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Series Preview: Mariners (61-41) at Angels (52-52)

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The Mariners head out on a short road trip down the coast for three games in Anaheim.

Chicago White Sox v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It’s been a rough week for the Seattle Mariners organization. You’d be forgiven if you didn’t really want to think about baseball right now, but there are games to be played. Beyond the terrible off-field matters, the Mariners are now just a game ahead of the Athletics in the Wild Card race. The A’s have actually surpassed the Mariners in playoff odds per FiveThirtyEight and Baseball Prospectus. The only place the Mariners continue to hold an advantage is on FanGraphs. Even if you think Oakland is playing way over their heads, the Mariners need to make some sort of adjustments to stay ahead in the race. Getting Canó back is a good start but he won’t cure everything that ails this team. With less than a week left before the trade deadline, now is the time to make an upgrade to bolster the roster.

At a Glance

Mariners Angels
Mariners Angels
Game 1 Friday, July 27 | 7:07 pm
LHP Wade LeBlanc LHP Andrew Heaney
46% 54%
Game 2 Saturday, July 28 | 6:07 pm
RHP Félix Hernández RHP Jaime Barría
46% 54%
Game 3 Sunday, July 29 | 1:07 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Félix Peña
48% 52%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Angels Edge
Overview Mariners Angels Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (7th in AL) 105 (6th in AL) Angels
Fielding (UZR) -2.9 (11th) 19.1 (2nd) Angels
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 98 (6th) 103 (8th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 88 (4th) 110 (13th) Mariners

The Angels traded their starting catcher Martín Maldonado to the Astros yesterday. For some, that represents a white flag on the 2018 season. They’ve been floundering around .500 for the last month and have seen the upstart Athletics burn right by them in the standings. Still, that might be the only move they make before the trade deadline. Garrett Richards is one of their few free agents to be and he was recently sidelined with Tommy John surgery. There has been some rumored interest in a few of the Angels relievers but most of the interesting ones are under team control for at least two more seasons.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Kole Calhoun RF L 306 0.221 65 -0.3
Shohei Ohtani DH L 184 0.340 140 0.6
Mike Trout CF R 460 0.343 191 4.5
Justin Upton LF R 434 0.316 123 0.8
Albert Pujols 1B R 385 0.255 98 -1.9
Andrelton Simmons SS R 387 0.309 123 1.2
Ian Kinsler 2B R 379 0.229 94 -1.7
José Briceño C R 48 0.357 89 -1.0
David Fletcher 3B R 112 0.333 110 -0.1

Ian Kinsler is a potential trade piece too but he’s been so bad, I have a hard time believing any contender would willingly take on his salary for well below average production. He’s been a little better since the All-Star break but it’s too little, too late for the Angels. Kole Calhoun’s bat has come alive after his stint on the disabled list. He’s completely rebuilt his swing, allowing him to tap into the power he’d shown earlier in his career again. Since June 18, he’s slashed .280/.339/.626 with 10 home runs.

Probable Pitchers

LHP Andrew Heaney

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
108 1/3 23.6% 7.1% 11.7% 40.1% 3.66 3.79

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 57.6% 92.4 2453 (2.12) 154 126
Changeup 16.8% 83.8 1915 (0.88) 90 101
Curveball 25.5% 79.1 2394 (-0.36) 145 86

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 11.7%. He’s throwing his excellent curveball more than ever, over 25% now, and opposing batters just can’t make solid contact against it. He’s allowed a single home run and opposing batters have posted an ISO of just .109 off his bender.

The last time Heaney faced the Mariners, he spun seven solid innings despite a shaky first inning that saw him allow three runs on just two hits. Over the next six innings, he struck out seven—giving him ten on the day—and scattered just three more hits. He’s faced the Dodgers twice and the Astros once since then but has been up to the task in each start, never allowing more than three runs in any of those starts.


RHP Jaime Barría

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
71 18.4% 7.5% 14.0% 39.5% 3.80 4.98

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 40.4% 92.2 2171 (-0.20) 72 107
Sinker 6.8% 91.7 2132 (-0.35)
Changeup 18.6% 83.7 1457 (-1.13) 126 128
Slider 34.2% 82.6 2260 (-0.62) 116 121
Barría’s sinker does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

With so many injuries plaguing their pitching staff, Jaime Barría has seen an extended stay in the Angels rotation. He’s been called on 14 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 14 major league starts this season, he’s posted an ERA well below both his FIP and xFIP. His batted ball luck has been in his favor and he’s stranded more baserunners than expected.

Barría faced the Mariners twice in a row earlier in July and was serviceable in both games. He allowed five runs across the two starts in 10 1/3 innings. The Angels have been reluctant to let him throw more than 80-90 pitches in any of his starts. He hasn’t completed six innings in a start since June 1. Perhaps they’re trying to limit his exposure the third time through the batting order.


RHP Félix Peña

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
32 1/3 24.5% 8.6% 14.8% 48.9% 3.34 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 18.3% 93.7 2164 (-0.52) 104 110
Sinker 40.3% 92.7 2256 (1.05) 96 114
Changeup 7.0% 86.2 1898 (0.86)
Slider 34.4% 82.2 2604 (1.01) 164 139
Peña’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

After spending the last two seasons as a full-time reliever in the Cubs organization, Félix Peña has shifted back to the rotation with the Angels. He was acquired last fall after being designated for assignment in October. As a prospect, he topped out at #15 in Chicago in 2017 (per FanGraphs), though a lack of control and middling secondary offerings limited his ceiling. With the Angels, he’s discovered a nasty slider that’s completely changed his profile. He’s generating a whiff more than half the time an opposing batter swings at that pitch, the third highest whiff rate on a slider in the majors. The rest of his arsenal plays up because of that elite pitch. He still hasn’t solved his control problems but he’s elevated his talent level by unlocking that one pitch and he’s earned an extended look in the Angels rotation for now.


The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 67-37 0.644 -- W-W-L-W-L
Mariners 61-41 0.598 5.0 W-L-W-L-W
Athletics 61-43 0.587 6.0 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 52-52 0.500 15.0 W-L-L-W-W
Rangers 42-62 0.404 25.0 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
Yankees 65-36 0.644 +4.5 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 61-41 0.598 -- W-L-W-L-W
Athletics 61-43 0.587 1.0 W-W-W-W-W
Rays 53-50 0.515 8.5 W-W-L-W-W
Angels 52-52 0.500 10.0 W-L-L-W-W

The Angels just wrapped up a four-game set against the White Sox, scoring a combined 23 runs in the final two games of the series to secure the split. The Athletics have now won six straight after sweeping the Rangers in four games. They scored 41 runs in that series including a 13-10 victory that saw them overcome an eight-run deficit. They’ll travel to Colorado this weekend. The Astros just split a two-game series in Colorado and will host the Rangers over the weekend.