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Series Preview: Mariners (47-31) at Orioles (23-53)

The Mariners wrap up their long East Coast road trip with four games against the Orioles

Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hello from the other side. Beginning with their two-game series against the Astros on June 5, the Mariners have gone 10-9 against some of the best teams in baseball. It wasn’t a pretty end to that dreaded stretch of play but they’re still 16 games over .500 and six games ahead of the Angels in the Wild Card race. The schedule eases up a bit with seven games against the Orioles and the Royals, the two worst teams in baseball. On the horizon in July are nine games against the Angels—40% of month will be spent playing Los Angeles—and a pair of three-game series against the Rockies.

At a Glance

Mariners Orioles
Mariners Orioles
Game 1 Monday, June 25 | 4:05 pm
RHP Félix Hernández RHP Andrew Cashner
58% 42%
Game 2 Tuesday, June 26 | 4:05 pm
LHP James Paxton RHP Kevin Gausman
61% 39%
Game 3 Wednesday, June 27 | 4:05 pm
LHP Wade LeBlanc RHP Alex Cobb
59% 41%
Game 4 Thursday, June 28 | 12:05 pm
RHP Mike Leake RHP Dylan Bundy
56% 44%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Orioles Edge
Overview Mariners Orioles Edge
Batting (wRC+) 107 (5th in AL) 83 (14th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -0.1 (11th) -29.9 (15th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 98 (5th) 116 (12th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (5th) 95 (8th) Mariners

Nothing’s gone right for the Orioles this year. After a disappointing 75 win campaign last season, it looked like they were gearing up for one last shot at the Wild Card before Manny Machado hit free agency. With breakout years from Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, and Tim Beckham in 2017, it seemed like they could score enough runs to cover up a patchwork pitching staff. Almost halfway through this season, it looks like those breakouts were just mirages. Schoop and Mancini haven’t even come close to replicating their offensive production from a year ago and Beckham has been injured more than he’s been healthy.

To make matters worse, the two starting pitchers they brought in over the offseason have a combined ERA of 5.60 and their starting rotation has given up the third most home runs in the league. Their bullpen has been plagued by inconsistency, though their All-Star closer Zach Britton recently returned from a lengthy stay on the disabled list. It all adds up to the second worst record in baseball and a massive organizational shake up on the horizon.

Orioles Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Jace Peterson 3B L 141 0.262 84 0.1
Adam Jones CF R 317 0.325 110 -1.4
Manny Machado SS R 329 0.299 147 -0.1
Mark Trumbo DH R 170 0.312 120 0.5
Jonathan Schoop 2B R 246 0.231 60 0.3
Colby Rasmus RF L 38 0.313 42 0.2
Trey Mancini LF R 302 0.270 85 1.7
Chris Davis 1B L 244 0.222 27 -0.5
Caleb Joseph C R 100 0.235 33 0.4

Manny Machado probably won’t end the season on the Orioles, but for now, he’s the one player in the lineup providing significant offensive value. He struggled through some poor batted ball luck last season but has rebounded this year to post the highest wRC+ of his career. He’s hitting for more power, is drawing more walks, and has cut his strikeout rate to just 13.7%. But despite all that offensive prowess, his move to shortstop hasn’t gone very well. Both UZR and DRS think he’s been the worst defensive shortstop in the league and that’s hurt his overall value. For Schoop, a ten point drop in hard hit rate explains a lot of his troubles this season. He’s hitting far more popups and his line drive rate has fallen to just 14%. Mancini’s batted ball profile looks unchanged from last season while also improving his walk rate by four points. Most of his struggles can be explained by some poor batted ball luck.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Washington Nationals

RHP Andrew Cashner

76 1/3 18.8% 10.0% 15.3% 39.5% 4.72 5.01

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 22.6% 94.1 2231 (-0.18) 110 84
Sinker 39.2% 93.2 2056 (-0.43) 80 104
Cutter 12.7% 88.1 2140 (-1.17) 97 78
Changeup 13.1% 84.4 1518 (-0.81) 117 117
Curveball 12.4% 82.1 2300 (-0.87) 75 95

Last season, Andrew Cashner’s park adjusted ERA was 26% better than league average. But don’t let that fool you. His strikeout rate was the lowest among all qualified starters and only an uncharacteristically suppressed home run rate stood between him and a park adjusted xFIP 27% worse than league average. His smoke and mirrors routine earned him a two-year pact with the Orioles. Unsurprisingly, his ERA has shot up to match his xFIP this season. His strikeout rate has bounced back to where it was when he was with the Padres but he’s been unable to keep his home run rate suppressed in Baltimore. To make matters worse, his ground ball rate has cratered as well, replaced by a ton of line drives. It all adds up to a fairly disappointing season for Cashner, even if it’s a bit of a return to form for him.

RHP Kevin Gausman

88 1/3 21.9% 6.3% 18.1% 47.4% 4.38 4.36

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 57.3% 94.4 2203 (-0.45) 95 100
Splitter 25.9% 83.8 1524 (0.42) 130 113
Slider 15.3% 82.0 2236 (-0.27) 87 130

You can generally chart Kevin Gausman’s success from game to game based on the usage of his splitter. If he’s got a good feel for the pitch and is using it around 25% of the time, he’s liable to put together a pretty good start. If it’s below that mark, beware. Since his repertoire consists of just three pitches, the consistency of his splitter is extremely important. Especially since opposing batters have absolutely crushed his fastball this year. He’s always been prone to the long ball but he’s already allowed 10 home runs off his fastball alone this year, good for a .237 ISO allowed off the pitch. His third pitch, a slider, hasn’t fared much better (a .222 ISO). On a good night, he can mix all three pitches to breeze through a lineup. But if just one of them isn’t working, it’ll could spell disaster.

RHP Alex Cobb

70 15.5% 5.7% 16.9% 50.4% 6.56 4.93

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 56.4% 92.5 2129 (-0.60) 81 122
Splitter 19.4% 87.3 1648 (-0.10) 67 65
Curveball 24.2% 82.1 2528 (0.01) 74 108

Like Gausman, Alex Cobb also relies on a three-pitch repertoire that includes a pretty good splitter. But in his first full season back after Tommy John surgery in 2015, he dropped the usage of his splitter to a career low rate. That pitch helped him post above average ground ball rates throughout his time with the Rays and gave him an out pitch to boost his strikeout rate. He’s throwing the pitch a little more often this season but still not as often as he was before. Unsurprisingly, it’s more of the same as last season. His strikeout rate has continued to plummet and now he’s dealing with a huge increase in his home run rate. That dinger problem combined with an extremely low strand rate of 61% have conspired to push his ERA up to 6.56. But even if he saw a little more luck, the lack of strikeouts means that his margin for success is razor thin. Reintroducing his splitter could help but it seems like he’s lost his feel for the pitch after his long layoff after surgery.

RHP Dylan Bundy

96 27.0% 7.3% 15.1% 35.8% 3.75 4.29

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 49.6% 92.2 2402 (1.39) 96 96
Sinker 6.4% 91.9 2281 (1.01) 89 53
Changeup 8.9% 84.3 1758 (0.30) 101 90
Slider 25.9% 81.9 2479 (0.83) 162 130
Curveball 9.2% 75.1 2277 (-0.63) 80 41

Dylan Bundy might be the lone success story in the Orioles organization right now. As a former first-round draft pick, he’s always had his potential and promise to fall back on when his career was derailed by injuries. But since making his way to the majors, he’s been a bit inconsistent. His newfound success this season stems from using his slider far more often. That’s good because it’s a nasty pitch. And like Gausman, opposing batters absolutely crush his fastball. They’ve launched 11 home runs off the pitch so far, good for a .265 ISO. Bundy’s batted ball mix has always been fly ball heavy, and his home park and division lead to a lot of those fly balls leaving the yard. But by using his slider more and more, he’s been able to push his strikeout rate up to 27%, easily a career high.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 52-27 0.658 -- L-W-L-W-W
Mariners 47-31 0.603 4.5 L-L-L-W-L
Angels 41-37 0.526 10.5 W-W-W-L-L
Athletics 40-38 0.513 11.5 W-W-L-W-L
Rangers 34-45 0.430 18.0 W-W-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Red Sox 52-27 0.658 +4.5 L-W-W-L-W
Mariners 47-31 0.603 -- L-L-L-W-L
Angels 41-37 0.526 6.0 W-W-W-L-L
Athletics 40-38 0.513 7.0 W-W-L-W-L
Rays 37-40 0.481 9.5 W-L-W-W-W

After sweeping the Mariners at home, the Yankees were swept by the Rays in Tampa over the weekend. Baseball! The Astros had a little trouble earning a series win against the Royals. They lost the first game 1-0, won the second on a walk-off, and then crushed them on Sunday. The Blue Jays travel to Houston this week after splitting their series in Anaheim. The Angels travel to Kansas City for a makeup game before heading to Boston for a three-game series against the Red Sox.