretty disappointing across 12 starts. A lower release point post-surgery has caused his changeup to lose most of its effectiveness. Luckily, his fastball has never been better. Among all fastballs thrown this year, his has the seventh highest horizontal movement, and it’s at the highest mark since his debut. Because he gets so much movement on his fastball, he’s been able to run a neutral split over his career—though he’s shown an extreme reverse split this year. His revamped fastball and his plus curveball have helped him regain some of the promise he showed as a prospect, but the lack of a quality third pitch has really hurt him.

LHP Drew Smyly

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

39 2/3

31.5%

5.4%

10.4%

36.6%

2.72

3.03

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Curveball

91.8 mph;

49.2%

86.0 mph;

19.1%

81.2 mph;

9.6%

77.9 mph;

21.8%

Smyly PA

Since joining the Rays in 2014, Drew Smyly has struck out 28% of the batters he’s faced. That’s a five point increase over his previously established norms with the Tigers. That huge strikeout rate has helped him post the tenth highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors this year. Like Moore, Smyly generates extreme movement with his fastball, but his is of the vertical variety. His fastball has the fourth highest "rise" and the third highest whiff rate in the majors. By elevating his fastball, he’s been able to leverage his natural advantage against batters and it’s paid off. Pitching up in the zone means more fly balls, and the home run has given him some problems, but he’s been able to avoid a ton of damage by limiting baserunners—usually via the strikeout.

RHP Chris Archer

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

38 1/3

28.8%

10.0%

23.3%

44.2%

4.23

4.22

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Slider

94.8 mph;

53.9%

87.3 mph;

11.5%

88.2 mph;

34.6%

Archer PA

Chris Archer broke out in a big way last year and finished fifth in the Cy Young award voting. He increased his strikeout rate by eight points while also lowering his walk rate to just below league average. This year, he’s been able to maintain the extremely high strikeout rate but his walk rate has jumped up to 10%. With a BABIP of .351 and a home run rate of 23.3%, he’s also been the victim of some very bad luck, but the control issues are a little more concerning. With such a dynamic repertoire, he relies on batter swinging at pitches outside the zone, even if they’re making contact. Well, he’s pitching in the zone less often this year and batters aren’t chasing out of the zone as much.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Mariners

18-13

.581

-

W-W-L-W-L

Rangers

18-14

.563

0.5

L-L-W-W-W

Athletics

14-18

.438

4.5

L-L-W-L-L

Angels

13-18

.419

5.0

L-W-L-L-L

Astros

12-20

.375

6.5

W-L-W-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Red Sox

18-13

.581

+0.5

W-W-L-L-W

Rangers

18-14

.563

-

L-L-W-W-W

Indians

15-13

.536

1.0

W-W-W-L-W

Rays

15-14

.517

1.5

L-W-W-W-W

Royals

15-15

.500

2.0

W-L-L-W-L

The Rangers jumped back into the AL West race by sweeping the Tigers over the weekend. They’ll try to extend their win streak at home against the White Sox. The Rest of the AL West is tumbling down the standings. The Angels were swept by the Rays and the Athletics lost two of three against the Orioles. The Cardinals travel to Anaheim while the A’s travel to Boston. The Royals have not recovered from their disappointing AL West road trip. On April 24, they were 12-6; they’ve won just three games since then and are now sitting in third place in the AL Central.