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Series Preview: Mariners (17-21) vs. Athletics (16-21)

The Mariners limp home to face the Athletics for three games.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Monday, May 15 | 7:10 pm
LHP Sean Manaea RHP Yovani Gallardo
43% 57%
Game 2 Tuesday, May 16 | 7:10 pm
RHP Andrew Triggs RHP Chase De Jong
45% 55%
Game 3 Wednesday, May 17 | 7:10 pm
RHP Jesse Hahn RHP Christian Bergman
42% 58%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (7th in AL) 112 (3rd in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -8.9 (15th) 8.0 (3rd) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 96 (3rd) 106 (9th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 106 (11th) 118 (14th) Athletics

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

Eventually, all these injuries were bound to catch up to the Mariners. The two-game sweep in Philadelphia hid some real problems in the pitching staff. But the hodgepodge rotation was surprisingly decent in Toronto—it was the bullpen that was the real problem. Over the last six games, the relievers have allowed 13 runs across 24 innings pitched. Granted, they’ve been overworked and misused to support all the spot starters the Mariners are relying on. Steve Cishek is on his way back and should join the team sometime this week.

The Athletics have the opposite problem as the Mariners—their rotation is filled with young starters who are all healthy. With Sonny Gray back in the mix and Sean Manaea returning from the disabled list, the Athletics had to choose one of their six starters to drop from the rotation. Jharel Cotton drew the short straw and he’s been sent to Triple-A to continue working on his consistency. Since winning three of four against the Mariners in mid-April, the A’s have gone 6-12 and dropped to last place in the AL West.

The Athletics:

The A’s bats have had a really weird season so far. Their overall offensive production sits around league average, but that doesn’t take into account any context. Their actual runs scored is well below average and it’s a major reason why their record is so poor. The root of their problems seems to stem from hitting with runners on base. With the bases empty, their team wOBA is an excellent .321, but that mark drops to just .295 after a runner reaches. As a team, they’re second in the American League in ISO, but almost none of those extra-base hits are coming with runners on base.

Key Players

LF Khris DavisSince 2013, when he made his MLB debut, Khris Davis owns the fifth highest ISO in the league. The best season of his career was 2016, when he drilled 42 home runs and registered 102 RBI en route to posting a 123 wRC+. His strikeout rates have continued to rise over the last three seasons and they’ve peaked this year at 31.3%. Despite the additional whiffs, he’s continuing to build off of last year’s momentum; the 29-year-old slugger has already slugged ten home runs. He graded out positively by UZR/150 measures last year, and has good range in left field and a decent arm.

DH Ryon HealyRyon Healy bust onto the scene last summer when he slashed .305/.337/.524 in his rookie season. His strong, athletic build helped him post a .219 ISO in 2016, though he was not as effective in the field. The Athletics brought Trevor Plouffe aboard, allowing Healy to spend most of his time at DH, while picking up occasional playing time at either corner infield spot. He’s off to a bit of a slow start, slashing .250/.292/.434 through the first month and a half. That said, he’s been a lot better in May and has continually stung the ball, even if those hard balls in play aren’t falling in for hits.

1B Yonder AlonsoOver the offseason, Yonder Alonso retooled his approach like so many other major leaguers, focusing on hitting more fly balls. Through 35 games, he’s reaping the benefits of his adjustment. The 30-year-old first baseman is boasting a .373 ISO, more than triple his .120 career average. His career fly ball rate is 32.9%, but that number has leaped to 54% to start the year. More than a quarter of those fly balls have been hit out of the park, a rate that is sure to fall as the season wears on.

2B Jed Lowrie – After spending the last two seasons nursing a number of injuries, Jed Lowrie looks to be completely healthy this year. His gap power has returned and his strikeout and walk ratios are trending the right way. The return of his power might be related to an increase to his fly ball rate and his hard hit rate. It hasn’t translated into too many home runs but it’s a good match with his high contact approach at the plate. He’s also been pretty steady, if unspectacular, at second base for the A’s.

SS Adam Rosales – With Marcus Semien on the 60-day disabled list with a broken wrist, Adam Rosales has shouldered the burden at shortstop for the Athletics for the majority of this season. Although he’s spent the majority of his career at second or third base, Rosales has a respectable -2.4 UZR/150 in 859.2 career innings at shortstop. After hitting 13 dingers in 248 plate appearances in 2016, en route to a surprising career-high .266 ISO, the 33-year-old resides much closer to his career average of .141 through 107 plate appearances this year. His strikeout rate of 28.0% is still higher than his career mark, but a substantial step down from 2016, while his walk rate is currently at a career low; however, a .354 BABIP has yielded a .271/.314/.417 slash line and 104 wRC+ this season.

3B Trevor Plouffe – Adding Trevor Plouffe to the roster benefited the Athletics in a number of ways. His ability to play third pushed Ryon Healy from most of his defensive duties and allowing him to DH regularly. Although Plouffe’s career UZR/150 is -4.8 at third base, it’s much better than Healy’s defensive output, effectively improving the Athletic’s defense while still keeping Healy’s formidable bat in the lineup. Offensively, Ploufe has posted a 99 wRC+ in 128 plate appearances this season. His strikeout rate is up nearly eight points above his career average, but he’s also walking more than he has in previous years. The 30-year-old has respectable power, posting a career .173 ISO.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Sean Manaea

24 1/3 25.7% 11.4% 6.3% 63.9% 5.18 3.29

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 92.6 59.2% 120 161 134
Changeup 85.0 23.9% - - -
Slider 80.8 16.9% - - -
*Manaea’s changeup and slider do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

In his debut season last year, Sean Manaea just got better and better as the year went on. He increased his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 2.75 to 4.06 in the second half and limited opposing batters to a .276 wOBA after the All-Star break. His three pitch repertoire is extremely effective, though it does lead to a fairly large platoon split. His fastball/slider combo to lefties is nasty but he rarely uses his breaking pitch against righties. For opposite handed batters, he’ll use a changeup that generates a very impressive amount of whiffs. That last pitch is so important for him because it was his least developed pitch when he was drafted and in the minors and it’s the key to his success in the starting rotation. Manaea was placed on the 10-day DL at the end of April with some shoulder discomfort. He made one rehab appearance and will be making his return from the disabled list on Monday.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics

RHP Andrew Triggs

40 2/3 18.6% 6.0% 3.0% 56.6% 2.21 2.75

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Sinker 89.8 45.1% 213 149 192
Cutter 83.1 28.3% 182 125 163
Slider 75.9 23.7% 115 92 107

Andrew Triggs began last season as a member of the Athletics bullpen. Between 18 relief appearances and one spot start his ERA was an ugly 5.35 and it looked like he was just another nondescript member of the rotating cast of young pitchers churned out by the A’s organization. He converted to a starter in mid-August and made four brilliant starts before being shut down with a back injury. In those four starts, he ran an obscene 20.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 2.91 ERA, and a 2.18 FIP. His unusual delivery provides a ton of deception and helps him generate some funky movement on his sinker and slider. Triggs has picked up right where he left off with seven starts producing a pitcher slash line of 2.21/2.76/3.80. His strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t nearly as good as it was but he’s been able to keep batters inside the park—something that’s certainly bound to regress. He’s also stopped throwing his developing changeup, mainly relying on his cutter and his slider.

RHP Jesse Hahn

42 2/3 18.3% 8.9% 2.4% 45.7% 2.74 2.95

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Sinker 94.6 62.2% 107 92 102
Changeup 85.6 12.5% - - -
Slider 84.5 7.2% - - -
Curveball 76.5 17.8% 183 144 170
*Hahn’s changeup and slider do not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

It’s difficult to try and figure out Jesse Hahn. Between the numerous injuries he’s suffered and the bout of ineffectiveness he battled last season, the Athletics didn’t really know what to expect from him this year. Despite increasing his fastball velocity last year, he wasn’t able to get the results to follow and bounced between the majors and the minors all season long. He’s maintained the increased velocity this year and the results have finally caught up. His strikeout rate is up, though not nearly as high as it was in his debut in 2014. Hahn’s signature pitch is his huge 12-6 curveball that is one of the best in the game. When batters swing at that pitch, they’re whiffing 40% of the time, and when they aren’t swinging through it, they’re putting it on the ground 60% of the time.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 26-12 0.684 -- W-W-W-L-W
Rangers 19-20 0.487 7.5 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 19-21 0.475 8.0 L-L-W-L-W
Mariners 17-21 0.447 9.0 W-L-L-L-L
Athletics 16-21 0.432 9.5 L-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 22-14 0.611 +3.0 W-L-L-L-L
Indians 19-17 0.528 -- W-L-L-L-W
Red Sox 19-18 0.514 0.5 L-W-L-W-L
Tigers 18-18 0.500 1.0 L-W-L-W-L
Rangers 19-20 0.487 1.5 W-W-W-W-W

The Rangers have been the hottest team in the American League the past week. With their three-game sweep of the Athletics over the weekend, they’ve pushed their winning streak to six games and are now sitting in second place in the AL West, a game below .500. They host the Phillies in a three-game series beginning tomorrow. The Angels split a four-game series with the Tigers over the weekend and host the White Sox to start this week. The Twins took the AL Central division lead after winning two of three against the Indians. They’ll host the Rockies while the Indians host the Rays.