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Series Preview: Mariners (70-52) vs. Dodgers (65-57)

The Mariners return home to face the team that’s actually from Los Angeles.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners return home from their 10-game road trip with a 6-4 record. After the sweep in Houston and then the series loss in Oakland, the Mariners are basically in the same place in the standings. It’s a little disappointing they weren’t able to get a series win against the Athletics but there are still seven games left on the schedule against them. There are six games against the Astros left on the schedule including a three-game series during this homestand. With the A’s and Astros facing off this weekend, it’s possible there could be a changing of the guard at the top of the AL West.

At a Glance

Dodgers Mariners
Dodgers Mariners
Game 1 Friday, August 17 | 7:10 pm
RHP Walker Buehler LHP Wade LeBlanc
53% 47%
Game 2 Saturday, August 18 | 7:10 pm
LHP Rich Hill RHP Erasmo Ramírez
54% 46%
Game 3 Sunday, August 19 | 1:10 pm
LHP Clayton Kershaw LHP Marco Gonzales
56% 44%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Dodgers Edge
Overview Mariners Dodgers Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (7th in AL) 112 (1st in NL) Dodgers
Fielding (UZR) -7.5 (11th) -18.8 (12th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 98 (6th) 84 (1st) Dodgers
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (4th) 99 (9th) Mariners

Before the Mariners face the Astros, they’ll host the Los Angeles Dodgers for three games. This series will be just the fourth time the Dodgers have played in Seattle and their third visit to Safeco Field. After their appearance in the World Series last year, they’re suffering from a bit of a hangover effect this season. Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger in particular have not been able to replicate the kind of offensive production that they enjoyed last year. And with Corey Seager sidelined for the entire year, they’ve had to make do with a patchwork infield until acquiring Manny Machado and Brian Dozier at the trade deadline.

Their starting rotation has been excellent as expected. Liberal use of the disabled list and their plentiful depth has allowed them to keep most of their starters fresh despite tons of injury concerns. The problem they currently face is their bullpen. Kenley Jansen was recently sidelined with an irregular heartbeat leaving a gaping hole in their relief corps. They’ve tried to solve it by moving Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling to the bullpen—managing their workload is an added bonus—but that hasn’t exactly helped. All these issues have them sitting in third place in the NL West, two games behind the Diamondbacks.

Dodgers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Brian Dozier 2B R 522 0.254 99 0.7
Manny Machado SS R 529 0.322 145 1.4
Justin Turner 3B R 243 0.310 135 -1.4
Cody Bellinger CF L 487 0.305 118 3.1
Yasmani Grandal C S 391 0.274 127 -4.7
Joc Pederson LF L 337 0.249 127 1.1
Chris Taylor RF R 494 0.334 107 2.9
Max Muncy 1B R 365 0.283 153 1.4

Last year, Chris Taylor was their breakout player who came out of nowhere. This year, it’s Max Muncy. A product of the Athletics farm system, he could never make the jump from the minors to the majors. He’s finally figured everything out this year, posting a 170 wRC+ during the first half of the season. He blasted 22 home runs over the first four months of the season and added a 18.6% walk rate to that prodigious power. Unfortunately, he’s really struggled since the All-Star break. His strikeout rate has jumped up to 38.4% and his walk rate has been cut by more than half. Machado has also had a difficult time during the second half, though his struggles are probably connected to adjusting to a new league. His strikeout rate has doubled since joining the Dodgers and he hasn’t really hit for much power. The Dodgers will need him to turn things around if they’re going to make a run for the NL West title.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Oakland Athletics

RHP Walker Buehler

81 1/3 26.0% 5.8% 13.2% 50.5% 3.32 3.36

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 40.9% 96.8 2405 (2.03) 166 99
Sinker 18.7% 96.5 2269 (1.28) 121 92
Changeup 4.0% 90.6 1631 (-0.85)
Slider 22.7% 87.7 2720 (1.73) 78 96
Curveball 13.8% 80.6 2648 (0.50) 61 143
Buehler’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

While the rest of the Dodgers pitching staff has dealt with their share of troubles, Walker Buehler has been exactly as advertised. Listed as the Dodgers top prospect by FanGraphs, he’s thrived in the rotation after a brief cameo in the bullpen last year. His high spin fastball has given him a plus pitch to build a foundation upon. He’s able to get tons of whiffs by locating it up in zone. But rather than a batted ball profile that skews towards fly balls like you might expect, Buehler runs an excellent ground ball rate for a pitcher who relies on a “rising” fastball. Both of his breaking balls possess a huge amount of drop on them, encouraging tons of ground ball contact. That seems to be his recipe for success: fastballs up to generate whiffs, breaking balls down to get weak contact. Simple.

LHP Rich Hill

85 2/3 24.8% 8.3% 14.1% 36.5% 3.57 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 55.8% 90.0 2478 (1.92) 130 76
Curveball 41.2% 75.1 2871 (1.65) 69 112

Despite a recurring blister issue, Rich Hill has been one of the better pitchers in baseball when he’s on the mound. That’s the key though. At 38, he’s justifiably being handled carefully by the Dodgers who have used the 10-day disabled list proactively to keep him healthy and fresh. His strikeout rate has slipped a bit this year. He reached 30.1% last year but it’s dropped six points this season. He’s also seen a huge increase in the number of home runs he’s allowed. His curveball is as good as ever so all the extra damage is coming off his fastball. There isn’t really anything amiss in the characteristics of the pitch. It just seems like time is finally catching up with him after he resurrected his career a few years ago.

LHP Clayton Kershaw

109 1/3 24.8% 4.4% 12.0% 49.3% 2.47 2.95

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 41.1% 91.6 2378 (1.31) 94 100
Slider 40.9% 88.5 2526 (0.55) 82 125
Curveball 17.1% 73.5 2453 (0.08) 113 97

A nagging back injury has prevented Clayton Kershaw from throwing more than 175 innings the last two years. That same injury has forced him to miss more time this season. It’s also affected his performance on the mound too. His strikeout rate is the lowest it’s been since his rookie year and his FIP has risen to almost three. It’s insane that we’re lamenting a FIP of three (!) but Kershaw was regularly putting up FIPs under two for a three-year stretch. He’s still plenty capable of brilliance on any given night but his sheer dominance is far from guaranteed anymore.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 74-47 0.612 -- L-L-L-L-W
Athletics 72-49 0.595 2.0 W-W-W-W-L
Mariners 70-52 0.574 4.5 W-W-L-L-W
Angels 62-61 0.504 13.0 L-W-W-W-L
Rangers 54-69 0.439 21.0 W-W-W-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 75-46 0.620 +3.0 W-W-L-W-L-L
Athletics 72-49 0.595 -- W-W-W-W-L
Mariners 70-52 0.574 2.5 W-W-L-L-W
Rays 62-59 0.512 10.0 W-L-L-W-W
Angels 62-61 0.504 11.0 L-W-W-W-L

Like I noted above, the Athletics and Astros face off in Oakland this weekend. The Astros are coming off a series split against the Rockies and should be getting George Springer back off the disabled list. This series also marks a 20-game stretch for the Athletics where they face the Astros twice, the Mariners, and the Yankees. New York lost their series against the Rays this week and will host the Blue Jays over the weekend.