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Series Preview: Mariners (13-5) vs. Cleveland (8-7)

The Mariners continue their homestand with a three-game set against the ball club from Cleveland.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by John Sleezer/Getty Images

Well that weekend series took a bit of wind out of the Mariners sails. I don’t think anyone expected the Mariners to win the series, especially with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole on the mound. But I think we can feel good about how competitively the Mariners played the Astros each game this weekend, even if they didn’t come away with a victory. Progress is being made on some of the Mariners weaknesses (the defense) while others continue to be a source of anxiety (the bullpen). At least we still have dingers!

At a Glance

Cleveland Mariners
Cleveland Mariners
Game 1 Monday, April 15 | 7:10 pm
RHP Trevor Bauer LHP Yusei Kikuchi
55% 45%
Game 2 Tuesday, April 16 | 7:10 pm
RHP Shane Bieber RHP Mike Leake
50% 50%
Game 3 Wednesday, April 17 | 3:40 pm
RHP Carlos Carrasco RHP Erik Swanson
52% 48%
Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Cleveland (2018) Mariners (2018) Edge
Overview Cleveland (2018) Mariners (2018) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 105 (6th in AL) 101 (7th in AL) Cleveland
Fielding (DRS) 28 (4th) -23 (11th) Cleveland
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 81 (2nd) 100 (6th) Cleveland
Bullpen (FIP-) 106 (14th) 94 (4th) Mariners

One of the hidden effects of the competitive and financial environment that’s developed in baseball over the last few years is a sort of complacency for some middle-class teams. Cleveland is a prime example of this effect. Since the AL Central is filled with rebuilding teams, their path to the division championship is a lot easier than, say, the Rays. Since Cleveland already has a core filled with young talent and few financial resources, they spent a grand total of $2.5M on major league free agents this offseason. They were active in the trade market, but they decided that entering the season with significant holes on their roster, particularly in the outfield and in the bullpen, was a risk they were willing to take.

Cleveland Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Leonys Martín CF L 353 0.302 103 1.0
José Ramírez 3B S 698 0.252 146 12.0
Carlos González RF L 504 0.332 96 3.6
Carlos Santana 1B S 679 0.231 109 -0.1
Hanley Ramírez DH R 195 0.283 89 -2.4
Jason Kipnis 2B L 601 0.258 89 2.5
Roberto Pérez C R 210 0.257 40 -0.5
Jake Bauers LF L 388 0.252 95 2.0
Eric Stamets SS R 269 0.253 68
All stats from 2018; Stamets’s stats from Triple-A

A rash of untimely injuries to key players has only compounded the holes already present in Cleveland’s lineup. Francisco Lindor has been sidelined with an ankle injury all season and José Ramírez hasn’t looked right after a knee injury suffered late in spring training. A few reinforcements are on their way. Carlos González was activated yesterday and should provide some relief for Cleveland’s beleaguered outfield. Jason Kipnis will be activated today, but the accompanying move was a little head scratching. Old friend Brad Miller had been filling in at second base and had posted a league average batting line across 40 plate appearances, good for third best on the team. He was surprisingly released yesterday, a questionable move for a team desperate for some sort of offensive spark.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Trevor Bauer

175 1/3 30.8% 8.0% 6.2% 44.5% 2.29 3.55
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 37.0% 95.1 2321 140 116 103
Sinker 5.3% 95.0 2315 140 50 94
Cutter 10.1% 87.2 2616 82 195 71
Changeup 6.8% 87.5 1852 97 121 120
Curveball 26.8% 79.6 2601 90 128 92
Slider 14.0% 82.6 2665 65 124 77
Stuff+ Explainer

Trevor Bauer’s outspoken personality can be grating at times, but he’s been one of the most interesting pitchers to analyze over the past few years. It took him a while to find his footing in the majors, but he finally put everything together last year. An early champion of the innovative training techniques being developed at places like Driveline and finally being adopted by a few major league clubs, he’s constantly tinkering with his pitches. It looks like he found the right adjustments and mix last year. He added an excellent slider to a repertoire that already included four other pitches with above average whiff rates. That gives him a plethora of choices to use to attack batters, and if he isn’t feeling one pitch or another on any given night, he’s can lean on any of his other pitches instead.

RHP Shane Bieber

114 2/3 24.3% 4.7% 12.1% 46.6% 4.55 3.23
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 59.5% 93.4 2264 126 86 106
Curveball 16.8% 80.4 2064 91 104 72
Slider 23.7% 83.9 2235 85 130 79

Shane Bieber is another success story for the pitching rich Cleveland ball club. A fourth round draft pick in 2016, he quickly moved through the minors via his excellent fastball command. His highest season total for walks in the minors was 10. He walked a few more than that once he made the jump to the majors last season but it’s clearly an elite skill. He pairs that fastball with a slider that has a massive whiff rate. Those two pitches should provide a high floor for his strikeout-to-walk ratio. His biggest downfall has been a lack of a third pitch and a propensity to throw in the zone too often. His curveball is merely okay and he rarely throws a changeup. That means left-handed batters have been a real problem for him as they can sit on his fastball and deal serious damage. And since he’s throwing in the zone so often to avoid walking batters, he’s prone to starts where he gives up tons of hits if he’s not hitting his spots on the corners with his fastball.

RHP Carlos Carrasco

192 29.5% 5.5% 13.1% 46.8% 3.38 2.94
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 30.9% 94.1 2351 97 80 87
Sinker 13.8% 93.4 2205 135 95 101
Changeup 16.1% 88.3 1505 95 149 90
Curveball 10.2% 81.9 2823 129 138 112
Slider 29.0% 84.5 2642 109 148 100

Since joining the rotation full-time in 2015, Carlos Carrasco has been a model of consistency. His strikeout rate hasn’t fallen below 25% and has been around 29% for three of those four seasons. His walk rate has fallen from 5.9% to 5.5%. And if not for a rash of dinger-itis in 2016, his FIP has consistently sat around 3.00. We can also pretty comfortably say that he’s not a cold weather pitcher. His worst month has consistently been April throughout his career and this month has been no different. He’s suffered through two rough starts already this season, including one where he could get out of the first inning against the Royals. The Mariners roughed him up a couple of times last April as well.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Mariners 13-5 0.722 -- W-W-L-L-L
Astros 11-5 0.688 1.0 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 8-7 0.533 3.5 W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 10-9 0.526 3.5 W-W-W-W-L
Rangers 7-7 0.500 4.0 L-L-W-L-W

After splitting a rain-shortened series against the Athletics in Arlington, the Rangers will host the Angels to start the week. The Angels split their own rain-shortened series in Chicago over the weekend. The Astros have now won nine games in a row and travel to Oakland for a quick two-game series beginning tomorrow.