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Series Preview: Mariners (85-70) vs. Athletics (94-62)

The Mariners wrap up the season with a seven-game homestand.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been inevitable since late August, but the Mariners were finally eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday. Despite compiling the same number of wins as the Twins did last season, the Mariners will fall well short of the second Wild Card spot and will probably end up with just the seventh best record in the American League. Now all that’s left is a chance to spoil the Athletics chances of slipping into the top Wild Card spot during the last week of the regular season.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Friday, September 21, 5:05 pm
RHP Daniel Mengden LHP James Paxton
49% 51%
Game 2 Saturday, September 22, 5:05 pm
LHP Brett Anderson RHP Mike Leake
52% 48%
Game 3 Sunday, September 23, 12:05 pm
RHP Edwin Jackson RHP Félix Hernández
56% 44%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Overview Mariners Athletics Edge
Batting (wRC+) 102 (7th in AL) 110 (2nd in AL) Athletics
Fielding (UZR) -12.7 (12th) 35.4 (1st) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 100 (6th) 105 (9th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 93 (4th) 94 (7th) Mariners

The Mariners have gone 9-7 against the A’s this season, a record that doesn’t exactly reflect the overall standings. Most of those wins were earned in April and May when the power dynamics between these two teams were completely flipped. If the Mariners can manage to win a single game in this series, they’ll have managed to win the season series against the A’s and ensure they fall short of the 100 win mark on the season. With Texas in town for the final series of the year later this week, playing spoiler is probably the last meaningful thing the Mariners will play for this year.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Nick Martini LF L 161 0.375 127 1.0
Matt Chapman 3B R 595 0.342 138 2.6
Jed Lowrie 2B S 651 0.306 123 0.0
Khris Davis DH R 633 0.267 134 -4.2
Matt Olson 1B L 635 0.290 116 -2.3
Stephen Piscotty RF R 587 0.293 125 -1.8
Ramón Laureano CF R 154 0.396 140 2.6
Marcus Semien SS R 680 0.299 95 1.6
Jonathan Lucroy C R 437 0.273 68 -3.3

Stephen Piscotty has quietly been one of the best hitters in baseball over the second half of the season. Since the beginning of June, he’s posted a 149 wRC+, a mark that ranks in the top 25 in the majors. He’s basically matched and improved on every single metric from his breakout season in St. Louis a few years ago. Beyond the incredible highlights he’s made in center field, Ramón Laureano has been even more surprising at the plate. After posting a couple of impressive seasons in the Astros minor league system, he floundered in his second stint at Double-A in 2017. Picked up by the A’s this offseason in a relatively unheralded trade, Laureano has thrived in his new organization. He’s posting the best power numbers of his career and his batting peripherals indicate it’s all for real. His excellent speed combined with tons of hard contact helps him support a high BABIP and an above average barrel rate leads to an ISO over .200.

Probable Pitchers

Oakland Athletics v Baltimore Orioles

RHP Daniel Mengden

110 1/3 14.7% 5.5% 11.9% 40.3% 4.00 4.59

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 53.4% 93.4 2118 (-0.88) 80 100
Changeup 13.1% 83.0 1901 (0.71) 33 68
Slider 19.1% 84.2 2225 (-0.56) 91 84
Curveball 10.6% 73.2 2456 (0.61) 93 122

Daniel Mengden is one of the few starters from their opening day rotation that hasn’t been lost to a season ending injury. He did miss some time in July due to a foot injury though he was optioned to Triple-A once healed. Through April and May, he had compiled a 2.91 ERA backed by a 3.24 FIP across 12 starts. June was unkind, however, as he allowed at least four runs in each of his starts that month before being sidelined. A deceptive delivery and excellent control of all of his pitches is the foundation of his success, not overpowering stuff. He can be successful if he’s keeping the bases clear, making his home run tendencies less of a problem. But as soon as the batted ball luck turns, things can go south pretty quickly, especially since he doesn’t have the ability to strikeout all that many.

LHP Brett Anderson

75 12.8% 4.3% 11.5% 56.7% 3.96 3.93

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 18.2% 91.7 2000 (-1.35) 52 108
Sinker 32.0% 90.4 1830 (-1.89) 45 121
Changeup 19.4% 84.1 1587 (-0.52) 79 102
Slider 24.4% 82.6 2331 (-0.24) 88 98
Curveball 6.0% 76.2 2327 (-0.83)
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.

Fun fact, I wrote Brett Anderson’s and Edwin Jackson’s preview paragraphs almost a month apart. In both of them I lead with a similar sentence using the word baffling. It really is the perfect word to encapsulate the success of the A’s starting rotation. Anderson recently returned to the mound after suffering a forearm injury at the end of August. He shutout the Angels over almost seven innings in his last start.

RHP Edwin Jackson

87 2/3 18.4% 8.9% 11.9% 36.2% 3.18 4.56

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 17.8% 94.2 2256 (-0.02) 89 82
Sinker 14.3% 93.5 2099 (-0.26) 94 103
Cutter 34.9% 91.8 2297 (0.06) 68 113
Changeup 7.7% 87.8 2124 (1.53)
Slider 21.6% 87.0 2292 (-0.30) 107 89
Curveball 3.7% 79.3 2496 (-0.02)
Jackson’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Edwin Jackson’s success this year is completely baffling. Over the last four years, he had compiled ERAs of 6.33, 3.07, 5.89, and 5.21—the one outlier happened to be the year he was a full-time reliever. So the fact that he’s running a 3.18 ERA across 16 starts this year just doesn’t compute. I could point to his 4.56 FIP that doesn’t support his run suppression at all. His .235 BABIP isn’t that far off his .265 Statcast expected batting average. He does generate a ton of fly ball contact which would account for the low BABIP. He’s also stranded 80% of the runners he’s allowed. Just based on all these luck metrics, it certainly looks like he’s bound to feel the weight of regression hit soon.

Jackson has not felt the weight of regression yet. He’s continued to defy logic, managing the contact he allows extremely well while striking out just enough batters to avoid any major meltdowns. He’s pitched six innings or more just three times in the past two months—once against the Mariners. He’s giving the A’s low-ceiling, high-floor innings and that’s exactly what they need to get to their excellent bullpen.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 98-57 0.632 -- W-L-W-W-W
Athletics 94-62 0.603 4.5 W-W-W-W-L
Mariners 85-70 0.548 13.0 L-W-L-W-L
Angels 75-81 0.481 23.5 L-L-L-L-L
Rangers 66-89 0.426 32.0 L-L-W-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 95-60 0.613 +1.5 W-L-W-W-L
Athletics 94-62 0.603 -- W-W-W-W-L
Rays 87-68 0.561 6.5 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 85-70 0.548 8.5 L-W-L-W-L
Angels 75-81 0.481 19.0 L-L-L-L-L

The Yankees and A’s matched each other over the weekend, both winning two of three in their respective series. New York’s schedule gets a lot harder from here on out. They travel to Tampa Bay to face the Rays four times before ending their season in Boston for three. The A’s have this three-game series in Seattle and then a three-game set in Anaheim to finish the season. It’ll probably go down to the wire but there’s a real chance these two teams could swap places in the standings by the end of this week.