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Series Preview: Mariners (58-39) vs. White Sox (33-62)

The Mariners get the second half of the season started with a three-game series against the White Sox

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The Mariners head into the second half of the season in the midst of their second longest skid of the year. After being swept on the road for the second time this year, the All-Star break could not have come at a more opportune time. Luckily, the Mariners can ease back into their schedule with a three-game series at home against the White Sox. Twelve of their next fifteen games will be played at home as well, giving them ample opportunities to get their season back on track.

At a Glance

White Sox Mariners
White Sox Mariners
Game 1 Friday, July 20 | 7:10 pm
RHP James Shields LHP Wade LeBlanc
37% 63%
Game 2 Saturday, July 21 | 7:10 pm
RHP Dylan Covey RHP Félix Hernández
34% 66%
Game 3 Sunday, July 22 | 1:10 pm
RHP Reynaldo López LHP Marco Gonzales
35% 65%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners White Sox Edge
Overview Mariners White Sox Edge
Batting (wRC+) 104 (5th in AL) 94 (11th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -2.9 (11th) -18.7 (13th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 100 (6th) 124 (15th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 91 (5th) 93 (6th) Mariners

The Mariners and White Sox played a three-game series in Chicago all the way back in mid-April. That feels like a lifetime ago for the Mariners. For the White Sox, nothing much has changed. They’re still slogging through the most painful parts of a massive rebuild. Their biggest problem at this point is their pitching staff. Their huge crop of high upside pitching prospects has fallen flat this season. Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, and Reynaldo López form a formidable rotation on paper but the results haven’t yet caught up with their potential.

White Sox Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Yoán Moncada 2B S 344 0.345 103 2.1
Yolmer Sánchez 3B S 352 0.307 94 0.4
José Abreu 1B R 363 0.282 101 -3.0
Daniel Palka RF L 232 0.307 100 -1.5
Matt Davidson DH R 303 0.314 113 -1.5
Omar Narváez C L 165 0.339 116 -3.5
Tim Anderson SS R 362 0.296 96 3.8
Adam Engel CF R 274 0.294 59 2.7
Ryan LaMarre LF R 117 0.389 72 -0.9

Maybe it’s okay that the White Sox pitching staff is still waiting for their breakout year because their offense is still waiting on a few of their prospects as well. Their biggest name in their farm system, Eloy Jiménez, will probably make a cameo appearance in the majors in September. He recently was called up to Triple-A after crushing the Southern League in Double-A. Until Jiménez gets a call up, all eyes are on Yoán Moncada. The consensus top prospect in baseball last year has continued to provide league average production in his sophomore campaign. His biggest wart is a massive strikeout rate that will need to come down if he’s going to turn into the star many thought he would become.

Probable Pitchers

Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox

RHP James Shields

126 17.1% 9.1% 9.0% 36.6% 4.43 4.49

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 27.9% 90.2 2282 (0.54) 67 92
Sinker 9.7% 89.7 2193 (0.01) 164 66
Cutter 21.3% 86.7 2338 (0.33) 84 76
Changeup 17.6% 84.1 1669 (-0.16) 94 114
Curveball 22.6% 78.9 2459 (-0.16) 118 116

James Shields has managed to find a way to hold off another season of decline at age 36. It’s still a far cry from his productive youth but it’s far better than the 5.94 FIP he’s posted over the last two seasons. His moderate renewal is all based on his home run rate. After allowing 17% of his fly balls to fly over the fence the last three years, he’s dropped his home run rate almost in half. He’s throwing his changeup more often which is definitely a good thing since it’s his best pitch. He’s also throwing his curveball more often and it comes in two varieties: a regular 78 mph version and an eephus version that comes in around 68 mph. Mixing in those two pitches more often means he’s throwing his fastball and his cutter less often which is a good thing. Since 2015, opposing batters have posted a combined .269 ISO off those two pitches. This season, it’s down below .190.

RHP Dylan Covey

55 1/3 16.9% 10.2% 13.0% 56.0% 5.69 4.52

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 64.0% 94.5 2034 (-1.59) 90 88
Changeup 9.5% 85.6 1104 (-2.69)
Slider 16.7% 88.0 2177 (-0.74) 87 77
Curveball 7.8% 81.0 2382 (-0.61)
Covey’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Dylan Covey was a Rule-5 pick last season who struggled to make the jump from Double-A to the majors. He posted a 7.71 ERA which was supported by a 7.20 FIP, both the second-worst among pitchers with a similar number of innings. He started out this season in the minors but has since been called up to make 11 starts. He’s improved his peripherals across the board but is still just a replacement level starter. He relies on a sinker/slider combo but neither pitch generates very many whiffs. He has been able to get batters to keep the ball on the ground at a healthy clip, which has given him something to build off of. He does possess one pitch that has an above average whiff rate, his changeup, but he doesn’t throw it enough to really make an impact.

RHP Reynaldo López

112 2/3 17.0% 9.8% 8.1% 34.6% 3.91 4.63

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 59.6% 96.1 2086 (-1.26) 83 111
Changeup 13.6% 84.0 1492 (-0.96) 87 123
Slider 20.8% 84.7 2131 (-0.97) 111 96
Curveball 5.5% 76.9 2093 (-1.58) 21 39

Reynaldo López was one of the top prospects the White Sox brought in towards the start of their rebuild, getting him from the Nationals along with Lucas Giolito for Adam Eaton. He’s now in the midst of his third major league season but has yet to put all his promise into practice. Blessed with a plus fastball with mid-90s velocity, López lacks a true put away pitch. He had a curveball with some potential as a prospect but has since abandoned it in favor of a new slider introduced this season. That pitch has helped him increase his strikeout rate by three points over last year but it still sits well below average. And even more worrisome, he’s almost completely lost his feel for his curveball. A pitch that once received a 60 grade from FanGraphs is now an afterthought in his repertoire. At this point, he’s just a back-of-the-rotation contact manager with a big fastball and results that lag behind his pedigree.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 64-35 0.646 -- L-L-W-W-L
Mariners 58-39 0.598 5.0 W-L-L-L-L
Athletics 55-42 0.567 8.0 W-W-L-W-W
Angels 49-48 0.505 14.0 L-W-L-W-L
Rangers 41-56 0.423 22.0 L-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 62-33 0.653 +5.0 W-W-L-W-L
Mariners 58-39 0.598 -- W-L-L-L-L
Athletics 55-42 0.567 3.0 W-W-L-W-W
Rays 49-47 0.510 8.5 W-L-L-W-L
Angels 49-48 0.505 9.0 L-W-L-W-L

The Athletics continued to push their way into the postseason conversation. Before the All-Star break, they won a three-game series against the Giants and will start the second half off with a three-game series against ... the Giants. The Astros won their series against the Tigers last weekend and will travel to Anaheim to face the Angels this weekend. The Yankees split two consecutive series to finish the first half of the season, one against the Orioles and the other in Cleveland. They’ll get the second half started with a three-game subway series against the Mets.