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Series Preview: Mariners (66-57) vs. Yankees (63-60)

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The Mariners wrap up their homestand with a three-game series against the Bronx Bombers.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Monday, August 22 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Yankees

Mariners

RHP Michael Pineda

RHP Cody Martin

49%

51%

Tuesday, August 23 | 7:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Yankees

Mariners

LHP CC Sabathia

TBD

41%

59%

Wednesday, August 24 | 12:40 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Yankees

Mariners

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

52%

48%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Yankees

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

109 (2nd in AL)

90 (13th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-23.2 (13th)

-4.3 (8th)

Yankees

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

105 (9th)

97 (3rd)

Yankees

Bullpen (FIP-)

95 (11th)

80 (2nd)

Yankees

Everything that could have gone right this weekend did—except for the loss on Sunday afternoon. The Rangers lost, the Orioles lost, the Red Sox split, and the Mariners gained two games in the Wild Card race. Of course they could have been tied for the second Wild Card spot if they had held on yesterday but let’s focus on the positives. All three major projection systems now have the Mariners as the team with the fifth highest playoff odds in the AL, somewhere between 40-45%. Both James Paxton and Taijuan Walker—rumored to be the starter for Tuesday—are on their way back. They’re 6-4 through half of this stretch of 20 straight games played, now the real work begins.

The Yankees:

In a matter of just a month, the Yankees have completely changed their identity. They’ve embraced a new youth movement after selling off Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman and unceremoniously dumping Alex Rodriguez. But rather than racking up losses as the new kids adjust to the majors, the Yankees have gone 11-8 in August and are barely hanging on in the Wild Card race. It’s hard to believe they’ll be a playoff threat down the stretch but their success has given them a new hope for the near future.

Key Players

SS Didi Gregorius – When the Yankees traded for Didi Gregorius to succeed Derek Jeter, the expectations placed on him were through the roof. So the fact that he posted 3.1 fWAR last year—higher than any of the last five years of Jeter’s career—was completely lost amidst the disappointment. One more year removed from Jeter’s exit and Gregorius is making good on the Yankees faith in him. He’s hitting for more power than ever before while cutting his strikeout rate to just 13.8%. His overall offensive line is brought down by his inability to take a walk but it’s still six percent above league average.

CF Jacoby Ellsbury – It’s hard to believe that Jacoby Ellsbury once hit 32 home runs with the Red Sox. The only other time he’s cracked double digits was his first year with the Yankees in 2014. His ISO has settled in around .100 and it’s hard to expect anything more now that he’s 32. But it’s not as though he’s unproductive at the plate. He’s pushed his strikeout rate back to his career norm and has managed to stay healthy all year. Still, an empty batting average only carries a batter so far, and it’s certainly not enough to provide $20 million in value.

C Gary Sanchez – With the youth movement in full swing, the Yankees have turned to their power hitting catcher Gary Sanchez. In just 66 plate appearances, he’s already launched six home runs and has accumulated 1.3 fWAR—more than incumbent Brian McCann has accumulated all year. While he isn’t a plus defender behind the plate, he’s improved his framing numbers in the minors and should be at least an average receiver for the pitching staff. He’ll continue to take time away from McCann and see time at designated hitter when he’s not behind the plate.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Michael Pineda

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

136 1/3

26.3%

6.5%

16.7%

46.0%

4.89

3.84

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Slider

94.8 mph;

51.9%

89.0 mph;

7.9%

86.6 mph;

40.2%

Pineda PA

Michael Pineda possesses the nineteenth best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors this year. For every batter he walks, he strikes out four others. On the surface, that’s a great start to any pitcher’s peripherals. The real problem for Pineda begins when batters make contact with his pitches. His home run per fly ball rate is the eighth highest among qualified starters and opposing batters own the fifth highest BABIP against him. His problems continue when he’s pitching from the stretch. When the bases are empty, he’s allowing just a .318 wOBA but as soon as he allows a runner, that mark balloons to .360. All of that adds up to a full run difference between his ERA and FIP, the third highest discrepancy in the majors.

LHP CC Sabathia

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

130 1/3

19.2%

8.9%

11.2%

48.6%

4.49

4.31

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

92.1 mph;

2.7%

90.7 mph;

30.2%

89.4 mph;

32.0%

84.4 mph;

11.5%

80.9 mph;

22.6%

Sabathia PA

Long gone are the days where you could consider CC Sabathia one of the best pitchers in baseball. After a serious knee injury cut his season short in 2014, he came back to post an average year for the Yankees last year. His pitch arsenal has mostly deteriorated except for his excellent sinker. He still generates a hefty amount of whiffs with the pitch. Sabathia has added a cutter to his repertoire this year and it’s helped him manage some of the contact issues he was facing as his fastball failed him. He’s holding batters to a .217 batting average off the pitch and it’s helped him avoid the massive platoon splits that had recently plagued him.

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

161

21.0%

4.1%

10.9%

47.7%

3.24

3.28

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Cutter

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

92.5 mph;

6.7%

90.4 mph;

31.3%

88.5 mph;

7.8%

86.9 mph;

24.8%

84.5 mph;

24.8%

75.8 mph;

4.6%

Tanaka PA

Despite having no single dominant pitch, Masahiro Tanaka is thriving in the majors with a wide and varied pitch mix. With six pitches in his repertoire that he’s able to command within the strike zone, batters are hard pressed to predict what he’s going to throw in any particular count. That precision and deception has led to the third lowest walk rate and the third highest strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors. But the biggest improvement has been his ability to keep the ball in the yard—he’s knocked six points off his home run per fly ball rate and it’s helped him lower his FIP by three quarters of a run.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

73-52

.584

-€”

W-W-W-L-L

Mariners

66-57

.537

6.0

L-W-W-W-L

Astros

64-60

.516

8.5

L-L-W-W-W

Athletics

53-71

.427

19.5

L-L-W-L-L

Angels

52-72

.419

20.5

L-W-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Red Sox

69-54

.561

+2.0

W-L-W-W-L

Orioles

67-56

.545

-€”

L-W-L-L-L

Mariners

66-57

.537

1.0

L-W-W-W-L

Tigers

65-59

.524

2.5

L-W-L-L-W

Astros

64-60

.516

3.5

L-L-W-W-W

The Rangers were unable to get anything going against the Rays over the weekend but will head to Cincinnati to face the Reds for a pair of games to start this week. The Astros did the Mariners a favor by winning three of four against the Orioles in Baltimore. They’ll head to Pittsburg to start this week while the Orioles travel to Washington to face the second best team in the NL. After their split this weekend, the Red Sox and Tigers travel to face the Rays and Twins, respectively. And tied with the Astros in the Wild Card race are the streaking Royals who have won eight in a row, hoping to continue their run in Miami this week.