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Series Preview: Mariners (75-81) at Athletics (72-83)

The Mariners finish this season off with a six-game road trip down the coast.

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

At a Glance

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Monday, September 25 | 7:05 pm
RHP Felix Hernandez RHP Daniel Gossett
50% 50%
Game 2 Tuesday, September 26 | 7:05 pm
LHP James Paxton RHP Daniel Mengden
52% 48%
Game 3 Wednesday, September 27 | 12:35 pm
RHP Erasmo Ramirez RHP Kendall Graveman
49% 51%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (6th in AL) 102 (4th in AL) Athletics
Fielding (UZR) 12.6 (5th) -40.8 (15th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 115 (14th) 106 (8th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 99 (9th) 103 (13th) Mariners

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

With the Mariners officially eliminated from playoff contention, their focus can finally turn to 2018. And yet both Felix Hernandez and James Paxton will continue to receive starts this final week of the season. Any lingering fears about reinjuring their two most valuable starting pitchers in a meaningless series against the A’s are being overlooked. With Andrew Moore and Marco Gonzales slated to anchor their depth next year, it would be nice to see the Mariners to give them each one more start this year. Ultimately, a single start won’t push Moore and Gonzales’s development any faster so this is probably a moot point anyway. We’ll end up seeing Felix and Paxton twice this week and maybe it’s enough to just enjoy their last starts this season.

The Athletics:

While everyone has been focused on the Wild Card race, the Athletics have slowly worked their way up the standings. They’ve gone 14-8 in September, showing some promise for next year. Of course, with every win, their draft position drops lower and lower. With so many youngsters playing for jobs next year, their confidence is off the charts right now. Their offense is firing on all cylinders and even their defense has been a bit better. They’ve swept the Tigers and the Rangers in a row and they’re now just two and a half games behind the Mariners in the AL West.

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 LowrieAfter 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

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics - Game One

RHP Daniel Gossett

85 1/3 17.8% 7.3% 18.4% 44.5% 5.38 4.98

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity (mph) Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 91.9 52.7% 23 117 54
Changeup 84.7 10.6% 98 96 97
Slider 84.2 22.9% 86 92 88
Curveball 78.7 13.8% 136 82 118

Another young pitcher called up by the Athletics, Daniel Gossett is getting his chance to shine on the big league stage. Last year, he took some huge steps forward, beginning the year in High-A, getting promoted a level mid-season, and then ending the year with a cameo in Triple-A. He was able to add 10 points to his strikeout rate and improved his walk rate as well. That progress stuck with him this year and earned him a call up in the middle of June. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate hasn’t translated to the majors and he’s been roughed up in a few of his starts. He commands his rising fastball well and mixes in a changeup that can keep left-handed batters honest. His best pitch is his hard, biting slider that could be an excellent weapon against right-handed hitters.

RHP Daniel Mengden

30 15.0% 4.2% 13.5% 38.5% 3.30 4.62

Daniel Mengden made his major league debut last season, making 14 forgettable starts to the tune of a 6.50/4.34/4.57 pitcher slash line. He obviously bore the brunt of some bad batted ball luck and poor sequencing, but there were a few bright spots. He was able to carry over his strikeout rate from the minor leagues but struggled with his command a bit. He’s dealt with some injuries this season, making a few spot starts earlier this year and finally joining the rotation full-time in September. What he’s done in his past three starts is eye opening. In 22 innings, he’s allowed just three runs and he’s in the midst of a 16-inning scoreless streak. It certainly looks like he’s regained his fastball command, a critical piece of his repertoire. His walk rate has dropped significantly and his strikeout rate has bounced back towards where it was last season.

RHP Kendall Graveman

99 1/3 15.8% 7.4% 11.6% 50.3% 4.17 4.32

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Pitch Type Velocity Frequency Whiff+ BIP+ Avg Pitch Score
Four-seam 94.4 3.4% - - -
Sinker 93.8 66.1% 138 107 128
Cutter 90.4 14.7% 116 106 113
Changeup 86.5 10.3% 73 76 74
Curveball 79.5 5.4% - - -
*Graveman’s fastball 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. In April, he threw 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, but his 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 in August.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros-x 95-60 0.613 -- W-L-W-W-L
Angels 77-78 0.497 18.0 L-L-L-L-W
Rangers 76-79 0.490 19.0 W-W-L-L-L
Mariners 75-81 0.481 20.5 L-L-W-L-L
Athletics 72-83 0.465 23.0 W-W-W-W-W
x - clinched AL West

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees-x 86-69 0.555 +4.5 W-W-L-W-L
Twins 82-74 0.526 -- L-W-W-W-W
Angels 77-78 0.497 4.5 L-L-L-L-W
Royals 76-79 0.490 5.5 W-W-L-W-L
Rangers 76-79 0.490 5.5 W-W-L-L-L
x - clinched Wild Card berth

The Yankees clinched the first Wild Card spot this weekend despite losing two of three to the Blue Jays over the weekend. After sweeping the Tigers over the weekend (and receiving a lot of help elsewhere), the Twins are on the verge of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The prospect of facing the Yankees in a one-game playoff has to be daunting. These two teams have a lot of recent history in the playoffs. Since 2002, the Twins have faced the Yankees four times in the playoffs; they’ve gone 2-12 in those four division series, getting swept in their two most recent matchups.