clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (46-46) vs. White Sox (45-46)

New, 13 comments

The Mariners host the White Sox for three games to start the week.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Monday, July 18 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

White Sox

Mariners

LHP Chris Sale

LHP Wade LeBlanc

50%

50%

Tuesday, July 19 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

White Sox

Mariners

LHP Jose Quintana

LHP Wade Miley

49%

51%

Wednesday, July 20 | 12:40 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

White Sox

Mariners

RHP Miguel Gonzalez

RHP Felix Hernandez (!)

40%

60%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

White Sox

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

109 (2nd in AL)

88 (15th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-22.2 (13th)

-9.0 (9th)

White Sox

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

105 (8th)

102 (7th)

White Sox

Bullpen (FIP-)

96 (11th)

82 (3rd)

White Sox

For too long have the men of the west suffered at the hands of the White Hand Sox of Saruman Chicago. Fear not. The King has returned.

With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Felix Hernandez returns from his calf injury on Wednesday. And because of the odd schedule to end the month—three off days in the next two weeks—the Mariners can reset their starting rotation before beginning a grueling stretch in August. Even though the Rangers have stumbled recently, the Mariners best chance at a playoff spot is probably through the Wild Card race. They play 19 games against teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race in the second half (26 if you also include the Rangers). They’ll also play 36 games against teams who are currently below .500. The Mariners will need a lot of luck (or rather their results lining up with their run differential), but their playoff dreams are far from dashed.

The White Sox:

Like the Mariners, the White Sox raced out to a strong start and a division lead before giving way to their rivals in June. In the span of 10 days, between May 27 and June 6, they went from first in their division to fourth. With one of the worst offenses in baseball, their success is entirely dependent on their pitching staff. In April, they gave up just 3.04 runs per game, easily the best mark in the American League. But in June, that mark nearly doubled to 5.54 runs per game. They’re a half a game behind the Mariners in the Wild Card race and started the second half off by getting swept by the Angels.

Key Players

RF Adam EatonDespite possessing great speed, Adam Eaton was playing out of position in center field. His career UZR in center is an ugly -21.1. The White Sox moved Eaton to right field this year and in less than a year, he’s posted a UZR of 19.7. Offensively, he does enough things right to be a little over league average. He doesn’t strikeout too much, he walks a decent amount, he has a little pop, and his speed helps him take advantage of a high ground ball rate.

3B Todd FrazierProdigious power? Check. Above average walk rate? Check. So why is Todd Frazier’s overall offensive line exactly league average. A BABIP of just .204 is the main culprit, though his strikeout rate is higher than ever. A BABIP that low is certainly a product of bad luck, but Frazier’s batted ball profile isn’t doing him any favors either. His line drive rate is one of the lowest in baseball and his pop-up rate is just as extreme—only Billy Burns hits more infield pop-ups. His ability to pop home runs will always make him a dangerous hitter but his decline is one of the primary reasons the White Sox have disappointed this year.

1B Jose AbreuIf Todd Frazier’s decline has held the White Sox back, Jose Abreu has been his main accomplice. It’s astonishing how poor Abreu’s year has been given the success he had in his first two years in America. The lack of power seems to be the main problem. His strikeout and walk rates are unchanged and the biggest change in his batted ball profile is a small drop in line drive rate. Even his plate discipline stats look the same. He’s just not hitting the ball with authority right now and it’s led to a 53 point difference in his isolated power and a wRC+ of just 97.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Chris Sale

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

125

24.7%

5.2%

13.7%

40.8%

3.38

3.74

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

93.8 mph;

45.8%

92.0 mph;

15.0%

86.5 mph;

13.9%

79.0 mph;

25.3%

Sale PA

There’s something different about Chris Sale this year. His FIP has increased by more than a run and it all hinges on his fastball. This once dominant pitch that no one could hit is now all of a sudden more hittable than ever. He’s lost around 2 mph off his average fastball velocity, and with it, 8 points off his strikeout rate and a huge increase in home runs allowed. In fact, opposing batters are sporting a .246 ISO off his fastball this year, nearly 60 points higher than his established norms. The most confusing thing is, this might be all deliberate. During Spring Training, Sale talked about wanting to pitch deeper into games by pitching to contact more often. He’s leading the American League in innings pitched, and has accumulated 14 wins to boot, but it’s come in a way we’re just not used to seeing.

LHP Jose Quintana

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

117 2/3

22.5%

6.0%

9.0%

39.5%

3.21

3.48

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

92.7 mph;

42.4%

92.7 mph;

22.9%

86.6 mph;

9.1%

77.7 mph;

25.4%

Quintana PA

If you’re looking for a model of pitching consistency, look no further than Jose Quintana. Since his first full season in 2013, Quintana’s strikeout rate has sat around 21%, his walk rate around 6%, his ERA around 3.35, and his FIP around 3.32. This year, all four of those stats are within spitting distance of their career norms. The only thing that’s significantly different this year is his batted ball profile. He’s allowing far more fly balls than ever before and batters are making much more hard contact against him. So far it hasn’t hurt him too much but it’s not a good combination and could be a sign of trouble brewing.

RHP Miguel Gonzalez

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

75 2/3

17.7%

8.7%

8.9%

42.7%

4.40

4.09

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Splitter

Curveball

91.8 mph;

32.5%

92.2 mph;

15.0%

87.2 mph;

23.1%

84.9 mph;

20.7%

77.4 mph;

8.6%

Gonzalez PA

For the first three years of his career with the Orioles, Miguel Gonzalez was able to outperform his defense independent stats to post an ERA more than a run below his FIP. Last year, the magic wore off and his ERA ballooned to 4.91. He was surprisingly cut by the Orioles at the end of Spring Training and latched on with the White Sox. His ERA hasn’t fallen but he has pushed his FIP down to just above four. That’s entirely due to a newfound ability to avoid home runs. The rest of Gonzalez’s peripherals are basically unchanged from his time with the Orioles, his xFIP bears this out, so it’s not like he’s made a huge breakthrough.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

55-38

.591

-€”

L-L-L-L-W

Astros

50-42

.543

4.5

L-W-W-L-W

Mariners

46-46

.500

8.5

L-W-L-W-L

Athletics

40-52

.435

14.5

W-L-W-W-L

Angels

40-52

.435

14.5

L-L-W-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Red Sox

51-39

.567

+1.0

W-W-W-W-L

Blue Jays

52-42

.553

-€”

L-W-L-L-W

Astros

50-42

.543

1.0

L-W-W-L-W

Tigers

48-44

.522

3.0

W-L-W-L-W

Royals

46-45

.505

4.5

W-L-L-W-L

The Rangers were able to salvage a single win against the Cubs over the weekend but have now lost four series in a row (including two against the Twins). They travel to Los Angeles to take on the Angels who are coming off a sweep of the White Sox. The Astros took advantage of the stumbles of the Rangers and sit four and a half back in the AL West; they’ll be in Oakland to start this week. The Royals battled in Detroit over the weekend but the Tigers emerged victorious. The Twins travel to Detroit while the Royals host the Indians to start the week.