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Series Preview: Mariners (16-11) vs. Athletics (14-14)

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The Mariners start off the month of May with a three-game series against the A’s.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics Kiel Maddox-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners head into the second month of the season with their best record since 2003. Their two blowout wins in Cleveland over the weekend helped them push their run differential closer to even—it’s at -2 right now. There’s no question they’ve had some good luck on their side in April, but they also dealt with their fair share of bad injury luck too. May looks like a relatively easy month on the schedule. The Mariners play just 10 games on the road and will have two scheduled off days spread evenly during the month. It’s a great opportunity to continue to build on their strong start to the season.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, May 1 | 7:10 pm
RHP Andrew Triggs RHP Felix Hernandez
44% 56%
Game 2 Wednesday, May 2 | 7:10 pm
LHP Brett Anderson* LHP James Paxton
43% 57%
Game 3 Thursday, May 3 | 7:10 pm
LHP Sean Manaea RHP Erasmo Ramirez
48% 52%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer). Brett Anderson has not been announced as the starter on Wednesday.

Team Overview

Overview Mariners (2018) Athletics (2018) Edge
Overview Mariners (2018) Athletics (2018) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 109 (5th in AL) 114 (2nd in AL) Athletics
Fielding (UZR) -3.2 (13th) 3.3 (4th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 118 (14th) 93 (4th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 97 (9th) 115 (13th) Mariners

The Athletics were often the forgotten team in the AL West this offseason. With the reigning champions and Shohei Ohtani taking up most of the headlines and the Mariners trying to keep up with them, many of the additions Oakland made went under the radar. But they’ve made their presence known in just a month’s time. Their offense sports the second highest wRC+ in the American League, helping them score an average of five runs per game. But the most surprising thing has been the effectiveness of their starting rotation. Having a healthy Sean Manaea throw a no-hitter against the Red Sox will elevate any pitching staff but Andrew Triggs and Daniel Mengden have both been valuable behind Manaea.

Their biggest weakness has been their bullpen which is the position group they tried to upgrade during the offseason. Their closer, Blake Treinen, has been excellent. Beyond that, it’s been hit or miss. That should benefit the Mariners who scored 27 runs off opposing relievers during their 10-game road trip and have collectively posted a .272/.334/.525 slash line against relief pitchers this season.

Projected Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Matt Joyce LF L 88 0.231 108 -0.9
Marcus Semien SS R 134 0.345 104 0.3
Jed Lowrie 2B S 126 0.388 168 0.0
Khris Davis DH R 126 0.260 119 -0.3
Matt Olson 1B L 114 0.390 101 0.7
Matt Chapman 3B R 119 0.314 143 0.9
Mark Canha CF R 56 0.333 159 0.0
Stephen Piscotty RF R 110 0.333 103 -1.9
Jonathan Lucroy C R 83 0.299 90 -1.2

The Athletics offense has been on fire recently. Matt Chapman and Jed Lowrie both sit inside the top 10 in fWAR and the only regular in their lineup with a below average offensive line is Jonathan Lucroy. Lowire is hitting for more power than ever before in his career. You might assume he’s bought into the launch angle trend but his fly ball rate is actually the second lowest of his career. He’s just maximizing the damage on his fly balls by barreling up his elevated contact. With Boog Powell injured and Dustin Fowler still recovering from his terrible knee injury last year, the Athletics have had to scramble to find a center fielder. Mark Canha doesn’t exactly fit defensively in center but he’s hitting extremely well right now. The A’s have found a way to get his bat in the lineup and he hasn’t been a complete disaster in the field.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels

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. Against same-handed batters, he’ll throw his slider in any count 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.

LHP Brett Anderson (2017)

55 1/3 15.1% 8.4% 11.9% 49.2% 6.34 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 18.9% 91.2 1984 (-1.45) 98 74
Sinker 33.4% 90.4 1827 (-1.91) 107 63
Changeup 14.2% 83.7 1593 (-0.54) 68 121
Slider 21.3% 82.6 2321 (-0.35) 82 94
Curveball 12.3% 75.4 2308 (-0.24) 118 104

Did you know that Brett Anderson made 31 starts and threw 180 innings just a few years ago? I find that incredible. Anderson’s injury history is long and varied—he’s made more than 20 starts just twice in his nine-year career—but he’s managed to stick around the majors somehow. He pitched for the Cubs and the Blue Jays last year and his peripherals were much better than his ERA might indicate. He signed a minor league deal with Oakland in late March and has been building up stamina in Triple-A. When he’s healthy, he combines good command with a strong ground ball rate. He won’t strike out very many but keeping the ball on the ground helps him avoid getting really hurt by the long ball.

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 his pitches. 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.

Sean Manaea’s success this year has been really interesting to analyze. The average velocity on all of his pitches is down a couple of miles per hour but the effectiveness of each of them has increased. Normally, the A’s might be worried about their ace pitcher, but based on what he’s said, he’s throwing his pitches slower on purpose. His command of his pitches has never been better and that’s allowed him to live on the edges of the strike zone with all three of his pitches.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 20-10 0.667 -- W-L-W-W-W
Mariners 16-11 0.593 2.5 W-W-L-W-W
Angels 16-12 0.571 3.0 W-L-L-L-L
Athletics 14-14 0.500 5.0 W-L-W-L-L
Rangers 11-19 0.367 9.0 W-L-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 18-10 0.643 +1.5 W-W-W-W-L
Mariners 16-11 0.593 -- W-W-L-W-W
Angels 16-12 0.571 0.5 W-L-L-L-L
Blue Jays 16-12 0.571 0.5 L-L-L-W-W
Athletics 14-14 0.500 2.5 W-L-W-L-L

The Astros snapped the Yankees nine-game win streak last night with a 2-1 victory. These two powerhouses will continue their four-game series tonight. The Angels home record is an abysmal 5-10 to start the year. They’re hosting the Orioles this week, hoping to see some more success in front of friendly crowds. The Blue Jays started off a series against the Twins with a win last night.