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Series Preview: Mariners (3-2) at Twins (3-2)

The Mariners continue their early season road trip with a stop in cold, cold Minneapolis.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After their brief two-game series in San Francisco, the Mariners head to Minneapolis and the frigid cold of the Midwest. Every team suffers through blowouts during the season—the Braves demolished the Nationals 13-6 just the other day—so the drubbing the Mariners suffered through yesterday afternoon shouldn’t be taken as a bellwether for the rest of the season. Still, it did put a damper on some of the early season excitement that was building after just four games. The schedule doesn’t get any easier with three games against a Wild Card competitor.

At a Glance

Mariners Twins
Mariners Twins
Game 1 Thursday, April 5 | 1:10 pm
LHP James Paxton RHP Kyle Gibson
49% 51%
Off Day Friday, April 6
Game 2 Saturday, April 7 | 11:10 am
RHP Mike Leake RHP Jose Berrios
45% 55%
Game 3 Sunday, April 8 | 11:10 am
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Lance Lynn
42% 58%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners (2017) Twins (2017) Edge
Overview Mariners (2017) Twins (2017) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 103 (4th in AL) 102 (5th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) 10.5 (5th) 12.2 (4th) Twins
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 115 (14th) 109 (10th) Twins
Bullpen (FIP-) 99 (9th) 101 (11th) Mariners

This early season meeting against the Twins has some major implications for the fall. Their surprising ascendancy last season came a season or two before anyone expected. But they managed to take advantage of a relatively week middle-class in the American League and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

This offseason, the Twins focused on adding complementary pieces to their young core and were able to take advantage of the depressed free agent market. They added Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn on cheap, one-year deals, bolstered their bullpen by signing Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed, and traded for Jake Odorizzi. With three other teams in the AL Central in various stages of rebuilding, the Twins look poised to take advantage of a relatively easy schedule.

Projected Twins Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Brian Dozier 2B R 705 0.300 125 3.6
Joe Mauer 1B L 597 0.349 116 -6.2
Miguel Sano 3B R 483 0.375 124 -4.2
Eddie Rosario LF L 589 0.312 116 -0.6
Logan Morrison DH L 601 0.268 130 0.0
Eduardo Escobar SS S 499 0.279 96 3.0
Max Kepler RF L 568 0.276 92 3.1
Byron Buxton CF R 511 0.339 90 11.7
Jason Castro C L 407 0.318 93 -2.3
All stats from 2017

The Twins offense drove their postseason run last year. Continued excellence from Brian Dozier, a resurgent Joe Mauer, and a breakout season from Eddie Rosario helped them accumulate the fourth most runs scored in the American League. But the most exciting player who finally is reaching his potential is their center fielder, Byron Buxton. He’s already one of the best defensive outfielders in the game and his offensive game might be finally coming around. Promising shortstop Jorge Polanco was hit with a PED suspension earlier this spring. In his stead, Eduardo Escobar is manning the position, and surprisingly, the Twins probably won’t see a difference in production. Escobar had been a light hitting utility infielder up until last year but he caught onto the launch angle revolution and launched 21 home runs in 2017.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: AL Wildcard-Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees

RHP Kyle Gibson (2017)

158 17.5% 8.7% 18.3% 50.8% 5.07 4.85

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 21.9% 92.6 2161 (-0.43) 86 85
Sinker 34.7% 92.3 2031 (-1.00) 70 91
Changeup 15.7% 84.8 1641 (0.12) 100 57
Slider 17.7% 84.5 2437 (0.30) 140 77
Curveball 10.1% 80.0 2420 (-0.28) 125 69

In back-to-back seasons, Kyle Gibson posted a 5.07 ERA exactly. His FIP didn’t really fluctuate between seasons either, posting 4.70 in 2016 and a 4.85 the next year. Hidden in his overall season stats is an eight-game stretch to end the 2017 season. In almost 50 innings, he posted a 2.92 ERA backed by a 4.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a mark twice as good as his career rate. The key to his success during this stretch was throwing his slider much more often to both left- and right-handed batters. It was just 50 innings, but it’s something to build off of for the former first-round draft pick. In his first start of the year, he held the Orioles hitless over six innings, though he also allowed five walks.

RHP Jose Berrios (2017)

145 2/3 22.6% 7.8% 9.1% 39.0% 3.89 3.84

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 35.7% 94.0 2243 (-0.10) 148 116
Sinker 25.8% 93.5 2169 (0.24) 99 153
Changeup 8.6% 83.9 1588 (-0.54) 62 88
Curveball 29.9% 81.6 2407 (-0.47) 107 83

After a tremendously disappointing debut in 2016, Jose Berrios finally showed off why he was considered the Twins top pitching prospect for years. In his sophomore season, he posted a respectable 3.84 FIP along with an above average strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also managed to avoid getting hurt by the long ball despite a batted ball profile heavily skewed towards fly balls. His signature pitch is his curveball which has an insane amount of horizontal movement to it. But it’s not really a swing and miss pitch. His fastball is his true weapon, though the lack of a good changeup leaves him vulnerable to left-handed batters. They posted a .341 wOBA against him last year. He was also able to keep the Orioles at bay in his first start, pitching a complete game shutout.

RHP Lance Lynn (2017)

186 1/3 19.7% 10.1% 14.2% 44.0% 3.43 4.82

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 38.8% 92.7 2371 (1.08) 160 114
Sinker 42.1% 91.8 2236 (0.57) 149 110
Cutter 11.8% 87.6 2419 (0.38) 102 85
Changeup 2.6% 84.8
Curveball 4.6% 79.3 2180 (-1.12) 60 87
Lynn’s changeup did not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

After missing all of 2016 to Tommy John surgery, Lance Lynn returned to pitch a full season in 2017. Knowing he was only a year removed from the surgery, we should have expected a little dip in performance. What the Cardinals got was a huge step back. Despite a shiny 3.43 ERA, Lynn posted career worsts almost across the board which led to a 4.82 FIP and the largest ERA-FIP differential among qualified pitchers. Lynn sat on the free agent market for a while this offseason—just like every other mid-tier pitcher—finally settling for a one-year contract with the Twins. They’re hoping he can return to his pre-surgery career norms now that he’s two years removed from the injury.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 6-1 0.857 -- W-W-W-W-W
Angels 5-2 0.714 1.0 W-W-L-W-W
Mariners 3-2 0.600 2.0 W-L-W-W-L
Athletics 3-4 0.429 3.0 L-L-W-L-W
Rangers 2-5 0.286 4.0 L-L-L-W-L

The Astros continue to build on their hot start this season by sweeping the Orioles in three games. Their schedule gets even easier as they host the Padres this weekend. The Angels managed to win two of three against Cleveland with a walk-off win yesterday afternoon. They’ll host the Athletics this weekend after Oakland wraps up their series against the Rangers today.