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Series Preview: Mariners (72-56) at Diamondbacks (71-56)

The Mariners head out on a long, West Coast road trip beginning in Arizona.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

With that ugly homestand in the rear-view mirror, the Mariners turn their focus to the upcoming four-game series against the Athletics next week. Between now and then, they’ll travel to a couple of National League cities. It would be easy to overlook these five games against the Diamondbacks and the Padres, but the Mariners really need every win possible right now. I mentioned this in the last series preview but the Mariners have won just two series since the All-Star break. It should be pretty easy to get a couple in San Diego but this three-game series in Arizona could prove to be difficult.

At a Glance

Mariners Diamondbacks
Mariners Diamondbacks
Game 1 Friday, August 24 | 6:40 pm
RHP Erasmo Ramírez RHP Zack Godley
43% 57%
Game 2 Saturday, August 25 | 5:10 pm
TBD LHP Robbie Ray
43% 57%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 22 | 1:10 pm
TBD RHP Zack Greinke
41% 59%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Diamondbacks Edge
Overview Mariners Diamondbacks Edge
Batting (wRC+) 100 (7th in AL) 94 (9th in NL) Mariners
Fielding (UZR) -7.5 (11th) 14.7 (4th) Diamondbacks
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 99 (6th) 92 (4th) Diamondbacks
Bullpen (FIP-) 97 (8th) 98 (9th) Mariners

With Mike Leake’s status up in the air and James Paxton close to returning from his forearm contusion, the Mariners rotation is completely out of whack right now. Erasmo Ramírez is the only starter officially announced for this series. The off day on Monday also presents an opportunity to reorganize the rotation leading into the series in Oakland. Hopefully Paxton can make a start sometime before next week so that he isn’t coming straight off the disabled list against the A’s.

The Diamondbacks were one of the big surprises last season, finishing second in the NL West and first in the NL Wild Card race. Much of their success was driven by their pitching staff, ranking fourth in the majors in league adjusted FIP. During the offseason, they announced they were installing a humidor in Chase Field to combat some of the effects of the dry desert heat. Of course, that would also have a knock-on effect of suppressing offense in their home park, further benefitting their already great pitching staff. They haven’t been as good this season—ranking eighth in the majors in league adjusted FIP—but that’s mostly due to some unforeseen injuries and an inconsistent bullpen.

In the standings, they have benefitted from the woeful Dodgers. They’ve been fighting with the Rockies for the division lead but have held onto first place for around three quarters of the season. They have seven games left on the schedule against the Rockies and the Dodgers.

Diamondbacks Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
A.J. Pollock CF R 327 0.319 130 2.2
Eduardo Escobar 3B S 498 0.322 125 0.5
David Peralta LF L 490 0.344 143 1.3
Paul Goldschmidt 1B R 557 0.366 155 2.0
Steven Souza Jr. RF R 183 0.325 91 0.1
Ketel Marte 2B S 469 0.271 97 -2.5
Nick Ahmed SS R 442 0.269 96 -0.6
Alex Avila C L 190 0.273 73 -1.2

Paul Goldschmidt got off to an extremely slow start this year. He posted a 47 wRC+ in the month of May but has followed that up with months of 214, 153, and 234 since then. It seems like the main culprit behind his struggles earlier this season was a bad case of strikeout-itis. He’s maintained a strikeout rate right around 22% for basically his entire major league career but it jumped up to over 30% during the first two months this season. For the first month and a half of the season, A.J. Pollock was putting together an MVP-quality season before a broken thumb derailed his season. Luckily, another one of their outfielders has picked up the slack. David Peralta is putting together the best season of his career. He had suffered a broken wrist a few years ago that might have lingered into 2017. Now that he’s healthy, he’s setting career highs in home runs, hard hit rate, ISO, and fWAR.

Probable Pitchers

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres

RHP Zack Godley

142 23.8% 10.3% 11.1% 50.9% 4.44 3.71

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 31.1% 90.6 2255 (1.12) 93 100
Cutter 22.4% 89.4 2215 (-0.72) 92 103
Changeup 5.4% 81.6 1291 (-1.70) 132 106
Curveball 41.1% 82.0 2189 (-1.41) 137 112

If you simply looked at Zack Godley’s prospect pedigree, you might wonder where his excellent season last year came from. His minor league track record is good but not outstanding and he was never considered a top prospect for the Cubs or the Diamondbacks. Rather, the sum of his repertoire is greater than its parts. He throws a straight sinker as his primary pitch, giving him a strong foundation for an excellent ground ball rate. His best pitch his is curveball which generates both whiffs and ground ball contact. He really found a groove last year when he started throwing his breaking ball more than 30% of the time. It’s up over 40% this year but he hasn’t enjoyed the same success as last season. A lot of that is connected to his walk rate which has spiked two points this year. That loss of control paired with a bout of bad batted ball luck has pushed his ERA more than half a run over his FIP.

LHP Robbie Ray

80 2/3 29.7% 12.6% 17.9% 37.8% 4.91 4.62

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 53.3% 93.8 2263 (0.08) 116 98
Slider 26.2% 84.7 2066 (-1.18) 130 106
Curveball 19.7% 82.7 2049 (-2.91) 131 87

Among qualified starters last season, Robbie Ray’s 32.8% strikeout rate ranked fourth in the majors. But that’s really the only elite skill he possesses. He was fairly lucky to post such a low ERA last season and all those luck metrics have conspired to sink his season this year. His .267 BABIP has jumped up to .315—which is still lower than the BABIPs he had allowed earlier in his career. His 84.5% LOB rate has dropped back to a more normal 74.7%. To make matters worse, he’s posting the highest walk rate of his career and the third highest in the majors among starters with a similar number of innings pitched. Ray relies heavily on two breaking balls, a slider and a curveball. Curiously, their shape and spin are rather similar and they’re only differentiated by two miles per hour. He’s able to get tons of whiffs with both, but without the control, he’s liable to either walk a ton of batters or leave his pitches in the strike zone too often.

RHP Zack Greinke

162 25.5% 4.9% 15.6% 43.7% 3.06 3.63

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 43.7% 90.0 2333 (0.94) 89 85
Sinker 4.9% 90.5 2285 (1.37) 51 125
Changeup 20.7% 86.9 1733 (-0.21) 119 99
Slider 17.8% 83.7 2542 (1.25) 105 94
Curveball 12.9% 71.9 2505 (0.33) 127 69

Since his debut in 2004, Zack Greinke has quietly been the fourth most valuable pitcher in baseball (just ahead of Félix Hernández), accumulating 56.1 fWAR over 15 seasons. It took a while to find his identity on the mound but he’s been incredibly consistent over the last 10 seasons. Now 34, he’s using his elite command to make the most of a diminished repertoire. His fastball is slower than ever but he’s still thriving with a plus changeup and a plus slider. He has developed a slight home run problem since joining the Diamondbacks, though the new humidor in Chase Field has benefitted him more than any other pitcher on their staff. His home run rate at home is half of what it is while pitching on the road.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 77-50 0.606 -- L-W-L-W-W
Athletics 76-52 0.594 1.5 L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 72-56 0.563 5.5 W-L-W-L-L
Angels 63-65 0.492 14.5 L-W-L-L-L
Rangers 57-72 0.442 21.0 L-W-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 79-47 0.627 +4.0 W-W-W-W-L
Athletics 76-52 0.594 -- L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 72-56 0.563 4.0 W-L-W-L-L
Rays 67-61 0.523 9.0 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 63-65 0.492 13.0 L-W-L-L-L

The Athletics have lost back-to-back games for the first time since being swept by the Rockies back in late July. They won their series against the Rangers earlier this week but lost the last game of that series and then lost the first game of their series in Minnesota. They’ll finish off the four-game set this weekend. The Astros travel to Anaheim for a three-game series this weekend. Mike Trout should be returning for this series so hopefully he’s able to derail the Astros singlehandedly. The Yankees split their two-game series in Miami and will play four games against the Orioles in three days this weekend.