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Series Preview: Mariners (66-65) at Orioles (65-65)

The Mariners wrap up their East Coast slate with a three-game series in Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

At a Glance

Mariners Orioles
Mariners Orioles
Game 1 Monday, August 28 | 4:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzalez RHP Chris Tillman
47% 53%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 29 | 4:05 pm
RHP Erasmo Ramirez RHP Dylan Bundy
45% 55%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 30 | 12:05 pm
LHP Ariel Miranda RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
49% 51%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Orioles Edge
Overview Mariners Orioles Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (6th in AL) 100 (8th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 16.2 (4th) -17.3 (13th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 119 (14th) 116 (13th) Orioles
Bullpen (FIP-) 97 (9th) 99 (10th) Mariners

The end of this grueling road trip is in sight. Yesterday’s mental breakdown was discouraging but the Mariners need to put those errors behind them and focus on this series in Baltimore. That series in New York was always going to be the most challenging stop during this stretch so getting out of there with a single win should be considered a success. After beating the Orioles a few weeks ago in their last home series, the Mariners roll into Baltimore for their last series of the season against an AL East opponent. A series win would give the Mariners at least a 7-5 record on this road trip and get the Mariners into September with a record over .500.

The Orioles:

Since that series in Seattle, the Orioles have gone 6-3 including a sweep of the Red Sox in Boston over the weekend. That’s helped them push their record back to .500 for the second time since the end of June. Their offense has been bolstered by a resurgent Manny Machado and the acquisition of Tim Beckham. But the main reason for their success is a much improved pitching staff. Their run prevention will never be mistaken for one of the better units in the league but they’re allowing just 4.4 runs per game in the second half after allowing 5.3 per game in the first half. They’re just two games back in the Wild Card race.

Key Players

SS Tim Beckham – An increase in playing time has allowed for Tim Beckham to enjoy a breakout 2017. A high BABIP and ISO have helped him manage a 118 wRC+ in 458 plate appearances. He runs an above average line drive rate, which, paired his 40.3% hard contact rate, has fueled his impressive season at the plate. The 27-year-old middle infielder is a free swinger, resulting in a 28.6% strikeout rate and just a 5.9% walk rate for the year. He’s spent the majority of the year playing shortstop, though he’s also logged 141 innings at second base. His athleticism makes him a solid middle infielder, where he’s posted a 0.8 UZR/150 at shortstop this season.

1B Chris DavisThe prodigious power hitter Chris Davis is on pace to have his worst year since slashing .196/.300/.404 in 2014. The 31-year-old slugger is still lethal when he puts the ball in play. His hard contact rate is north of 40% for the third season in a row, which has helped support a 24.7% HR/FB. Combine that with a 41.1% fly ball rate and you’ve got a recipe for lots of round trippers; however, his 36.4% strikeout rate has dampened his success at the plate. Surprisingly, his contact rate is the highest it has been since 2013. His swing rate is the lowest it has ever been, though. Specifically, his zone swing percentage is down over 12% from his career average. He’s also seen a higher rate of pitches in the zone that he has since 2011. He’s taking more strikes, and striking out more as a result.

DH Mark TrumboAfter notching his first 40-homer season in 2016, Mark Trumbo is on pace for his worst season of his career. Off the cuff, his numbers from this year and last year look pretty similar. His BABIP of .276 is identical to last year’s, so is his 7.6% walk rate. He’s even dropped his strikeout rate by a couple of points. His ISO, however, has dropped by over .100. The culprit has been his hard contact rate, which has dropped nearly 8% from last year’s mark. He’s also pulling balls at a lower rate than he did last year—instead he’s hitting balls up the middle at a career high rate.

3B Manny Machado – After accumulating 13.3 fWAR over the last two years, Manny Machado got off to a very slow start this year. He posted a 91 wRC+ in the first half of the season, a far cry from the 131 wRC+ mark he averaged over the last two years. An abnormally low line drive rate and an extremely high popup rate led to a BABIP of .239. However, since the All-Star break, he’s posted a wRC+ of 137 and has looked every bit as deadly at the plate as expected. His defense at third base never slipped and he’s continued to make a case for himself as one of the best defenders at the hot corner in baseball.

2B Jonathan SchoopJonathan Schoop has always hinted at some impressive offensive fireworks but has been held back by an extremely aggressive approach at the plate. With age comes maturity, and even a little change in his plate discipline stats has led to a breakout campaign for Schoop this year. He’s swinging far less often this year, dropping his swing rate by ten points, but has continued to make contact at the same rate as before. He’s learning how to spit on pitches outside of the strike zone and punishing pitches that he can actually handle. He probably won’t ever post a walk rate above league average, but even a little patience and pitch recognition have helped him become a valuable piece in the middle of the Orioles lineup.

CF Adam JonesAnother player with an extremely aggressive approach at the plate, Adam Jones has finally seen the pitfalls of that aggression catch up to him. When he’s hitting for enough power and getting enough balls to drop in for hits, that kind of approach has led to some impressive offensive years. But he’s seen how hard it is to maintain that kind of success when he isn’t hitting for as much power and his BABIP sees a drop of just a few points.

Probable Pitchers

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Baltimore Orioles

RHP Chris Tillman

74 1/3 15.3% 11.1% 19.8% 40.5% 7.75 6.49

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 91.3 35.4% 122 68 104
Sinker 90.8 14.1% -11 69 16
Cutter 86.2 23.9% 129 104 121
Changeup 84.1 16.1% 36 102 58
Curveball 76.1 9.0% 43 108 65

Chris Tillman started off the year on the disabled list, as he worked back from some shoulder problems. Since returning in June, he’s been one of the worst starters in baseball. The immediate reaction, then, is to assume he’s pitching while injured. When he first returned, his average fastball velocity was down around two miles per hour. It’s slowly returned to where it’s been previously but the results haven’t followed. He posting a ridiculously high walk rate and it’s mostly driven by an inability to locate in the strike zone. And when he does pitch in the zone, opposing batters are swinging aggressively—his Z-Swing% is the highest in the majors among all starters. He was briefly moved to the bullpen earlier this month but returned to the rotation last week.

RHP Dylan Bundy

146 1/3 20.8% 7.2% 12.1% 32.1% 4.18 4.56

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 54.1% 89 80 86
Changeup 83.9 14.0% 58 79 65
Slider 83.5 21.3% 223 97 181
Curveball 74.9 10.7% 34 50 39

With a long and varied injury history, Dylan Bundy has finally put together a couple of relatively healthy seasons in a row. He was used out of the bullpen for the first half of last year, only moving to the rotation towards the end of July. His work as a starter was a little disappointing, posting a 4.52/5.24/4.45 pitcher slash line in 14 games started. Considering his prospect pedigree, that had to be a little disappointing for the Orioles. He’s managed to improve a little bit this year but still hasn’t put everything together yet. His best pitch is his slider which generates the tenth highest slider whiff rate in the majors. But the rest of his repertoire is rather mediocre leading to a strikeout rate far below what we might expect. He’s able to keep right-handed batters at bay with his slider but he has no answers for left-handed batters.

RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

126 20.5% 9.5% 21.0% 44.4% 6.57 5.64

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 91.3 14.3% 113 155 127
Sinker 90.8 39.7% 54 94 67
Cutter 90.2 2.7% - - -
Splitter 84.5 20.0% 106 114 109
Slider 82.9 18.5% 88 19 65
Curveball 75.5 4.7% 48 73 56
*Jimenez’s cutter does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

At this point in his career, Ubaldo Jimenez is a warm body the Orioles can throw out every five days. His strikeout rate has bounced back over league average this year but he’s allowing a home run 20% of the time a batter hits a fly ball. In this new era of home runs, that absurd rate isn’t even the highest in the majors (it’s fifth highest). Like his teammate Kevin Gausman, looking at his overall numbers hides a recent string of success. And like Gausman, it’s tied to an increased usage of his splitter. Jimenez’s splitter isn’t nearly as good as Gausman’s but it’s definitely his best pitch by whiff rate and it’s helped him keep the ball on the ground. His string of good starts was snapped the last time he faced the Mariners in Seattle, as he’s allowed 11 runs in his last two starts.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 79-51 0.608 -- W-L-W-L-W
Angels 66-65 0.504 13.5 L-L-L-W-L
Mariners 66-65 0.504 13.5 L-W-W-L-L
Rangers 64-66 0.492 15.0 W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 58-72 0.446 21.0 W-L-W-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 70-59 0.543 +3.5 W-L-L-W-W
Twins 67-63 0.515 -- L-L-W-L-W
Angels 66-65 0.504 1.5 L-L-L-W-L
Mariners 66-65 0.504 1.5 L-W-W-L-L
Orioles 65-65 0.500 2.0 L-W-W-W-W

The Athletics helped out the Mariners cause by sweeping away the Rangers over the weekend. Let’s hope they continue to be our ally as they travel to Anahiem to take on the Angels. The status of the upcoming series between the Rangers and the Astros is in limbo because of Hurricane Harvey. The Royals were also swept this weekend after they were unable to score a single run in three games against the Indians. They’ll hope to score at least one run against the Rays to start this week. The Twins won their series against the Blue Jays and moved further ahead in the Wild Card race; they host the White Sox this week.