clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (80-72) vs. Twins (55-98)

New, 13 comments

The Mariners head out on their last road trip of the season beginning in Minnesota.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins - Game One Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

At a Glance:

Friday, September 23 | 5:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Twins

LHP James Paxton

RHP Kyle Gibson

58%

42%

Saturday, September 24 | 4:10 pm

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Twins

LHP Ariel Miranda

RHP Tyler Duffey

60%

40%

Sunday, September 25 | 11:10 am

Away Team

vs.

Home Team

Mariners

Twins

RHP Taijuan Walker

LHP Hector Santiago

57%

43%

*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Mariners

Twins

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

106 (2nd in AL)

96 (11th in AL)

Mariners

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

-24.5 (13th)

-43.0 (14th)

Mariners

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

108 (10th)

112 (13th)

Mariners

Bullpen (FIP-)

98 (11th)

99 (12th)

Mariners

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

Even after going 2-4 during a critical homestand, the Mariners are still clinging onto a hope that they’ll be able to sneak into the playoffs for the first time since 2001. None of the other teams vying for the two Wild Card spots are playing particularly well and no one has taken advantage of that lull. The Mariners will wrap up their season with ten straight games, six on the road and four at home. Of the Wild Card contenders, the Mariners have the easiest schedule remaining:

• SEA: 3 games @MIN, 3 games @HOU, 4 games vs. OAK (Combined W%: .441)

• HOU: 3 games vs. LAA, 3 games vs. SEA, 3 games @LAA (Combined W%: .467)

• BAL: 3 games vs. ARI, 3 games @TOR, 3 games @NYY (Combined W%: .496)

• DET: 3 games vs. KCR, 4 games vs. CLE, 3 games @ATL (Combined W%: .503)

• TOR: 4 games vs. NYY, 3 games vs. BAL, 3 games @BOS (Combined W%: .546)

Winning seven or eight of their remaining ten games should be attainable and would give the Mariners their best shot at making the playoffs (or just rattle off a ten-game winning streak). Of course, the series in Houston complicates things since they’re one of the teams the Mariners have to leapfrog, but that problem can wait until next week. First, the Mariners need to take care of business against the Twins.

The Twins:

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the Twins would lead the race for the first pick in next year’s draft. No one thought they’d be particularly good (except for David), but they’ve been much, much worse than expected. Youngsters like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Jose Barrios have been disappointing and overmatched at the major league level. Their lone bright spot has been Brian Dozier who has smashed his way into the record books. They’ve suffered through losing streaks of 13, 9, and 8 games earlier this season and have recently lost their last 6 games.

Key Players

2B Brian Dozier – Through the month of May, Brian Dozier had only hit 5 home runs and his batting average was hovering around the Mendoza line. From June onwards, he’s slashed .311/.374/.672, launching 37 home runs and breaking the single season home run record for a second baseman. He’s sporting the second highest ISO in the majors and trails only Mark Trumbo for the home run title. His secret? Pulling everything. His Pull% is the highest in the majors by a wide margin and it’s been something he’s consciously worked on the last few years.

CF Byron Buxton – The former top prospect has had a less than ideal start to his career. After being wracked with injuries in the minors, he made a disappointing major league debut last year. This year hasn’t been much better. He was demoted to Triple-A on two different occasions and has only recently shown any kind of progress towards offensive success. In September, he’s slashed .300/.355/.686 while playing good defense in center and contributing on the basepaths. He’s only 22 so he’s got time to develop and figure things out but this is certainly not the debut the Twins were hoping for.

1B Joe Mauer – It looks like Joe Mauer might be finally bouncing back from a nasty concussion that left him a shell of his former self the past two years. His walk rate has bounced back after fall for the last two years, he’s striking out less often, and is hitting a line drive more than a quarter of the time he puts the ball in play. The root of these improvements is the rejuvenation of one of the best batting eyes in baseball. He’s cut his swing rate at balls outside the strike zone down to just 23.3% and his whiff rate is a miniscule 4.9%.

RF Miguel Sano – Miguel Sano burst into the major leagues last year, launching 18 home runs in 80 games and posting the 6th highest walk rate among batters who received at least 300 plate appearances. He also struck out more than a third of the time he was at the plate and that hasn’t changed much this year. Sano is making contact more often but it’s not enough to support more than a league average offensive line. When he does make contact, the ball jumps off his bat as his hart hit rate is over 40%.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Kyle Gibson

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

136

15.7%

8.3%

15.7%

48.8%

5.10

4.83

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

91.8 mph;

12.9%

91.5 mph;

42.6%

83.0 mph;

17.8%

84.2 mph;

22.5%

78.9 mph;

4.2%

Gibson PA

Kyle Gibson is a product of an organization that has churned out pitchers built in the same mold for years. He relies primarily on a sinker/changeup combo that generates more groundballs than strikeouts. His slider is actually a pretty decent pitch, getting a whiff more than 40% of the time a batter swings. He’s increased its usage this year but the effectiveness of his fastball has waned which is the root of his struggles. Both his strikeout rate and groundball rate have taken a step back this year and his ERA and FIP have really suffered.

RHP Tyler Duffey

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

124

19.0%

5.6%

19.3%

47.8%

6.39

4.73

Pitches

Four-seam

Sinker

Changeup

Curveball

91.2 mph;

34.0%

91.0 mph;

20.4%

83.1 mph;

7.1%

81.1 mph;

37.6%

Duffey PA

Never a heralded prospect in the minors, Tyler Duffey made an impressive major league debut late last year. Over ten starts, he posted a 3.10/3.24/3.64 pitcher slash line backed by a 21.9% strikeout rate and an 8.3% walk rate. That promise has gone unfulfilled this year. He’s improved his walk rate and his strikeout rate has only taken a small step back but he’s really struggled with the home run. His ERA has more than doubled as a result of the fourth highest home run per fly ball rate in the majors. Opposing batters are sporting an ISO of .341 off his fastball, and even when they aren’t hitting the ball over the fence, they’re getting hits more than a third of the time they put the ball in play.

LHP Hector Santiago

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

170

18.6%

10.2%

11.8%

34.5%

4.82

5.23

Pitches

Four-seam

Cutter

Changeup

Slider

Curveball

92.2 mph;

62.3%

87.0 mph;

3.8%

83.4 mph;

22.4%

82.0 mph;

5.4%

75.6 mph;

6.0%

Santiago PA

Last year, no other American League pitcher threw more four-seam fastballs than Hector Santiago. With his fastball heavy approach comes a ton of fly balls—only Chris Young had a lower ground ball rate last year. A lot of those fly ball leave the park but the ones that don’t turn into outs more often than not. That’s helped him outperform his average peripherals year after year pushing his career ERA a full run lower than his career FIP. Santiago was traded to the Twins at the trade deadline and he’s been a disaster. His strikeout rate has fallen by seven points and he’s allowing more hits than ever despite a miniscule groundball rate.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Rangers

90-63

.588

-€”

L-L-W-W-L

Astros

81-72

.529

9.0

L-W-W-W-L

Mariners

80-72

.526

9.5

L-W-L-L-W

Angels

67-86

.438

23.0

W-L-L-W-W

Athletics

66-86

.434

23.5

W-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form

Blue Jays

83-69

.546

+1.0

L-L-W-W-L

Tigers

82-70

.539

-€”

L-W-W-W-W

Orioles

82-71

.536

0.5

W-L-L-L-L

Astros

81-72

.529

1.5

L-W-W-W-L

Mariners

80-72

.526

2.0

L-W-L-L-W

The Tigers claimed the second Wild Card spot yesterday after winning both games of a doubleheader against the Twins. The Red Sox helped out by sweeping the Orioles in four games. The Astros began a four-game series against the Angels yesterday with a loss. This weekend, the Mariners are rooting for the Angels, Diamondbacks, and Royals—pick your poison in the Blue Jays-Yankees series.