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Series Preview: Mariners (41-24) vs. Angels (37-29)

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The Mariners return home to face the depleted Angels.

Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Mariners have pushed their record to 17 games over .500 and have already gone 7-2 in June. Three more one-run wins in Tampa pushes their season total to 21. At some point, we just have to throw out the projections and accept that this team is far better than we thought they’d ever be (more on that tomorrow). This upcoming stretch against the Angels, Red Sox, and Yankees looks daunting but I’m feeling excited about it, rather than dreading it. It’s four of the best teams in the American League duking it out over the next couple of weeks. It should make for some great baseball.

At a Glance

Angels Mariner
Angels Mariner
Game 1 Monday, June 11 | 7:10 pm
LHP Andrew Heaney LHP Wade LeBlanc
47% 53%
Game 2 Tuesday, June 12 | 7:10 pm
RHP Jaime Barría RHP Mike Leake
47% 53%
Game 3 Wednesday, June 13 | 1:10 pm
RHP Garrett Richards LHP Marco Gonzales
48% 52%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Angels Edge
Overview Mariners Angels Edge
Batting (wRC+) 105 (6th in AL) 106 (4th in AL) Angels
Fielding (UZR) -0.4 (10th) 14.7 (2nd) Angels
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 97 (6th) 97 (7th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 81 (4th) 99 (10th) Mariners

Whatever bad luck spirits were haunting the Mariners last year have moved on to the Angels this year. The worst possible news broke this morning: Shohei Ohtani will likely (maybe?) need Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow ligament. Whatever you feel about his offseason decision to join the Angels, you have to admit that his injury is a huge blow to baseball as a sport. It’s an even bigger blow to the Angels postseason hopes. They’re already dealing with numerous injuries across their entire roster. Andrelton Simmons sprained his ankle on the dugout steps (ha!) last week and will be unavailable for this series. Despite all those injuries, the Angels have managed to post an 8-2 record in June.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Ian Kinsler 2B R 226 0.218 92 -2.4
Mike Trout CF R 290 0.317 189 3.6
Justin Upton LF R 277 0.303 122 2.9
Albert Pujols DH R 252 0.271 93 -0.8
Luis Valbuena 3B L 180 0.307 79 -0.7
Zack Cozart SS R 244 0.251 88 -0.3
José Miguel Fernández 1B L 226 0.345 155
Martín Maldonado C R 177 0.319 91 -1.4
Michael Hermosillo RF R 187 0.370 130
*Fernández’s and Hermosillo’s stats from Triple-A

With Simmons out, the Angels have had to shuffle their infield a bit. Luckily, Zack Cozart is a pretty good defensive shortstop and can easily shift over from third. But it also means that Luis Valbuena will be seeing regular playing time until Simmons returns and that’s probably not a good thing. An oblique strain has sidelined Kole Calhoun but it’s probably good that the Angels got his bat out of the lineup for a while. They’ve called up Michael Hermosillo to replace him in right field and it should be pretty easy for Hermosillo to surpass Calhoun’s wRC+ of 3 (not a typo—three!). A quick update on Mike Trout: he’s posting the highest wRC+ of his career and has already accumulated almost five wins already. It’s becoming a common refrain, but I think we’re going to see how far Trout can carry this team on his own, again.

Probable Pitchers

Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

LHP Andrew Heaney

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
60 2/3 23.6% 7.7% 7.1% 40.0% 3.12 3.18

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 55.9% 92.5 2466 (2.30) 181 127
Changeup 19.9% 83.9 1902 (0.08) 82 104
Curveball 24.3% 79.5 2384 (-0.35) 138 106

One of the few pitching bright spots for the Angels, Andrew Heaney has recaptured the brilliance that made him a top prospect in the Marlins organization half a decade ago. Like so many other pitchers in the Angels organization, Heaney is a Tommy John survivor. His operation was in July of 2016 and he only made it back to the majors late last season after dealing with some shoulder problems too. In 21 innings last season, he allowed a laughable 12 home runs across five starts. However, that huge home run problem hid a promising strikeout-to-walk ratio. This season, he’s built on that hidden success by completely suppressing his home run rate down to 7.1%. He’s also posting a pretty high strand rate along with his extremely low home run rate. But it’s not all smoke and mirrors and most of his success has been earned. He’s throwing his excellent curveball more than ever, up to almost 25% now, and opposing batters just can’t make solid contact against it. He’s yet to allow a home run and opposing batters have posted an ISO of just .125 off his bender.


RHP Jaime Barría

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
36 1/3 20.4% 6.1% 9.5% 40.0% 2.48 3.87

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 41.6% 92.2 2191 (-0.10) 79 106
Sinker 5.9% 91.7 2138 (-0.31)
Changeup 20.1% 83.9 1492 (-0.96) 114 136
Slider 32.4% 82.5 2236 (-0.67) 114 109
Barría’s sinker does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

With Shohei Ohtani on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Jaime Barría should see an extended stay in the Angels rotation. He’s been called on seven times this season, usually making spot starts here and there to keep the Angels on a six-day rotation. With that luxury shot after all the injuries they’ve suffered, Barría has shown enough promise to claim a regular spot in the rotation. Barría quickly rose through the minors last season, making appearances in three different levels. His primary calling card has been his excellent command of his four-pitch repertoire. He doesn’t post outlandish strikeout rates but his walk rate is good enough that he can be effective as a major league starter without the K’s. In his seven major league starts this season, he’s posted an ERA well below his FIP or xFIP, even though his strikeout-to-walk ratio is an excellent 3.33.


RHP Garrett Richards

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
66 1/3 27.1% 11.4% 15.4% 50.6% 3.26 3.87

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 33.0% 96.5 2632 (3.10) 80 135
Sinker 17.6% 96.7 2552 (3.96) 140 133
Slider 39.1% 89.9 2919 (2.11) 143 127
Curveball 10.3% 81.7 3205 (2.57) 104 107

After two years of injury troubles, Garrett Richards looks to be finally healthy. He’s been limited to just 12 starts during the past two seasons and his start tonight will be the first time he’s surpassed seven starts in a season since 2015. A Statcast darling, Richards’s ridiculously high spin rate on all of his pitches gives him four absolutely nasty pitches in his arsenal. His four-seam fastball, while not as effective this year, is sort of a cross between a cutter and a fastball. It doesn’t as much “rise” as a traditional four-seam fastball and certainly not as much as we’d expect with a spin rate as high as he’s running. His best pitches are his breaking balls. His slider is a true out pitch for him, generating ridiculous amounts of whiffs, and his curveball is a nice change-of-pace weapon he can use when he needs to steal a strike. His walk rate has spiked early this season and it’s possibly due to a drop in his ability to induce swings on pitches out of the zone.

Richards completely dominated the Mariners back in May in his best start of the year. He held them scoreless for six and two-thirds innings, striking out eight and allowing just five baserunners. His walk rate has continued to stay elevated this season despite a career high strikeout rate to go along with it.


The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 41-24 0.631 -- L-W-W-L-W
Astros 42-25 0.627 -- W-W-W-W-W
Angels 37-29 0.561 4.5 W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 34-32 0.515 7.5 L-W-W-L-W
Rangers 27-41 0.397 15.5 W-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Red Sox 44-22 0.667 +2.5 W-L-L-W-L
Astros 42-25 0.627 -- W-W-W-W-W
Angels 37-29 0.561 4.5 W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 34-32 0.515 7.5 L-W-W-L-W
Tigers 31-36 0.463 11.0 L-W-L-W-L

The Astros swept the Rangers in their four-game series over the weekend. They’re now in a virtual tie atop the AL West with the Mariners and will travel to Oakland for a three-game series tomorrow. The Mariners next opponent, the Red Sox, have slipped behind the Yankees in the AL East. They’re in Baltimore for three games before traveling west.