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Series Preview: Mariners (6-4) vs. Athletics (5-8)

The Mariners start a three-game series against the Athletics

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Mariners return home for a seven-game homestand and their first intradivisional games of the season. At 6-4, they’ve matched their best 10-game start to a season since 2009. Winning four of seven on the road trip was significant since the team is operating at around 75% of its full strength. Nelson Cruz, Mike Zunino, and Ben Gamel should all return from their various injuries sometime during this homestand, which will provide a huge boost to the team.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Friday, April 13 | 7:10 pm
RHP Andrew Triggs RHP Mike Leake
44% 56%
Game 2 Saturday, April 14 | 6:10 pm
RHP Kendall Graveman LHP Marco Gonzales
47% 53%
Game 3 Sunday, April 15 | 1:10 pm
LHP Sean Manaea RHP Felix Hernandez
46% 54%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners (2017) Athletics (2017) Edge
Overview Mariners (2017) Athletics (2017) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 103 (4th in AL) 102 (6th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 10.1 (5th) -35.4 (15th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 115 (14th) 107 (9th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 99 (9th) 103 (12th) Mariners

The Mariners finally match up against their first AL West opponent this weekend. This series begins a run of 17 straight games for the Mariners, their second longest stretch without a break of the season.

The Athletics have built a fascinating roster over the past couple of seasons. Their offense has snuck into the top tier of the league on the back of some serious power. They hit the fourth most home runs in baseball a year ago, though they also struck out the fifth most too. That dangerous offense might be the only bright spot for the A’s. In their quest to accumulate all the power hitters, they sacrificed team defense and their pitching staff has suffered because of it.

Projected Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Matt Joyce LF L 544 0.263 116 1.7
Marcus Semien SS R 386 0.300 96 5.0
Jed Lowrie 2B S 645 0.314 119 -1.3
Khris Davis DH R 652 0.290 128 -1.3
Matt Olson 1B L 216 0.238 162 -1.8
Matt Chapman 3B R 326 0.290 108 2.0
Jonathan Lucroy C R 481 0.286 82 -2.8
Stephen Piscotty RF R 401 0.286 92 -3.8
Trayce Thompson CF R 369 0.264 58
All stats from 2017. Thompson’s stats from Triple-A.

While Matt Olson received most of the attention last year after hitting 24 home runs in just 59 games, it’s the other young Matt on the roster who could be even better. No, not Joyce, Chapman. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in the game and he’s refined his plate approach early this season. Fewer swinging strikes, more walks, and just as much power combined with that excellent defense has made him the early season fWAR leader in the majors. The two newcomers to the A’s lineup, Jonathan Lucroy and Stephen Piscotty, both saw their production wither last season and are looking to return to form this season.

Probable Pitchers

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics

RHP Andrew Triggs (2017)

65 1/3 17.7% 6.7% 13.2% 49.8% 4.27 4.47

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 43.8% 89.5 2389 (1.28) 117 81
Slider 32.3% 83.0 2520 (0.74) 87 95
Curveball 23.1% 76.0 2585 (0.70) 123 139

Andrew Triggs was surprisingly effective during a brief stretch towards the end of the season in 2016 and the beginning of the next season but injuries derailed both years. His sidearm delivery provides plenty of deception and creates some unique movement on his pitches. His sinker dropped more than any other sinker thrown last season and that led to a ground ball on almost 60% of the balls in play off the pitch. He’ll use both his breaking balls against both right- and left-handed batters equally. He’ll use his slider in any count against same-handed batters but he usually only uses it to steal strikes early in the count when facing the platoon disadvantage. The curveball is his put away pitch and it earned an above average whiff rate for him last season. He’s sporting a strikeout rate of almost 30% after two starts this season.

RHP Kendall Graveman (2017)

105 1/3 15.8% 7.2% 12.0% 51.2% 4.19 4.33

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 65.1% 93.8 2348 (1.28) 115 98
Cutter 15.2% 90.5 2496 (0.80) 90 104
Changeup 10.4% 86.4 1796 (0.22) 84 49
Curveball 5.6% 79.6 2677 (0.69) 103 43

After experimenting with throwing his sinker more than 80% of the time to begin last season, Kendall Graveman has taken a step back from that extreme. An injury to his shoulder is probably the primary reason he abandoned that experiment, though he’s retained the added velocity that led to it in the first place. His three other pitches are all mediocre, though they all have their place in keeping batters honest. His high-contact approach will always be pretty volatile. If he’s commanding his heavy sinker well, he’ll generate a ton of weak contact on the ground. If not, he’s prone to be knocked around pretty easily.

LHP Sean Manaea (2017)

158 2/3 20.2% 8.0% 10.6% 44.1% 4.37 4.10

Pitch Arsenal

Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity (mph) Spin Rate (z-score) Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 58.1% 92.2 1977 (-1.61) 96 92
Changeup 24.1% 83.9 1206 (-2.23) 132 71
Slider 17.8% 80.5 1992 (-1.71) 124 132

Even though his overall line from his sophomore season looks pretty similar to his rookie year, Sean Manaea really struggled through 2017. A weight loss problem stemming from a medication really sapped him of his strength and stamina as the season wore on. Despite those difficulties, he still showed off all the tools that made him a top prospect. All of his pitches possess extremely low spin rates leading to tons of downward action on all of them. Of course this helps his ground ball rate but it also helps him generate healthy whiff rates on both of his secondary pitches. The development of his changeup has given him a weapon against right-handed batters, though he still sports a pretty significant platoon split. His first three starts of the season have been excellent, a good sign for his health this season.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Angels 11-3 0.786 -- W-W-W-W-W
Astros 9-4 0.692 1.5 W-W-W-L-L
Mariners 6-4 0.600 3.0 L-W-L-W-W
Athletics 5-8 0.385 5.5 L-W-L-L-W
Rangers 4-10 0.286 7.0 W-L-L-L-L

For the first time since early last season, the Astros find themselves out of first place in the AL West. That’s because the Angels have been on fire to start the season. They won their fifth straight last night and will wrap up a four-game series against the Royals over the weekend. The Rangers, who just lost Elvis Andrus for a few months, will travel to Houston this weekend.