clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (43-42) at Royals (43-41)

New, 16 comments

The Mariners wrap up the first half of the season with a four-game series in Kansas City.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Thursday, July 7 | 5:15 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Royals

LHP James Paxton

LHP Danny Duffy

45%

55%

Friday, July 8 | 5:15 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Royals

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

RHP Yordano Ventura

50%

50%

Saturday, July 9 | 1:15 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Royals

LHP Wade Miley

RHP Edinson Volquez

47%

53%

Sunday, July 10 | 11:15 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Royals

LHP Mike Montgomery

RHP Chris Young

49%

51%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Royals

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

109 (2nd in AL)

93 (11th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-12.0 (11th)

26.7 (2nd)

Royals

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

106 (9th)

121 (15th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

93 (9th)

83 (4th)

Royals

*Text appearing in italics has appeared in a previous series preview.

The All-Star break is just a four-game series away and it comes against a team whose record has mirrored the Mariners for much of this season. The Royals peaked at the end of May, with a six-game win streak that put them two games ahead in the AL Central. But like the Mariners, as soon as the calendar turned to June, they started losing, beginning with a four-game sweep by the Indians. They’re now sitting in fourth place in the AL Central, eight games behind the leader, and fighting to stay in the Wild Card race.

If the Mariners’ goal was to finish the first half with a record above .500, sweeping the Orioles gave the Mariners some extra wiggle room. Which they squandered in Houston in games that we’re arguably more important. A series win against the Royals would give them a 46-43 record heading into the midway point.

The Royals:

By now, all of baseball is familiar with the formula the Royals have used to reach the last two World Series, winning one of them. Excellent defense, an incredible bullpen, and lots and lots of contact on offense. Those three traits are still present, only their starting rotation has failed them and they’ve lost key players to injuries. Their pitchers’ fly ball tendencies play into their defensive strengths until the balls start flying over the fence. As a group, the Royals’ starters are allowing the highest home run rate in the American League, almost two home runs per nine innings. They’ve lost their last four games after being swept in Toronto.

Key Players

C Salvador Perez Salvador Perez is a microcosm of the Royals in all the best ways: he has bucked the sabermetric trend by creating value in immeasurable ways. The Royals value him so much, they tore up his already insanely team-friendly contract to sign him to a less team-friendly extension that treats him fairly. Offensively, he doesn’t walk at all, finding all of his value by making a ton of contact. Defensively, he doesn’t receive very well but is an excellent blocker, has a cannon for an arm, and handles his pitching staff very well.

CF Lorenzo Cain The emergence of Lorenzo Cain as a bona fide superstar has been a major reason the Royals have made two consecutive appearances in the World Series. He’s accumulated 11.5 fWAR over the last two years and was a borderline MVP candidate last year. His primary calling card is his elite defense in center field. That alone has provided over three wins of value since 2013. But he’s also added some offensive prowess to go along with it. Last year, he was able to lower his strikeout rate, raise his walk rate and hit for more power than ever before, and it all added up to an offensive line 29% better than league average.

1B Eric Hosmer – Eric Hosmer doesn’t standout in any one area but he’s able to produce above average results across the board. He can hit for average, has decent power, takes a healthy amount of walks, and can run the bases pretty well. The result is exactly what you’d expect, an above average first baseman producing an offensive line around 25% better than league average. He’s won three Gold Gloves in a row but the defensive metrics have never been impressed with his defensive skills. This year, his UZR and DRS have fallen well short of his norms and much of it is due to his poor range.

2B Whit MerrifieldOmar Infante’s storied tenure as the Royals second baseman lasted far too long. He was finally designated for assignment in early June in favor of the relatively unknown Whit Merrifield. Never a minor league standout with no prospect pedigree, he’s leveraged a BABIP-fueled slash line of .294/.313/.407 and some positional flexibility into a starting gig. His plate discipline peripherals are pretty scary, but an excellent line drive rate and good hard hit rate have helped him make the most of his contact at the plate.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Danny Duffy

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

75 1/3

28.9%

5.3%

12.9%

34.2%

3.11

3.59

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

96.6 mph;

39.8%

95.9 mph;

24.8%

86.4 mph;

15.7%

84.9 mph;

19.8%

Duffy PA

Danny Duffy has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen numerous times in his career, but it wasn’t until this year that he was able to build off those short appearances when he returned to the rotation. In relief, his fastball gained around 2 mph, pushing it up to around 96 mph. Somehow, he was able to maintain that velocity gain when he returned to the starting rotation in mid-May. Since then, across ten starts, both his strikeout rate and walk rate are career bests and his ERA is a nice 3.14. The only concern has been the number of home runs he’s given up. His home run rate as a starter has jumped up to almost 15% which has pushed his FIP well over his ERA.

RHP Yordano Ventura

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

87 1/3

16.5%

10.1%

13.4%

47.3%

5.26

5.12

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

96.3 mph;

42.1%

95.9 mph;

15.4%

85.6 mph;

18.0%

83.0 mph;

24.5%

Ventura PA

Yordano Ventura is all about speed. His fastball has the fourth highest average velocity in the majors, he throws the second fastest curveball, and his changeup ranks seventeenth. Despite all that speed, he just doesn’t get as many whiffs with his fastball as you might expect. His best pitch by whiff rate is his curveball and it’s one of the best in the majors. He matches his blazing arsenal with a fiery temper that has got him into some trouble the last few years. Some have speculated that he’s worn out his welcome in Kansas City, but he’s signed to such a team friendly contract, there’s no way they’d sell low right now. He’s just 25, so his ceiling is still very high, but he’ll have to mature as a player and as a pitcher to reach the promise he’s already shown.

RHP Edinson Volquez

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

105 1/3

17.8%

8.7%

10.3%

53.8%

4.87

4.10

Pitches

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

94.3 mph;

49.5%

84.7 mph;

22.9%

81.3 mph;

25.1%

Volquez PA

Prior to 2014, the only year in which Edinson Volquez posted an ERA lower than four was in 2008, his first year as a full time member of a starting rotation. What was different about 2014? Ray Searage and his pitching coach wizardry. As a Pirate—and these changes later carried over to his time as a Royal—he sacrificed some strikeouts in favor of better control and contact management. He began moving away from his four-seam fastball in favor of a sinker and now he’s completely abandoned the former pitch. His groundball rate is at a career high and he’s maintained the strikeout and walk rates he established a few years ago.

RHP Chris Young

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

60

23.4%

10.6%

26.0%

27.0%

6.90

8.12

Pitches

Four-seam

Slider

88.5 mph;

48.0%

82.0 mph;

51.1%

Young PA

Chris Young is still using his wizardry to well outperform his FIP, only his FIP is outrageously high this year. He’s striking batters out at a career high rate but his walk rate has ballooned and his wizardry just isn’t good enough anymore. More than a quarter of the fly balls he’s allowing are leaving the yard and he’s giving up almost four home runs per nine innings (!). No pitcher in the last 20 years has had a higher HR/9 than Chris Young’s 3.90 this year and it’s not even close.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

53-33

.616

-€”

L-L-L-W-L

Astros

46-39

.541

6.5

L-L-W-W-W

Mariners

43-42

.506

9.5

W-W-L-L-L

Athletics

36-49

.424

16.5

L-L-W-L-L

Angels

35-50

.412

17.5

W-L-L-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Blue Jays

48-39

.552

+0.5

W-W-W-W-W

Red Sox

46-38

.548

-€”

L-W-W-L-W

Astros

46-39

.541

0.5

L-L-W-W-W

Tigers

45-40

.529

1.5

W-W-L-L-W

White Sox

44-41

.518

2.5

W-W-W-L-W

Despite winning two of three against the Rangers, the Red Sox find themselves looking up at the suddenly surging Blue Jays. Toronto has won five in a row and host the Tigers for four games before the All-Star break. Detroit was finally able to defeat the Indians yesterday, their first win against them this year. The Twins have won back-to-back series against AL West foes, first against the Rangers and then against the Athletics. They’re in Dallas facing the Rangers again this weekend. The Athletics are also in Texas, facing the Astros for four games before the break.