clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Series Preview: Mariners (11-15) vs. Angels (14-13)

The Mariners begin the second month of the season with a three-game series against the Angels

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

At a Glance:

Angels Mariners
Angels Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, May 2 | 7:10 pm
RHP Matt Shoemaker LHP James Paxton
41% 59%
Game 2 Wednesday, May 3 | 7:10 pm
RHP Ricky Nolasco RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
44% 56%
Game 3 Thursday, May 4 | 7:10 pm
TBD LHP Ariel Miranda
44% 56%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners (2017) Angels (2017) Edge
Overview Mariners (2017) Angels (2017) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 107 (6th in AL) 91 (11th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 1.0 (5th) -1.6 (11th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 104 (7th) 105 (10th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 111 (14th) 103 (9th) Angels

We’re already a month into the season and the Mariners have some ground to make up. It’s still pretty early to be talking about playoff odds since we’re still relying on the projections for the most part. Still, a three major projection systems are still giving the Mariners a decent shot at the playoffs despite the slow start to the season. FanGraphs is the most pessimistic, giving them a 19.5% chance of playing in the postseason, BaseballProspectus gives them a 28.7% chance, and FiveThirtyEight is the most optimistic at 36%. This series against the Angels gives the Mariners a good opportunity to make up some ground against a division foe and hand out some good old fashioned revenge.

With a month of stats in the books, I’ve started reporting team and pitching stats from this year, rather than relying on last year’s numbers. For pitchers, we’re still in small sample size territory so there will be some gaps in coverage, particularly in the pitch arsenal scores (I use a 100 pitch minimum to calculate those). I’ll also start covering the Wild Card race since that’s the Mariners most likely route to the playoffs.

The Angels:

After sweeping the Mariners in the second series of the season, the Angels won just three of their next thirteen games, including a six-game losing streak. They followed that cold spell with a five-game winning streak and three consecutive series wins to bring them a game over .500. Despite their strong play to end the month, their home/road records are almost mirror images of each other. They’ve really struggled to score runs on the road and their road run differential sits at -10. Tyler Skaggs was scheduled to make the start on Thursday but he’s been sidelined for three months with a strained oblique.

Key Players

CF Mike TroutBarring a major catastrophe, Mike Trout will again be the best player in all of baseball by a wide margin. And he’s just 25 years old. He’s just six years into his career and they’re already reserving a spot for him in Cooperstown. Last year, Trout showed off one of his more underrated skills (if that’s even possible) by stealing 30 bases, more than the previous two years combined. He was just one home run away from a 30/30 season and odds are he’ll get there this year. He might even have it in him to go 40/40. Wouldn’t that be something?

RF Kole CalhounDespite hitting eight fewer home runs, Kole Calhoun raised his wRC+ by 14 points last year. He did so by lowering his strikeout rate and raising his walk rate to career bests. He should continue to be an excellent table setter in front of Trout and Albert Pujols. In the field, things are a little less clear. The advanced defensive metrics have considered him an above average outfielder since becoming a regular in 2014. But the new catch probability metrics don’t see it that way; he’s made ten fewer plays than we’d expect over the last two years. He makes up for some of that with a great arm in right.

LF Cameron MaybinLast year, the Angels left fielders combined to post an anemic .216/.282/.346 slash line. Cameron Maybin should have no problem besting that line. Despite missing a third of the season, Maybin accumulated almost as much fWAR in 2016 as he did the previous four years combined. Much of his offensive success was driven by an extremely high .383 BABIP however. He was able to cut his popup rate by more than half and was more successful spraying line drives and ground balls around the field, playing into his excellent speed. Still, we should expect some regression closer to league average.

SS Andrelton SimmonsIn case you didn’t know, Andrelton Simmons is one of the best defensive baseball players alive. His career UZR/150 of 20.8 is plenty evidence of that. Watching him in the field is one of life’s finest pleasures; however he’s struggled to find much success at the plate. His plate discipline isn’t the problem. His career 9.1% strikeout rate is very impressive and he improved his z-swing% and o-swing% rates last season. He might be swinging at the right pitches, but there just isn’t any oomph in his swing. His ISO was just .085 last season, although it’s been as high as .149 back in 2013. If he’s able to find any additional drop of power in his bat, he could finish with a wRC+ north of 100.

C Martin MaldonadoThe Angels acquired Martin Maldonado this offseason not for his bat but because of his defense prowess. According to StatCorner Catcher Report, which analyzes pitch framing data, he’s never had a season below 6.0 defensive runs above average. His career 36% caught stealing rate ranks fourth among active catchers. Although he’s posted a career wRC+ of 73, he made some offensive improvements in 2016. His ISO reached .149 last season, his strikeout rate dropped to 22.1%—the second lowest mark of his career—and his walk rate sky rocketed to 13.8%. If his increased power and plate discipline carries over from last season, and with consistent playing time, he should enjoy more success at the plate in 2017.

2B Danny EspinosaAgain, Danny Espinosa is a solid defensive player, boasting a career 7.4 UZR/150 at second base. What was more impressive about the 30-year-old last year was his power. He crushed a career high 24 dingers in 2016, after only hitting 24 homers in the previous three seasons combined. His success can be explained in part by his increase in pulled fly balls. His fly ball rate jumped to a career-high of 43.1% in 2016—exceeding his career mark of 38.5% by a wide margin—and he pulled the ball more than half the time he put it in play. Through the opening month of the season, he’s continued to pull fly balls at a high clip, but has only a 52 wRC+ to show for it. His strikeout rate has leaped to 35.1%, exposing his greatest weakness.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Matt Shoemaker (2017)

26 2/3 22.1% 9.7% 19.4% 45.9% 4.73 5.53

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 92.2 22.8% 114 97 108
Sinker 92.0 26.5% -61 91 -10
Splitter 85.5 27.2% 108 99 105
Slider 83.0 21.6% 187 75 150
Curveball 76.4 2.0% - - -
Shoemaker’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Matt Shoemaker’s future was in question after he took a line drive to the head last September. Thankfully the damage wasn’t lasting and he made his way back to the mount this spring. You’re probably familiar with the adjustments he made to his repertoire last season that led to a 3.10 ERA from May onwards. His splitter really is quite good. Opposing batters whiffed more than a fifth of the time he threw it and slugged just .276 off the pitch last year. He isn’t throwing his splitter quite as often this season but his strikeout rate is as high as ever. His big problem this year has been his command. His walk rate has almost doubled, and when he isn’t walking batters, he’s allowing too much loud contact. The Mariners we able to score seven runs off Shoemaker the last time they faced him.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels

RHP Ricky Nolasco (2017)

28 1/3 18.0% 4.3% 17.1% 37.8% 4.13 5.28

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 91.7 20.9% 93 72 86
Sinker 91.3 27.9% 90 46 75
Splitter 81.7 11.1% - - -
Slider 81.8 32.1% 86 171 114
Curveball 73.9 8.1% - - -
Nolasco’s splitter and curveball do not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

The Angels are counting on consistency from Ricky Nolasco since their pitching depth is so thin. He’s made at least 26 starts in eight of his last nine seasons. His ability to generate strikeouts has declined as he’s aged, though his walk rate hasn’t been affected yet. He hasn’t lost any velocity off his fastball but it’s effectiveness as a pitch has completely waned. Last season, opposing batters launched 11 home runs off his four-seamer and 10 more off his two-seamer. Without a decent secondary offering to keep batters honest, they’re just sitting on his fastball, waiting to punish it. Early this season, Nolasco has pushed his walk rate to the lowest point of his career and his batted ball profile has swung towards more contact in the air. All those fly balls have resulted in some additional home runs, but since he isn’t allowing as many baserunners, his ERA is sitting around 4.00 with a FIP over 5.00.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 17-9 0.654 -- L-W-L-W-W
Angels 14-13 0.519 3.5 W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 11-14 0.440 5.5 L-L-L-W-L
Mariners 11-15 0.423 6.0 W-W-W-L-L
Rangers 11-15 0.423 6.0 W-L-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 15-9 0.625 +2.0 W-W-W-L-L
White Sox 13-11 0.542 -- W-W-W-L-L
Twins 12-11 0.522 0.5 W-W-L-W-W
Red Sox 13-12 0.520 0.5 L-W-L-W-L
Tigers 13-12 0.520 0.5 L-L-L-W-W

With the Astros continuing to build upon their division lead, its increasingly apparent that the Mariners route to the playoffs will be through the Wild Card. This isn’t much of a surprise. The projection systems loved the Astros and they’ve played up to their talent level. They started a four-game series against the Rangers with a win yesterday. There are a few surprising teams in the middle of the Wild Card race, namely the White Sox and the Twins. Those two AL Central teams have benefitted from beating up on the lowly Royals. The Athletics will travel to Minnesota this week while the White Sox travel to Kansas City.