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Series Preview: Mariners (67-59) at White Sox (60-65)

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The Mariners wrap up the month of August with a seven-game road trip beginning in Chicago.

David Banks/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Thursday, August 25 | 5:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

White Sox

LHP James Paxton

RHP Anthony Ranaudo

56%

44%

Friday, August 26 | 5:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

White Sox

RHP Felix Hernandez

LHP Chris Sale

48%

52%

Saturday, August 27 | 4:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

White Sox

LHP Ariel Miranda

LHP Jose Quintana

46%

54%

Sunday, August 28 | 11:10 am

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

White Sox

RHP Taijuan Walker

LHP Carlos Rondon

50%

50%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

White Sox

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

108 (2nd in AL)

90 (14th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-23.2 (13th)

-15.1 (11th)

White Sox

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

107 (9th)

101 (8th)

White Sox

Bullpen (FIP-)

93 (11th)

92 (10th)

White Sox

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

The Mariners have been 10 games over .500 twice this year. Back on May 25, the Mariners reached that point after a series win against the Athletics but were swept by the Twins right afterwards. They reached that point again last weekend, but couldn’t break through that artificial ceiling, losing two in a row to the Yankees. Maybe its fatigue. Maybe its just bad luck. Whatever it is, the Mariners need to find a way to bounce back. They’re almost through the most grueling portion of their schedule and have seven huge games against the Rangers looming. This series against the White Sox can’t be overlooked though. James Paxton comes back tonight, solidifying the rotation. But they also face three lefties in Chicago and all three will be very difficult matchups for the Mariners’ offense.

The White Sox:

After sitting on the periphery of the Wild Card race through the first half of the season, the White Sox have fallen well out of the race. Like the Mariners, they’ve played a ridiculous amount of one-run games—44 of them, just two fewer than the Mariners. But even if some of those nail biters had gone their way, they wouldn’t be any better off. Their anemic offense just can’t support the most top-heavy starting rotation in the American League. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon have been worth 10.2 fWAR while the rest of their rotation has "contributed" -0.2 fWAR. The White Sox will wrap up a long homestand with this four-game series—they’re 3-2 over their last five games.

Key Players

LF Melky Cabrera – You just never know what you’re going to get with Melky Cabrera. His offensive output has oscillated between good, very good, and bad throughout his career. In his first year with the White Sox, they got the bad Melky, as he posted a disappointing 91 wRC+. He’s bounced back this year with a 108 wRC+ stemming from an improved strikeout rate and a little more power. None of his plate discipline stats have changed drastically and his batted ball profile looks the same as well. For a batter like Cabrera, just a few minor adjustments can have a big impact on his overall numbers.

SS Tim AndersonAfter Jimmy Rollins failed to stick at shortstop, the White Sox turned to one of their top prospects, Tim Anderson. A first round draft pick back in 2013, Anderson has flown through the minor leagues, showing off impressive offensive ability at each stop. He’s incredibly aggressive at the plate, leading to a miniscule walk rate. That’s unfortunate because his excellent speed would be much more valuable if he could get on base more often. Instead, he uses his speed to leverage a very high groundball rate, legging out infield singles and stretching for extra bases.

RF Adam EatonDespite possessing great speed, Adam Eaton was playing out of position in center field. His career UZR in center is an ugly -21.6. The White Sox moved Eaton to right field this year and in less than a year, he’s posted a UZR of 23.4. 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 below league average? A BABIP of just .209 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 the lowest in baseball and his pop-up rate is just as extreme. 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 difference 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 as much authority as before and it’s led to a 44 point difference in his isolated power and a wRC+ of just 109.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Anthony Ranaudo

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

14 1/3

10.3%

19.1%

23.8%

44.7%

9.42

9.43

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.0 mph;

57.5%

85.0 mph;

5.4%

83.3 mph;

6.8%

80.6 mph;

30.3%

Back in 2010, Anthony Ranaudo was chosen in the first round of the draft by the Red Sox but has yet to fulfill any of that promise. He made it to the majors in 2014 after a middling minor league career, making seven starts for them that year. He’s bounced around the American League since then, with stops in Texas and now Chicago. He relies mainly on a fastball-curveball combo that doesn’t really stand out in any way. He will be making his third start of the year today and the previous two have gone as good as his ERA and FIP indicate.

LHP Chris Sale

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

168 2/3

24.6%

5.7%

10.5%

39.0%

3.15

3.43

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

93.8 mph;

48.5%

91.9 mph;

13.9%

86.4 mph;

12.9%

79.0 mph;

24.7%

Sale PA

There’s something different about Chris Sale this year. His FIP has increased by almost a full 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. The drop in velocity on his fastball might have also had a negative effect on his secondary pitches as well. He’s generating career low whiff rate on both his changeup and slider. With his fastball losing effectiveness, batters are laying of those two nasty pitches better than ever.

LHP Jose Quintana

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

164 2/3

21.6%

5.8%

8.5%

40.0%

2.84

3.43

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

92.6 mph;

42.2%

92.6 mph;

24.2%

86.6 mph;

8.2%

77.7 mph;

25.2%

Quinana 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.

LHP Carlos Rondon

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

123

22.1%

7.5%

13.2%

44.0%

4.02

4.10

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

94.1 mph;

39.4%

93.6 mph;

25.7%

84.1 mph;

8.5%

87.0 mph;

26.4%

Rodon PA

As a 22-year-old, Carlos Rodon made his major league debut last year and showed of some nasty stuff—if you were a left-handed hitter. His excellent slider and plus fastball give same-handed hitters fits, leading to a huge platoon split. Across his 260 innings in the majors, he’s held lefties to just a .247 wOBA while righties have knocked him around to the tune of a .350 wOBA. His changeup is just not that effective of a pitch at this point in his career allowing righties to sit on his fastball or the rare slider. Rodon has been able to cut his walk rate by four points this year, but like almost every other pitcher, has struggled with the long ball.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

74-53

.583

-€”

W-L-L-L-W

Mariners

67-59

.532

6.5

W-L-W-L-L

Astros

66-61

.520

8.0

W-W-W-L-W

Athletics

55-72

.433

19.0

L-L-L-W-W

Angels

53-73

.421

20.5

L-L-W-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Red Sox

71-55

.563

+1.0

W-L-W-W-L

Blue Jays

71-55

.563

+1.0

L-W-L-W-L

Orioles

70-56

.556

-€”

L-L-W-W-W

Mariners

67-59

.532

3.0

W-L-W-L-L

Tigers

67-59

.532

3.0

L-L-W-W-W

Astros

66-61

.520

4.5

W-W-W-L-W

The Orioles were able to win three straight against the Nationals and pushed their lead in the Wild Card race to three games over the Mariners and Tigers. They’ll wrap up their four-game series today and travel to New York to face the Yankees over the weekend. The Tigers are now tied with the Mariners in the Wild Card race after beating up on the Twins the past two days. They’ll also wrap up that series today and return home to host the Angels afterward. The Rangers split their two-game series with the Reds and will start a four-game series against the Indians tonight.