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Series Preview: Mariners (13-8) at Angels (8-10)

After a rough homestand, the Mariners head down the coast for a four-game series in Anahiem.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

That was a rough homestand. After scoring more than seven runs per game over the first fifteen games of the season, the Mariners scored less than three runs per game over their last six games. What’s funny is that they still lead the majors in total runs scored, home runs, and wRC+. That’s how good the Mariners were playing to start the year. It was never going to last the entire year, but it would have been nice if they hadn’t crashed so hard during these last two series.

At a Glance

Mariners Angels
Mariners Angels
Game 1 Thursday, April 18 | 7:07 pm
RHP Félix Hernández RHP Chris Stratton
45% 55%
Game 2 Friday, April 19 | 7:07 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Félix Peña
47% 53%
Game 3 Saturday, April 20 | 6:07 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi RHP Trevor Cahill
45% 55%
Game 4 Sunday, April 21 | 1:07 pm
RHP Mike Leake RHP Jaime Barría
45% 55%
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

After facing the two best pitching staffs in the American League, it’ll be nice to see some mediocre pitching again. The Angels have really struggled to get their season going. They were just swept in Texas and have won just two games on the road so far this year. On the flip side, in seven home games, they’ve only lost once. A few significant players are still missing due to injury including Justin Upton, Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, and now Tyler Skaggs.

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
Brian Goodwin LF L 180 0.330 93 -0.3
Jonathan Lucroy C R 454 0.273 70 -3.6
Tommy La Stella 2B L 192 0.312 86 -0.5
Zack Cozart 3B R 253 0.244 84 0.6
All stats from 2018

Like always, Mike Trout is trying to carry the entire lineup on his own. Just two other regulars have posted above average offensive lines so far, and as a team, their offense is 15% below league average. With a punchless lineup around him, teams have simply refused to pitch to Trout. He’s walked in over a quarter of his plate appearances and has found a way to get on base in more than half of them. The two players who have shown some promise early this year are quite surprising. Brian Goodwin was picked up off the trash heap after the Royals released him and he’s posted a very good .326/.388/.535 slash line in 15 games. Tommy La Stella has also posted an above average line, though his is bolstered by four home runs paired with an OBP below .300.

Probable Pitchers

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

From the previous series preview:

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 effective. But his 5.09 ERA from last season is proof enough of what happens when things aren’t going his way.

The Mariners scored four runs off Stratton in the first inning of his start on April 1. He lasted less than five inning, allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out just one.

RHP Félix Peña

92 2/3 21.9% 7.2% 13.3% 42.6% 4.18 4.05
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 57.9% 92.7 2209 92 91 115
Changeup 7.3% 85.8 1747 58 101 77
Slider 34.8% 82.3 2628 59 146 102

A middling prospect in the Cubs organization, Félix Peña had made the transition to the bullpen in an attempt to get the most out of his raw stuff. Like so many pitching prospects, his control just wasn’t good enough to stick in the rotation. The Angels picked him up after the Cubs designated him for assignment after the 2017 season. They saw some untapped potential in Peña and had him transition back to the rotation. The biggest adjustment they made was encouraging him to ditch his four-seam fastball in favor of a sinker. The switch to that pitch means he’s sacrificing some swinging strikes, but he can command it much better. Plus, he doesn’t really need to worry about those lost whiffs since his slider is so good. He throws his breaker with very high spin, giving the pitch excellent vertical movement. He lacks a good third offering however so he’s really struggled with a significant platoon split.

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

From the previous series preview:

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.

Cahill was the first starting pitcher who was able to shut down the high-flying Mariners offense this year. He allowed just a single run in six innings.

RHP Jaime Barría

129 1/3 18.3% 8.8% 10.2% 37.1% 3.41 4.58
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 49.6% 91.5 2178 74 52 104
Changeup 14.0% 83.0 1520 101 121 110
Slider 36.5% 82.2 2278 90 113 111

Jaime Barría was pushed into the Angels’ major league rotation last year as a 22-year-old with less than 30 innings of experience at Triple-A. It would have been unsurprising if he had been knocked around after such a huge leap, but he held his own. Without overpowering stuff, Barría had to rely on excellent contact management skills. He held opposing batters to a .271 BABIP and a 10.2% home-run-per-fly-ball rate despite allowing a 36.6% hard hit rate. He’s able to command all three of his pitches well, mixing them to limit the damage on contact. If he’s able to drop his walk rate down to his minor league levels, he could become an effective contact manager who regularly outperforms his peripherals.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 12-6 0.667 -- W-W-W-W-L
Mariners 13-8 0.619 0.5 L-L-L-L-L
Rangers 10-7 0.588 1.5 L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 11-10 0.524 2.5 W-W-L-L-W
Angels 8-10 0.444 4.0 L-W-L-L-L

The Athletics were finally able to snap the Astros nine-game winning streak with a win yesterday. They’re off today and will host the Blue Jays over the weekend. The Astros “travel” to Arlington to continue their intrastate rivalry with the Rangers.