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Series Preview: Mariners (5-1) vs. Angels (1-3)

A quick visit from the traveling Mike Trouts.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners finish the first “month” of the season with the best record in the American League. Like we all expected. What hasn’t been surprising is how the Mariners have gone about winning their first two series of the season. They’ve hit more home runs than anyone else in baseball and are second in wRC+ behind the Rangers (?). But the bullpen has allowed 14 runs in 24 innings, and no one in the relief corps can find the strike zone consistently. The Mariners are just a Hunter Strickland implosion and injury away from being undefeated so far. Say what you will about the Mariners “step back” this year, at least they’ll play a brand of baseball that’s incredibly entertaining.

At a Glance

Angels Mariners
Angels Mariners
Game 1 Monday, April 1 | 7:10 pm
RHP Chris Stratton RHP Félix Hernández
49% 51%
Game 2 Tuesday, April 2 | 7:10 pm
RHP Trevor Cahill LHP Marco Gonzales
46% 54%
Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Angels (2018) Mariners (2018) Edge
Overview Angels (2018) Mariners (2018) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (8th in AL) 101 (7th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 49 (3rd) -23 (11th) Angels
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 105 (8th) 100 (6th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 103 (12th) 94 (4th) Mariners

Taking three of four from the defending champions is no small feat. It doesn’t really change much as far as the projected standings go but it’s always fun to beat the beleaguered team from New England. What’s more important is the continued early season success of Domingo Santana and Tim Beckham. Santana should be a key piece for the next great Mariners team but Beckham’s performance could turn into a nice prospect later this season if a contender needs an upgrade.

Despite adding the prize of the 2018 offseason in Shohei Ohtani and a few solid veterans as role players, the Angels stumbled to an 80-82 record last year. Injuries were a big problem, though under performance from some of their core was to blame as well. Mike Trout did his best to carry the team on his shoulders like usual, but he alone couldn’t pull the Angels out of irrelevancy. Without any major additions to their roster this offseason, it seems like they’re just going to tread water this season. Ohtani will return to the mound next year and the first wave of their exciting prospects should be ready to contribute. With Trout now locked into the largest contract in sports history, the urgency to maximize his time with the club is gone. They’re perfectly comfortable waiting until 2020 or later to really make a run at the playoffs.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Kole Calhoun RF L 552 0.241 79 -0.9
Mike Trout CF R 608 0.346 191 5.0
Justin Bour 1B L 501 0.270 107 -6.2
Andrelton Simmons SS R 600 0.300 109 1.1
Albert Pujols DH R 498 0.247 90 -2.9
Zack Cozart 3B R 253 0.244 84 0.6
Tommy La Stella 2B L 192 0.312 86 -0.5
Peter Bourjos LF R 47 0.286 57 0.5
Jonathan Lucroy C R 454 0.273 70 -3.6
All stats from 2018

With Ohtani expected to return to the field sometime later this year as a designated hitter, the Angels have an excuse to stash Albert Pujols there for now. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be productive as a 39-year-old, but it’ll also give them time to evaluate what they have in Justin Bour. He broke out with the Marlins in 2017, blasting 25 home runs in just over 100 games for them. He quickly fell out of favor with the Fish after he couldn’t replicate his breakout campaign last year. The power is real, and there’s some patience too, but he’s clearly not as good as his 135 wRC+ from 2017 might have you believe. Another breakout player from 2017, the Angels hoped Zack Cozart could carry over his newfound power despite being on the wrong side of 30. Unfortunately, he suffered through an injury-filled season instead, eventually succumbing to shoulder surgery in June. He’s healthy again but who knows what to expect from him now that he’s 33 and another year removed from his breakout.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics

RHP Chris Stratton

145 17.9% 8.6% 13.1% 42.6% 5.09 4.48
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 56.6% 91.7 2448 89 101 105
Sinker 5.6% 91.1 2386 108 72 68
Changeup 10.3% 84.6 1932 107 87 75
Curveball 14.8% 78.2 3106 99 93 76
Slider 12.8% 84.0 2799 126 79 92
Stuff+ Explainer

With the injuries already piling up in the Angels rotation, they traded for Chris Stratton at the end of spring training. He had fallen out of favor with the Giants despite showing some promise as a back-end starter. His most notable pitch is his curveball which he throws with the fifth highest spin rate in all of baseball. All that spin gives the pitch impressive horizontal movement but it’s merely average from a results standpoint. His bender plays well off his high-spin four-seam fastball. His biggest downfall has been left-handed batters. They’ve really torched his changeup, slugging almost .600 off the pitch. Without great velocity, his margin for error is pretty slim. When he can command his entire arsenal, he can be pretty effective. But his 5.09 ERA from last season is proof enough of what happens when things aren’t going his way.

RHP Trevor Cahill

110 22.2% 9.1% 10.0% 53.4% 3.76 3.54
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 39.0% 92.4 2271 130 90 85
Cutter 19.5% 88.6 2160 96 151 104
Changeup 25.2% 84.6 1532 122 132 96
Curveball 16.3% 80.9 2933 87 115 97

Trevor Cahill hasn’t thrown more than 110 innings in a season since 2013 because of a myriad of injuries. But when he’s been healthy, he’s been pretty effective, particularly since revamping his curveball back in 2017. He’s always had a great changeup, but he also added a slider/cutter last season giving him three excellent secondary pitches. With those three pitches producing great results, he’s been turning away from his sinker more and more. This spring training, there were some reports that Trevor Cahill was hitting 95 with his fastball. Unfortunately, in his first start of the season, he was sitting around 91, the lowest it’s been since 2013. It’s still early in the season, but the higher velocity in spring training followed by a significant dip a few weeks later is pretty concerning.

The Big Picture:

Projected Standing (Baseball Prospectus)

Team W-L W% Win Division Make Playoffs
Team W-L W% Win Division Make Playoffs
Astros 94-68 0.583 87.3% 93.0%
Angels 80-82 0.494 5.0% 18.4%
Oakland 79-83 0.491 4.5% 14.5%
Mariners 78-84 0.470 2.1% 10.7%
Rangers 75-87 0.458 1.1% 5.5%