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Series Preview: Mariners (69-50) at Athletics (70-48)

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After an incredible weekend, the Mariners look to keep their forward momentum going against the Athletics.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

There are best-case scenarios and then there’s sweeping the division-leading Astros in four games on their home turf. The odds of winning all four games in Houston were miniscule—around 1–2% depending on which projection you were using. Not only did the Mariners beat three Cy Young hopefuls (and Dallas Keuchel), they got some timely pitching of their own. As amazing and uplifting as this weekend was, the Mariners now face an even more important series in Oakland. They’ve compressed the Astros lead in the West to just four games, now they need to overcome their most important rival in the Wild Card race.

At a Glance

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Monday, August 13 | 7:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Sean Manaea
41% 59%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 14 | 7:05 pm
LHP James Paxton RHP Mike Fiers
45% 55%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 15 | 12:35 pm
RHP Mike Leake LHP Brett Anderson
44% 56%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (7th in AL) 107 (5th in AL) Athletics
Fielding (UZR) -7.5 (11th) 19.9 (5th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 99 (6th) 104 (9th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (4th) 94 (6th) Mariners

Since June 1, the Athletics have compiled a 40-20 record, the second best in the majors over the last few months. Much of their success has been driven by an offense that has been consistently above average in almost every significant category. They hit for power, they can take a walk, and they don’t strikeout too often. They’re not leading the league in any of those categories but the sum of an above average line across the board is a lineup that’s scoring the eighth most runs per game in the majors.

The most surprising piece of their success has been their pitching staff. Their starting rotation seems like it’s being held together by duct tape and a hope and a prayer, but they’re making it work. Eighty percent of their Opening Day rotation have either been significantly injured or have been demoted because of poor play. Sean Manaea has been the lone consistent presence at the top of the rotation. Trevor Cahill has looked like one of the best starters in the American League when he’s been healthy and they’ve somehow managed to get positive contributions from Edwin Jackson and Brett Anderson.

Their bullpen is built remarkably similar to the Mariners relief corps. Blake Treinen would probably be getting a lot more recognition if Edwin Díaz wasn’t hogging all of the spotlight. He’s been one of the best closers in the American League and has been a big reason why the A’s have been able to win so many close games. Leading up to the trade deadline, the A’s added Jeurys Familia to bolster their bullpen and have added Shawn Kelley and Fernando Rodney in August.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Nick Martini LF L 72 0.372 125 0.6
Matt Chapman 3B R 425 0.332 137 3.3
Jed Lowrie 2B S 495 0.309 123 1.2
Khris Davis DH R 470 0.274 140 -4.5
Matt Olson 1B L 487 0.276 111 -1.2
Stephen Piscotty RF R 432 0.286 109 -1.3
Marcus Semien SS R 521 0.307 96 0.8
Jonathan Lucroy C R 339 0.278 73 -2.1
Ramón Laureano CF R 20 0.357 35 0.2

Matt Chapman’s reputation as an elite defensive third baseman is well deserved but his bat is finally coming around as a net positive. Throughout his minor league career, his extremely high strikeout rates seriously dampened his offensive potential. He’s made a ton of progress on that front this year, dropping his strikeout rate to just 23.1%. That’s helped him take advantage of some serious power and has given him a well-rounded offensive profile. It all adds up to 5.2 fWAR this year, sixth best in the majors. Khris Davis doesn’t provide any defensive value but his bat continues to be one of the most powerful in the game. He’s on pace to reach 40 home runs for the third consecutive season and has pushed his wRC+ up to 140, the best it’s been since his breakout rookie year in 2013.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Oakland Athletics

LHP Sean Manaea

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
144 16.9% 5.0% 12.4% 44.0% 3.50 4.26

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 54.5% 91.4 1986 (-1.19) 109 116
Changeup 32.8% 83.3 1150 (-2.41) 99 105
Slider 12.7% 79.2 1855 (-1.77) 98 85

After an extremely rough month of May where he allowed four runs or more in each of his six starts, Sean Manaea has settled into a steady groove. Since the beginning of June, he’s allowed no more than three runs in any of his starts, good for a 3.39 ERA across 12 games. Even though he’s shown he can be a consistent presence in the middle of the Athletics rotation, he hasn’t come close to replicating the success he saw in April, culminating in his no-hitter against the Red Sox. Instead, he’s sort of eked by with a surprisingly low strikeout rate paired with an excellent walk rate and a tons of contact management. Opposing batters possess a .240 BABIP against him this year. Some of that is certainly the result of good luck—he’s had some trouble with the long ball at times—but much of it is simply him commanding his three pitch repertoire extremely well and keeping batters off balance. The drop in strikeout rate is concerning but it’s likely related to him throwing his slider less often. He had generated excellent whiff rates with that pitch last year and the year before but it’s lost some of its effectiveness this season.


RHP Mike Fiers

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
124 1/3 18.2% 5.0% 12.1% 38.3% 3.40 4.57

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 34.5% 89.8 2291 (0.57) 118 116
Sinker 12.6% 89.4 2167 (-0.47) 77 110
Cutter 18.7% 85.8 2354 (0.12) 61 98
Changeup 18.2% 83.4 1851 (0.68) 85 98
Curveball 15.0% 72.8 2732 (1.09) 94 67

My favorite Mike Fiers tidbit is that he led the Astros in innings pitched last season but was a healthy scratch from their postseason roster. After being waived by the Astros in the offseason, he signed a one-year deal with the Tigers. In Detroit, he found a way to get his home run problem under control. With a fly ball heavy approach, he’s always struggled with the long ball throughout his career, but he can be a successful innings-eater if he can keep it under control. He’s also cut his walk rate to the lowest it’s ever been which has helped mitigate the damage from all the dingers. The Athletics picked him up a week into August, putting the final touches on a deal that was rumored right before the trade deadline. He’s made one start for Oakland, holding the Dodgers to just one run over 5 1/3 innings, while striking out eight.


LHP Brett Anderson

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
47 2/3 12.3% 5.4% 15.9% 51.6% 4.53 4.83

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 20.1% 91.8 2008 (-1.36) 48 106
Sinker 28.1% 90.4 1835 (-1.98) 39 146
Changeup 16.2% 84.0 1562 (-0.64) 72 98
Slider 27.3% 82.6 2326 (-0.33) 86 94
Curveball 8.4% 76.1 2316 (-0.53)
Anderson’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Brett Anderson’s peripherals are completely baffling. He’s running the third lowest strikeout rate in the majors among all starters with at least 40 innings pitched. His two fastballs are some of the most hittable pitches in the league. And yet he’s managing to survive with a 4.45 xFIP that’s lower than his ERA. Most of that “success” is due to a very good walk rate and ground ball rate. But his BABIP and strand rate indicate that he hasn’t been that lucky, just consistently average. His FIP is almost half a run higher than his xFIP because he has struggled with the long ball this season. But that’s really the only problem he’s had to deal with.


The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 73-46 0.613 -- W-L-L-L-L
Athletics 70-48 0.593 2.5 L-W-L-W-W
Mariners 69-50 0.580 4.0 L-W-W-W-W
Angels 59-60 0.496 14.0 W-W-W-L-L
Rangers 52-68 0.433 21.5 W-W-L-W-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 74-43 0.632 +4.5 W-W-L-W-W
Athletics 70-48 0.593 -- L-W-L-W-W
Mariners 69-50 0.580 1.5 L-W-W-W-W
Rays 60-58 0.508 10.0 L-W-W-W-L
Angels 59-60 0.496 11.5 W-W-W-L-L

The A’s won their weekend series in Anaheim pretty soundly. The Angels will travel to San Diego to play the Padres. The Astros have an off day today to contemplate their failures over the weekend. They host the Rockies for two games later this week. The Yankees won their four-game series against the Rangers over the weekend; they’re hosting the Mets for a makeup game today and will start a three-game series against the Rays tomorrow.