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Series Preview: Mariners (23-29) at Athletics (25-25)

The Mariners head down to Oakland for the first time this season for a three-game weekend series.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

After another disappointing series, the frustration just continues to grow with this team. It would be one thing if the Mariners were losing but their young future core was performing well. Instead, they’re losing and players like J.P. Crawford, Mallex Smith, and Shed Long continue to look overmatched at the major league level. At least those position players are actually interesting to watch, even if they’re struggling. It’s the bullpen that’s unbearable to watch. Its been a never-ending carousel of relievers with only a few really standing out.

At a Glance

Mariners Athletics
Mariners Athletics
Game 1 Friday, May 24 | 7:07 pm
LHP Wade LeBlanc RHP Daniel Mengden
41% 59%
Game 2 Saturday, May 25 | 1:07 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi RHP Mike Fiers
43% 57%
Game 3 Sunday, May 26 | 1:07 pm
RHP Mike Leake LHP Brett Anderson
42% 58%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (9th in AL) 110 (3rd in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 9 (7th) -50 (15th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 104 (10th) 111 (11th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (7th) 118 (13th) Athletics

The Mariners are playing the Athletics for the third time this season and they’re seeing the same couple of starters again. For some reason, the Mariners schedule is loaded with AL West opponents in late May and early June instead of early in the season like we’ve seen in the past.

The Athletics have pushed their record back to .500 after a very successful road trip. They started off with the two losses in Seattle but then won three in Detroit and three in Cleveland with a fourth game in Detroit suspended in the seventh inning. Those six wins have given them new life after they were sitting last in the AL West just a couple of weeks ago. Their run differential is better than most of the other Wild Card contenders. Maybe this is the point in the season when they get hot and launch themselves up the standings like they did last year.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien SS R 232 0.306 111 -0.8
Matt Chapman 3B R 217 0.266 133 0.1
Matt Olson 1B L 71 0.268 126 -0.4
Khris Davis DH R 173 0.262 114 -0.3
Stephen Piscotty RF R 218 0.315 100 1.2
Chad Pinder LF R 137 0.293 101 0.2
Jurickson Profar 2B S 188 0.196 71 0.9
Ramón Laureano CF R 192 0.314 78 1.5
Josh Phegley C R 123 0.307 112 -2.2

Matt Olson hasn’t shown any ill effects from his hamate bone surgery. Typically, a hitters power would be the last thing to return after that kind of injury but Olson has already launched four home runs in 15 games since returning from the injured list. After a terrible April, Jurickson Profar has really come on strong in May. He’s slashing .254/.342/.507 this month, good for a 126 wRC+. This is the player the A’s were hoping to get when they traded for him this offseason. Khris Davis has been dealing with nagging hip and oblique injuries over the last week. It’s possible he’ll be placed on the injured list today with Mark Canha and Chad Pinder picking up the slack if that’s the case.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Daniel Mengden (2018)

115 2/3 15.1% 5.5% 12.7% 39.8% 4.05 4.69
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 55.4% 93.0 2107 109 83 107
Changeup 14.1% 82.7 1893 138 32 64
Curveball 10.7% 73.1 2476 76 89 124
Slider 19.8% 84.2 2225 125 93 82
Stuff+ Explainer

Even though he made 17 serviceable starts for the A’s last season, Daniel Mengden was stashed in Triple-A to start this year. He’s probably one of Oakland’s better options in the rotation but he was squeezed out of a job by the more veteran options that were brought in over the offseason. He was given another opportunity at the major league level after Mike Fiers needed an extra day of rest after throwing 131 pitches in his no-hitter. Mengden has taken advantage of that opportunity, making two starts with decent results. He relies mainly on a four-seam fastball with a good amount of ride and three average-to-above-average secondary pitches. His old school pitching mechanics create some deception, helping his stuff play up.

RHP Mike Fiers

57 17.2% 8.0% 13.3% 41.5% 5.05 5.13
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 36.7% 90.7 2328 74 76 89
Sinker 12.8% 89.7 2268 52 68 97
Changeup 15.3% 84.4 1975 102 74 129
Curveball 18.6% 73.4 2722 74 90 125
Slider 16.6% 86.2 2511 116 56 119

From the previous series preview:

Mike Fiers increased the usage of his four-seam fastball and his big 12-6 curveball when he joined the A’s last year and he’s still using both of them as his primary pitches. When he’s able to command his fastball at the top of the zone like he did against the Reds when he spun a no-hitter, he can be very effective. But as soon as that command slips, that fastball becomes extremely prone to leave the park. He’s also struggled to replicate the same kind of whiff rates with his fastball he enjoyed earlier in his career, making his no-hitter even more of a curiosity.

This will be the third time the Mariners have faced Mike Fiers this year. The first time, in Japan, the Mariners crushed him, scoring five runs in three innings off him. Just a week and a half ago, Fiers held the Mariners to just a single run in five innings in Seattle.

LHP Brett Anderson

54 1/3 11.8% 8.4% 7.7% 51.9% 4.14 4.22
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 14.4% 91.0 1987 31 64 88
Sinker 38.6% 90.7 1803 64 114 91
Changeup 16.2% 83.0 1514 127 109 111
Curveball 6.3% 77.2 2364
Slider 20.3% 82.4 2334 71 63 98
Anderson’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview:

When a pitcher is bereft of overpowering or deceptive stuff, regulating the contact he allows is the only path left to success. Brett Anderson has completely embraced that reality. Among all qualified starting pitchers, Anderson’s strikeout rate is the lowest by a healthy margin. Opposing batters are making contact against him 82.8% of the time, the ninth highest mark in the majors. When they do make contact, they pound the ball into the ground or hit it weakly in the air. Even though the league home run rate is at an all-time high, Anderson has allowed just a single long ball this year. That miniscule home run rate is bound to go up, but he’s leveraging the Dallas Keuchel model for all its worth.

Indeed, the Mariners launched three home runs off Anderson a week and a half ago. Of course, he bounced back with a one-run outing in Cleveland.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 33-18 0.647 -- W-L-W-W-L-L
Rangers 24-23 0.511 7.0 L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 25-25 0.500 7.5 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 22-27 0.449 10.0 W-L-L-L-L
Mariners 23-29 0.442 10.5 L-W-L-L-L

Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 29-18 0.617 +3.5 W-L-L-W-W
Red Sox 27-23 0.540 -- W-W-L-W-W
Rangers 24-23 0.511 1.5 L-W-W-W-W
Cleveland 25-24 0.510 1.5 W-L-L-L-L
Athletics 25-25 0.500 2.0 W-W-W-W-W

The Astros ended up splitting their four-game series against the White Sox, losing the last two games of the series by a combined score of 13-4. They’ll host the other Sox this weekend for three games. The Angels were crushed at home by the Twins this week, allowing 27 runs in three games. They’ll host the Rangers this weekend.