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Series Preview: Mariners (57-56) at Athletics (50-62)

The Mariners wrap up their road trip with a brief stop in Oakland.

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

At a Glance

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Tuesday, August 8 | 7:05 pm
LHP Ariel Miranda RHP Kendall Graveman
53% 47%
Game 2 Wednesday, August 9 | 12:35 pm
RHP Yovani Gallardo RHP Jharel Cotton
52% 48%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (5th in AL) 100 (7th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 16.0 (3rd) -42.0 (15th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 118 (14th) 102 (8th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 100 (12th) 103 (13th) Mariners

Note: Text appearing in italics has appeared in a previous series preview.

By splitting their series in Kansas City, the Mariners season outlook is basically unchanged from last week. Because of a Royals loss yesterday evening, the Mariners actually gained a half game without even taking the field. But without any games against the Royals left on the schedule, they’ll have to make up ground elsewhere. These two games in Oakland are a perfect opportunity to do that. FiveThirtyEight’s projections favor the Mariners in both games despite playing on the road. Anything less than a two-game sweep would be disappointing.

The Athletics:

Clear sellers at the trade deadline, the Athletics ended up dealing away three members of their pitching staff. The biggest trade was the Sonny Gray deal with the Yankees, but they also moved Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson as well. Perhaps more surprising was keeping Jed Lowrie and Yonder Alonso around—of course Alonso was traded to the Mariners on Sunday but that was after the non-waiver trade deadline. The market for offensive upgrades was pretty weak this season but keeping Lowrie around means that Franklin Barreto and/or Chad Pinder remain blocked from regular playing time.

Key Players

3B Matt ChapmanA Cal State Fullerton product (Alma mater of our own Ethan Novak), Matt Chapman was the 25th overall selection in the 2014 draft. He quickly worked his way up through the farm system before being promoted to the big league squad on June 15th. The third baseman’s most impressive qualities may be in the field, where he impresses with his quick hands and huge arm. He isn’t as polished offensively, but does possess a great deal of power; in 504 AA plate appearances in 2015, he ran a .276 ISO. Even more impressively, he posted a .331 ISO in 204 plate appearances in Triple-A before his promotion. If he can limit his strikeouts, his offensive upside is immense. Regardless, his defense and power will allow him to succeed in the majors for a long time.

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 rate has continued to rise over the last three seasons and it’s peaked this year at 31.9%. Despite the additional whiffs, he’s continuing to build off of last year’s momentum. The 29-year-old slugger has slugged 23 home runs and his walk rate has bounced back up to 11.0%, pushing his wRC+ up to 126.

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. After a slow start, he’s posted two solid months in a row, boosting his slash line to .275/.305/.514. He’s continuing to hit for power even though his batting average has taken a bit of a tumble.

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.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

RHP Kendall Graveman

49 15.3% 7.2% 14.3% 48.8% 4.96 4.73

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Sinker 94.2 70.8% 171 112 151
Cutter 90.9 14.5% 85 100 90
Changeup 86.1 8.1% - - -
Curveball 79.4 1.9% - - -
Graveman’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Heading into this season, Kendall Graveman was one of the more interesting pitchers in the A’s rotation. A velocity spike late last year led to an interesting experiment with his pitch mix. As the velocity increased on his sinker, Graveman began almost exclusively throwing that pitch. Towards the end of the season, he was throwing it around 70% of the time. He took it to the extreme this April, throwing his sinker 85% of the time! Unfortunately, all those sinkers didn’t translate into greater success on the mound. He was able to lower his walk rate by a few points last season, but his poor strikeout rate never saw a bump. The rest of his repertoire consists of a cutter, changeup, and curveball. He’ll throw his cutter most often out of those three and the poor quality of the latter two is one of the reasons why he started throwing his sinker so often. He was sidelined with a shoulder injury in early May and made his return from the disabled list last week.

RHP Jharel Cotton

85 1/3 19.6% 10.1% 12.8% 37.5% 5.48 5.17

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 93.3 45.0% 110 92 104
Cutter 88.8 26.6% 182 115 160
Changeup 77.8 19.2% 95 87 92
Curveball 77.8 9.1% -3 67 20

Jharel Cotton has one of the most intriguing pitch arsenals in the majors. His “rising” fastball sits around 92-93 mph with some excellent horizontal movement to it. But his standout pitch is his changeup. He throws that pitch 15 miles per hour slower than his fastball and is able to generate some impressive movement with the pitch—both horizontal run and vertical drop. His cutter has improved by leaps and bounds, generating a whiff over 25% of the time an opposing batter swings. Cotton has really struggled with consistency this season. A mid-year demotion to the minors and recurring issues with blisters have disrupted his second season in the majors. His walk rate has ballooned to over 10% and his minor league home run problem has followed him to the majors.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 71-40 0.640 -- L-L-W-L-W
Mariners 57-56 0.504 15.0 L-L-W-W-L
Angels 55-58 0.487 17.0 W-W-L-L-L
Rangers 53-58 0.477 18.0 W-W-L-W-L
Athletics 50-62 0.446 21.5 W-L-L-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 59-51 0.536 +2.5 L-L-L-W-W
Royals 57-54 0.514 -- W-L-L-W-L
Rays 58-55 0.513 -- W-W-L-L-W
Mariners 57-56 0.504 1.0 L-L-W-W-L
Orioles 56-56 0.500 1.5 L-L-W-W-W

A new contender approaches! Many were left scratching their heads when the Orioles ended up adding players at the trade deadline rather than selling. They were five and a half games out of the Wild Card heading into the deadline but are now just a game and a half back after winning eight of their last ten. They just started a long West Coast road trip with a win against the Angels last night. The Rays barely avoided being swept by the Brewers over the weekend, winning the last game of the series on a walk-off. They’re hosting Boston for a brief two-game series. The Royals lost the opening game of a four-game series against the Cardinals yesterday.