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Series Preview: Mariners (9-8) at Rangers (7-13)

The Mariners close out the month with a ten-game road trip beginning in Texas.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s probably best to just forget about that series against the Astros and look forward to this ten-game road trip. The Mariners will visit another division rival this weekend and then continue their tour of the AL Central with stops in Chicago and Cleveland. With that four-game series in Cleveland looming at the end of their trip, banking as many wins as possible against the Rangers and White Sox will make the rest of this month much more palatable. Luckily, they’re both playing pretty poorly right now. These are the series the Mariners absolutely need to win if they want to compete with the best in the American League.

At a Glance

Mariners Rangers
Mariners Rangers
Game 1 Friday, April 20 | 5:05 pm
RHP Felix Hernandez LHP Mike Minor
48% 52%
Game 2 Saturday, April 21 | 5:05 pm
LHP James Paxton RHP Bartolo Colon
55% 45%
Game 3 Sunday, April 22 | 12:05 pm
RHP Erasmo Ramirez LHP Martin Perez
53% 47%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners (2017) Rangers (2017) Edge
Overview Mariners (2017) Rangers (2017) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 103 (4th in AL) 95 (10th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 10.1 (5th) -12.1 (11th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 115 (14th) 113 (11th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 99 (9th) 103 (13th) Mariners

Heading into the season, there were a few comparisons drawn between the Mariners and the Rangers. Both teams looked like they were gearing up for another run at the playoffs despite flawed rosters. The Rangers, however, were even more desperate for pitching than the Mariners. They went out and added three starting pitchers to their rotation, though none of them seemed like they would make much of an impact.

To make matters even worse, they’ve suffered some extremely bad injury luck in the first few weeks of the season. Their double-play duo, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor, are both slated to miss significant amounts of time and their starting center fielder, Delino DeShields, has been on the shelf since the opening week. With so many replacements gaining substantial playing time, it’s no surprise the Rangers have stumbled out of the gate.

Projected Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Shin-Soo Choo DH L 636 0.305 107 -1.7
Jurickson Profar SS S 383 0.302 116
Nomar Mazara RF L 616 0.293 92 -2.2
Adrian Beltre 3B R 389 0.321 138 -3.9
Joey Gallo LF L 532 0.250 123 4.6
Ronald Guzman 1B L 527 0.342 112
Robinson Chirinos C R 309 0.298 127 -2.1
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 2B R 570 0.325 109
Carlos Tocci CF R 474 0.356 112
*All stats from 2017. Profar’s, Guzman’s, & Kiner-Falefa’s stats from Triple-A. Tocci’s stats from Double-A.

Even though the Rangers lineup is filled with injury replacements, there are still a few dangerous hitters that form the core of their offense. Joey Gallo was finally given a chance to play regularly and rewarded the Rangers patience with an offensive explosion. He hit more home runs than singles last year because he hit almost 60% of his balls in play in the air. With such an extreme batted ball profile, he’s prone to some streakiness if the balls aren’t flying over the walls regularly. Adrian Beltre lost the first few month of the season to a calf injury but he returned with a vengeance. He posted a 138 wRC+, his highest mark since 2014, and accumulated 3.1 fWAR in just 94 games.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros

LHP Mike Minor (2017)

77 2/3 28.7% 7.2% 6.3% 42.4% 2.55 2.62
*All of Minor’s appearances were out of the bullpen in 2017.

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 43.6% 94.9 2605 (2.16) 151 122
Changeup 10.8% 87.1 2251 (1.93) 113 149
Slider 35.8% 88.9 2664 (1.24) 84 132
Curveball 7.7% 82.8 2531 (-1.05) 121 69

Mike Minor lost more than two seasons to a labrum tear but returned to the mound last season, albeit as a reliever. He made 65 appearances out of the Royals bullpen and accumulated 2.1 fWAR in the process. Like you would expect, his velocity spiked on all of his pitches—he added around 4 mph to his fastball—and he relied pretty heavily on his slider. So when the Rangers signed him this offseason and announced their intent to use him as a starter, many were curious if this rejuvenation could translate to the rotation. We’re three starts into this season and we’ve got a pretty good idea of who Mike Minor, starting pitcher is. His velocity has fallen across the board, unsurprisingly, though it’s sitting higher than it was prior to his injury. He’s also mixing in his changeup more often at the expense of his slider. But despite the reduced velocity, his offerings each sport impressive spin rates giving him the effectiveness needed to thrive in multi-inning outings.

RHP Bartolo Colon (2017)

143 13.7% 5.4% 14.1% 41.8% 6.48 5.21

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 20.4% 90.5 2225 (0.18) 99 85
Sinker 61.8% 87.5 2085 (0.58) 56 100
Changeup 10.0% 81.7 1678 (-0.02) 107 112
Slider 7.2% 81.9 2335 (0.18) 49 120

Bartolo Colon, the ageless wonder. He’s been in the league long enough that he made two starts against the Mariners the last time they made the playoffs. His career stats go back far enough that we don’t have batted ball stats for the first five years of his career. After posting a 6.48 ERA alongside a 5.21 FIP in 28 starts last season, many thought it would be the end of the line for Colon. Yet he managed to land a deal with the pitching starved Rangers and rewarded us with seven perfect innings against the Astros his last time out. He relies completely on guile, pitching smarts, and veteran savvy™, commanding his fastball in and around the zone. Without that command, he’s likely to post numbers closer to last year, rather than the league average numbers he’s posted in his old age.

LHP Martin Perez (2017)

185 14.2% 7.8% 13.3% 47.3% 4.82 4.65

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 21.6% 93.5 2088 (-1.03) 82 108
Sinker 37.2% 93.2 2026 (-0.67) 91 92
Changeup 20.6% 84.9 1782 (0.56) 94 105
Slider 10.6% 84.3 2309 (-0.41) 63 113
Curveball 10.1% 79.1 2561 (0.23) 89 61

It feels like Martin Perez has been around forever (though not as long as Colon), yet he just turned 27. Unfortunately, his early career longevity isn’t based on any huge success. Instead, it’s his ability to take the ball every five days even after injuries derailed his career a few seasons ago. The one skill that actually helped him mitigate hard contact—his ground ball rate—deteriorated last season from excellent to merely okay. Allowing that much more contact in the air is a really bad development for a pitcher who was already barely below league average. In the era of launch angle and a potentially juiced (or not) ball, that could signal an approaching death knell for Perez.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Angels 13-6 0.684 -- W-W-L-L-L
Astros 13-7 0.650 0.5 L-L-W-W-W
Mariners 9-8 0.529 3.0 W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 9-10 0.474 4.0 L-W-W-W-W
Rangers 7-13 0.350 6.5 W-W-L-W-L

The Angels and Red Sox faced each other earlier this week in a battle for American League supremacy. The Red Sox resoundingly defeated the Angels by a combined score of 27-3. The Giants travel to Anaheim this weekend. The Athletics swept the White Sox at home and they’ve now won four in a row. Unfortunately, they’re hosting the Red Sox. The Astros travel to Chicago to face the White Sox.