clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (75-68) at Angels (63-79)

New, 17 comments

The Mariners wrap up this brief road trip with their last visit to Anaheim.

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Monday, September 12 | 7:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Angels

LHP Ariel Miranda

RHP Ricky Nolasco

46%

54%

Tuesday, September 13 | 7:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Angels

RHP Taijuan Walker

RHP Alex Meyer

49%

51%

Wednesday, September 14 | 7:05 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Angels

RHP Hisashi Iwakuma

LHP Tyler Skaggs

50%

50%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Angels

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

107 (2nd in AL)

102 (7th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-25.7 (13th)

31.1 (3rd)

Angels

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

108 (11th)

119 (15th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

98 (11th)

103 (13th)

Mariners

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

A bit of an abbreviated series preview today since I’m writing from the road. Since this is the millionth time the Mariners and Angels have played each other, I’m sure you know what to expect.

The Mariners are doing everything they can to make the end of September interesting. They just won’t give up and are now just three and a half back in the Wild Card race. This will be one of the last series where they’ll be able to beat up on a weaker opponent. After this, it’s HOU, TOR, @MIN, @HOU, and OAK. Luckily, the Mariners have to pass both Houston and potentially Toronto in the Wild Card race giving them some extra leverage over a team like the Tigers. FanGraphs has the Mariners’ playoff odds at 12%--that feels just about right. A lot needs to go right but they’re not out of it yet.

The Angels:

This will be the last time the Mariners and Angels face each other this year. Remarkably, the Mariners will not face Jered Weaver this year, despite his relative good health and the 19 games between these two teams. For a team in the Angels’ position, September is usually a time to evaluate players for next year. The dearth of talent in their organization means just a few prospects will get their chance to impress. Kaleb Cowart, a toolsy former first round draft pick, should get a chance to impress at second base for the rest of the season. And the back end of their bullpen has a few interesting arms that will be fighting to claim the role of closer after the Angels traded away Fernando Salas and Joe Smith.

Key Players

CF Mike Trout Since 2012, Mike Trout has accounted for 35% of the Angels’ position player fWAR. That should tell you all you need to know about his importance to this team. There just aren’t many holes in his game with only his strikeout rate being the only thing you can criticize, but after a big spike in 2014, he was able to lower his strikeout rate by three points last year and another three this year. He’s even managed to improve his defensive metrics in center field. A slight dip in his power numbers this year has been offset by a walk rate that’s increased by three points.

SS Andrelton Simmons The only thing standing between Andrelton Simmons and stardom is a league average batting line. He’s unquestionably the best defensive shortstop in the game, saving more runs per DRS than any other defender since his debut. In his first full season in the majors, he posted a 91 wRC+ with an impressive display of power. That year, he was extremely pull happy, hitting just 17.3% of his balls in play to the opposite field. His pull rate has steadily declined since then and his power has disappeared along with it. A spike in line drive rate helped him regain some offensive value last year but he just doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to be more than a slap hitter with a decent batting average.

DH Albert Pujols Albert Pujols enjoyed a massive power rebound last year as he launched 40 home runs and pushed his isolated slugging back over .200. A lingering foot injury sapped him of any speed on the basepaths and a line drive rate of just 15.9% meant that his batting average on balls in play was a paltry .217. He’s been able to bounce back after a slow start this year. He’s still hitting home runs at a similar rate to last year but he’s also putting the ball on the ground more often than ever. That’s helped his BABIP rebound a bit but it also means he’s hitting fewer fly balls.

RF Kole Calhoun Kole Calhoun was finally able to play through an entire year without any major injuries but his offensive production took a dive after establishing a profile 25% better than league average the previous two years. A big jump in his strikeout rate and falling walk rate seemed to be the main culprits. He’s managed to lower his strikeout rate back to his previous norms and has raised his walk rate this year, and all of a sudden his offensive production has rebounded to 10% better than league average. Combine his good bat with excellent defense in right field and the Angels have a very nice compliment to Mike Trout.

3B Yunel Escobar Last year, Yunel Escobar threw caution to the wind and started swinging at almost half the pitches he saw, whether or not they were in the zone. His contact rate in the zone and out of the zone barely moved and this newfound aggression helped him post an offensive line 20% better than league average. He’s been even more aggressive this year and his contact rate still hasn’t moved. It’s an interesting career path for a 33-year-old but it seems like it’s paid off.

1B C.J. CronWhen C.J. Cron was first called up, many saw him as a Mark Trumbo lite—a masher with poor plate discipline. But he’s actually been able to improve his plate discipline by leaps and bounds in the three years he’s spent in the majors. He isn’t drawing more walks but he has lowered his strikeout rate every year all the way down to just 14% this year. His contact rate isn’t any higher so it seems like he’s recognizing pitches he can handle and aggressively punishing them. Those improvements in plate discipline have helped him post an offensive line 27% better than league average.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Ricky Nolasco

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

170 2/3

17.5%

5.3%

11.9%

43.3%

4.90

4.31

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Splitter

Slider

Curveball

91.2 mph;

26.0%

91.0 mph;

22.5%

79.9 mph;

7.1%

81.8 mph;

32.8%

73.8 mph;

11.4%

Ricky Nolasco was once the poster child for the usefulness of defense-independent pitching stats. He consistently posted ERAs that were much higher than you might expect given his other peripherals. His biggest strength has been his ability to locate his pitches in the strike zone, keeping his walk rate very low. Unfortunately, age and injury has caused every other aspect of his arsenal to deteriorate. The Angels acquired him in an odd swap with the Twins, sending away Hector Santiago and a prospect for Nolasco and Alex Meyer, who starts tomorrow.

RHP Alex Meyer

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

7

26.3%

21.1%

12.5%

35.0%

7.71

5.57

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Curveball

96.5 mph;

62.7%

90.0 mph;

3.1%

85.1 mph;

33.5%

Once one of the most promising pitching prospects in the minors, Alex Meyer’s wildness and injury woes have tarnished his path to the majors. Standing six-foot-nine, his huge frame generates impressive velocity but it also makes his pitching mechanics inconsistent. That’s led to a lack of command throughout his career and saw him relegated to the bullpen with the Twins. He was traded to the Angels in the same deal that netted them Ricky Nolasco, though he’s only pitched 36 innings total this year because of lingering shoulder fatigue.

LHP Tyler Skaggs

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

48

23.8

10.0%

10.6%

43.7%

4.13

3.85

Pitches

Four-seam

Changeup

Curveball

93.4 mph;

58.8%

86.5 mph;

14.0%

76.6 mph;

27.0%

A former top prospect, Tyler Skaggs had almost two seasons of his young career wiped out by Tommy John surgery. Prior to his injury, he was putting together a decent campaign for the Angels in his first full season in the majors. His strikeout rate was a little below average but he wasn’t walking many and had increased his groundball rate as well. After a long rehab process, he finally made it back to the majors on July 26. In his seven starts since returning, his velocity show no ill effects but his results have been completely erratic. He’s thrown three shutouts but also had a string of four starts where he gave up four or more runs in each of them.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

85-59

.590

--

L-L-W-W-L

Mariners

75-68

.524

9.5

W-W-W-W-W

Astros

75-68

.524

9.5

L-L-L-W-L

Angels

63-79

.444

21.0

L-L-L-L-W

Athletics

60-82

.423

24.0

W-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Orioles

78-64

.549

--

W-L-L-W-W

Blue Jays

78-64

.549

--

L-L-L-W-L

Tigers

76-66

.535

2.0

L-L-W-L-L

Yankees

76-66

.535

2.0

W-W-W-W-L

Mariners

75-68

.524

3.5

W-W-W-W-W

Astros

75-68

.524

3.5

L-L-L-W-L

After their gauntlet of Central division leaders (the Indians and the Cubs), the Astros must now take on the Rangers for the last time this year, hoping to improve upon their 3-13 record. The Red Sox were able to take the AL East lead after beating the Blue Jays twice over the weekend. Toronto hosts the Rays to start this week. The Yankees had their seven-game winning streak snapped yesterday and are hosting the Dodgers for a three-game series. The Tigers couldn’t make up any ground in the Wild Card race against the Orioles, losing two of three over the weekend. The Orioles wrestle for the AL East lead in Boston while the Tigers host the Twins for four games.