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Series Preview: Mariners (79-66) at Angels (73-73)

The Mariners embark on their final road trip of the season beginning with a four-game series in Anaheim.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I… I just don’t know what to say. This season has seen the highest of highs—remember leading the AL West in mid-June—and the lowest of lows. Losing four times to the Padres of all teams might be the best indication of how this season has gone for the Mariners. This team rose to the challenge when they swept the Astros in Houston but couldn’t find a way to scrape together a win against one of the lowliest teams in baseball. I just don’t know what to say.

At a Glance

Mariners Angels
Mariners Angels
Game 1 Thursday, September 13 | 7:07 pm
RHP Mike Leake TBD
43% 57%
Game 2 Friday, September 14 | 7:07 pm
TBD RHP Matt Shoemaker
43% 57%
Game 3 Saturday, September 15 | 6:07 pm
TBD LHP Andrew Heaney
42% 58%
Game 4 Sunday, September 16 | 1:07 pm
RHP Erasmo Ramírez RHP Jaime Barría
43% 57%

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Angels Edge
Overview Mariners Angels Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (9th in AL) 103 (7th in AL) Angels
Fielding (UZR) -12.7 (12th) 34.1 (2nd) Angels
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 100 (6th) 104 (7th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 93 (6th) 105 (12th) Mariners

If schadenfreude is your thing, the Angels might have suffered through an even more disappointing season than the Mariners. Not only have they massively underperformed their expectations, they’ve wasted what might be Mike Trout’s best season in the majors. On top of that, Shohei Ohtani is slated for Tommy John surgery in the offseason which means they’ve wasted the first two years of his major league career too. Of course, he’s serving as the full-time designated hitter to finish out this season because putting off surgery won’t really affect his recovery timeline. He won’t pitch until 2020 no matter what. Whether or not he’ll be able to bat while rehabbing his elbow is still up in the air. But I think you can count on the Angels to pick the absolute worst possible path forward for their prized two-way star.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Kole Calhoun RF L 492 0.253 85 -0.2
David Fletcher 2B R 294 0.310 90 2.0
Mike Trout CF R 555 0.357 189 5.9
Shohei Ohtani DH L 304 0.366 164 1.2
Justin Upton LF R 559 0.324 120 0.5
Andrelton Simmons SS R 547 0.298 112 0.6
José Miguel Fernández 1B L 81 0.318 100 0.3
Taylor Ward 3B R 96 0.283 75 0.5
Francisco Arcia C L 78 0.271 106 0.1

If Ohtani is only going to be able to bat for the foreseeable future, at least he’s been extremely productive at the plate. He’s exceeded all the preseason expectations and has shown he’s more than capable of adjusting to major league pitching. His 164 wRC+ ranks fifth in the majors among batters who have at least 300 plate appearances. The Angels have a few big prospects in their farm system but most of them are a few years away from making the jump to the majors. That means there are just a few middling prospects getting playing time this September. David Fletcher has been manning second base since Ian Kinsler was traded away and Taylor Ward has been starting at third regularly for the past month. Both could be useful role players in the future.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

RHP Odrisamer Despaigne

32 1/3 17.7% 10.5% 11.1% 39.8% 6.40 4.27

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 20.7% 93.2 2153 (-0.62) 48 89
Sinker 32.9% 92.9 2151 (0.16) 107 92
Cutter 17.3% 85.9 2592 (1.43) 131 56
Changeup 10.6% 79.9 1469 (-2.09)
Slider 9.0% 82.9 2787 (1.85)
Curveball 8.7% 77.6 2774 (1.13)
Despaigne’s changeup, slider, and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

With the insane attrition rate the Angels pitching staff has suffered this year, they’ve desperately needed pitchers to simply fill out their starting rotation. Enter Odrisamer Despaigne. He’s bounced around the league after starting his major league career with the Padres a few years ago. With ample experience in the Cuban leagues, he’s had trouble translating that to the majors. With the Padres, he showed good command of his wide repertoire paired with a strong ground ball rate. He’s since seen his walk rate spike up to over 10% and his ground ball rate fall below 40%. He has managed to raise his strikeout rate this season—probably because he’s throwing his decent cutter more often—but it’s not enough to make him anything more than just rotation filler.

RHP Matt Shoemaker

15 2/3 17.7% 9.7% 0.0% 37.8% 3.45 2.90

It’s a testament to Matt Shoemaker’s perseverance and determination to see him back on the mound this season. He’s dealt with a litany of injuries the past few years but nothing has seemed to fix the root problem. He finally underwent surgery to repair a tendon and a nerve in his forearm this year and that’s seemed to do the trick. He’s made it back to the majors after a long rehab and has made a couple of starts in September. At this point, his only goal is to stay healthy and prove that he can be counted on next year.

LHP Andrew Heaney

165 23.6% 5.9% 12.9% 41.7% 3.98 3.73

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 60.0% 92.1 2464 (2.32) 130 120
Changeup 16.8% 83.7 1925 (0.82) 77 107
Curveball 22.1% 79.4 2383 (-0.26) 149 103

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 12.9%. 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 three home runs and opposing batters have posted an ISO of just .134 off his bender.

This will be Heaney’s fourth start against the Mariners this season. The last two were excellent, as he allowed six runs across a combined 15 innings. He’s struggled with his feel for his changeup at times this year. That’s turned him into a two-pitch pitcher and made him a little too predictable. When he has all three pitches working, he can be dominant—like he was against the White Sox in his last turn on the mound (7 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K).

RHP Jaime Barría

114 2/3 18.5% 7.8% 11.3% 38.8% 3.53 4.54

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 39.6% 91.8 2177 (-0.17) 57 104
Sinker 8.7% 91.3 2155 (0.09) 64 80
Changeup 15.3% 83.2 1519 (-1.01) 129 122
Slider 36.4% 82.3 2276 (-0.71) 119 120

With so many injuries plaguing their pitching staff, Jaime Barría has seen an extended stay in the Angels rotation. He 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. He’s posted an ERA well below both his FIP and xFIP this season. A batted ball profile skewed towards fly balls has helped him mitigate the hard contact he allows, and he’s stranded more baserunners than expected. The Angels have been reluctant to let him throw more than 80-90 pitches in any of his starts—he’s completed six innings in a start just five times this year. Perhaps they’re trying to limit his exposure the third time through the batting order.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 92-54 0.630 -- W-L-W-W-W
Athletics 89-57 0.610 3.0 W-W-W-W-W
Mariners 79-66 0.545 12.5 L-L-W-L-L
Angels 73-73 0.500 19.0 W-W-L-W-W
Rangers 62-84 0.425 30.0 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 90-56 0.616 +1.0 W-L-W-L-L
Athletics 89-57 0.610 -- W-W-W-W-W
Rays 80-65 0.552 8.5 W-W-W-L-W
Mariners 79-66 0.545 9.5 L-L-W-L-L
Angels 73-73 0.500 16.0 W-W-L-W-W

The Rays finally surpassed the Mariners in the standings after winning the final game in their series against Cleveland. They’re off today and will host the Athletics for three games this weekend. As expected, the A’s are on the verge of sweeping the Orioles in Baltimore. They wrap up that series today. Houston swept the Tigers in Detroit with three one-run games in a row. They’ll return home to face the reeling Diamondbacks over the weekend.