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Series Preview: Mariners (18-15) at Cleveland (16-13)

The Mariners head out on a long, East Coast road trip beginning with a series in Cleveland.

Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Mariners played this Cleveland team just a few weeks ago. At that point in the season, they were 13-5 with a +35 run differential. Since then—including the home series against Cleveland—the Mariners have gone 5-10 with a -33 run differential. We’ve seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows for this team, all in one month. Now, they embark on a ten-game East Coast road trip with stops in Cleveland, New York, and Boston. Each of those teams have been varying degrees of disappointing early this season, but it’ll be a difficult stretch nonetheless.

At a Glance

Mariners Cleveland
Mariners Cleveland
Game 1 Friday, May 3 | 4:10 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi RHP Shane Bieber
41% 59%
Game 2 Saturday, May 4 | 1:10 pm
RHP Mike Leake RHP Carlos Carrasco
38% 62%
Game 3 Sunday, May 5 | 10:10 am
RHP Erik Swanson RHP Trevor Bauer
34% 66%
Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Cleveland (2019) Mariners (2019) Edge
Overview Cleveland (2019) Mariners (2019) Edge
Batting (wRC+) 70 (15th in AL) 119 (2nd in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 9 (4th) -34 (15th) Cleveland
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 76 (1st) 104 (8th) Cleveland
Bullpen (FIP-) 88 (5th) 119 (14th) Cleveland

Update: Cleveland has pushed back Trevor Bauer’s next start to Monday. In his place, Cody Anderson will be starting on Sunday.

For the first time this year, I’m pulling 2019 stats for the various pieces of the preview. In the team overview section above, you’ll see that the Mariners are exactly who we thought they were. Their incredibly hot start to the season has continued to prop up their offensive totals. Since April 15, the Mariners have posted a 97 wRC+ as a team, a decent mark for what was expected of them heading into the season. That’s probably more in line with what we should expect from them from here on out.

From the previous series preview:

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
Francisco Lindor SS S 42 0.231 83 0.1
Leonys Martín CF L 124 0.277 86 0.4
José Ramírez 3B S 125 0.198 48 2.3
Carlos Santana 1B S 118 0.368 143 0.0
Carlos González LF L 55 0.294 79 -0.2
Jason Kipnis 2B L 54 0.225 26 0.9
Jake Bauers DH L 100 0.281 85 0.2
Roberto Pérez CF R 73 0.289 79 -0.6
Tyler Naquin RF L 74 0.367 73 1.1

Cleveland has dealt with their fair share of offensive woes early this season. Injuries to Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez have had huge effects on the rest of the lineup. Just two players on their roster have produced an above average offensive line: Carlos Santana and their backup catcher Kevin Plawecki. Lindor has returned from his ankle injury and is slowly getting up to speed but Ramírez has continued to struggle. There aren’t really many red flags in Ramírez’s underlying stats. His walk and strikeout rates have both trended the wrong way but they’re close to his career norms. He’s hitting the ball harder than ever (but so is everyone else in the league) and the rest of his batted ball stats look fine. It just seems like he’s gotten a little unlucky to start the year.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Shane Bieber

29 1/3 27.6% 8.9% 12.1% 34.7% 3.68 3.90
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 49.8% 93.5 2240 141 71 84
Changeup 5.9% 88.3 1613
Curveball 16.1% 81.7 2234
Slider 28.2% 84.7 2347 86 131 117
Stuff+ Explainer; Bieber’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview:

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.

Bieber held the Mariners in check back in April. They were able to work three walks off him but he held them to just four hits and allowed a single run in six innings.

RHP Carlos Carrasco

27 2/3 33.6% 5.7% 11.8% 29.6% 5.86 2.90
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 32.4% 94.0 2397 121 163 65
Sinker 15.5% 92.9 2208
Changeup 18.0% 88.1 1467
Curveball 4.10% 82.2 2880
Slider 30.0% 85.2 2637 103 129 19
Carrasco’s sinker, changeup, and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview:

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.

Carrasco has really suffered from some poor luck this season. His FIP is right in line with his established norms but his ERA is almost three runs higher! A ridiculous .420 BABIP and a below average strand rate are likely culprits, but his batted ball profile has shifted significantly as well. He’s allowing far more fly balls this year and his ground ball rate has fallen to a career low 29.6%. His start against the Mariners was easily his best start of the year, striking out 12 over seven scoreless innings.

RHP Trevor Bauer

47 2/3 29.1% 12.2% 11.8% 41.1% 2.45 3.54
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 41.4% 95.1 2286 117 144 124
Sinker 6.2% 95.2 2276
Cutter 13.0% 85.4 2554 65 193 93
Changeup 13.2% 87.5 1467 70 83 78
Curveball 14.0% 79.9 2531 99 88 60
Slider 12.2% 80.8 2686 61 161 33
Bauer’s sinker does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview:

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.

Bauer has really struggled with his command this year, though it hasn’t prevented him from posting an ERA a full run lower than his FIP. He walked three and gave up five hits but allowed just one run against the Mariners back in April.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 18-14 0.563 -- W-L-W-L-L
Mariners 18-15 0.545 0.5 W-L-L-L-L
Rangers 14-15 0.483 2.5 L-W-W-L-L
Angels 15-17 0.469 3.0 L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 14-19 0.424 4.5 L-L-L-L-L

Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Yankees 17-13 0.567 +0.5 W-W-W-L-L
Cleveland 16-13 0.552 -- W-L-L-W-L
Mariners 18-15 0.545 -- W-L-L-L-L
White Sox 14-15 0.483 2.0 W-W-L-W-W
Rangers 14-15 0.483 2.0 L-W-W-L-L

Both the Astros and the Angels have an odd Friday off day as they travel down to Monterrey, Mexico to play in the last leg of the MLB in Mexico series. The Astros recently lost a four-game series against the upstart Twins and the Angels swept the Blue Jays at home. The Athletics losing streak was extended to six games after being swept in Boston. They’ll travel to Pittsburgh for a three-game interleague series this weekend.