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Series Preview: Mariners (25-37) vs. Astros (40-20)

The Mariners host the Astros for four-games this week. How bad could it get?

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With the amateur draft beginning this afternoon and the major league club reeling, no one would blame you if you simply forgot this four-game series against the Astros was even happening. All eyes are on the future of the organization because the present is just ugly.

At a Glance

Astros Mariners
Astros Mariners
Game 1 Monday, June 3 | 7:10 pm
RHP Corbin Martin LHP Wade LeBlanc
56% 44%
Game 2 Tuesday, June 4 | 7:10 pm
LHP Wade Miley TBD
61% 39%
Game 3 Wednesday, June 5 | 7:10 pm
RHP Brad Peacock RHP Mike Leake
62% 38%
Game 4 Thursday, June 6 | 12:40 pm
RHP Justin Verlander LHP Tommy Milone
69% 31%
Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 123 (2nd) 108 (5th in AL) Astros
Fielding (DRS) 54 (1st) -50 (15th) Astros
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 91 (3rd) 116 (13th) Astros
Bullpen (FIP-) 78 (2nd) 117 (13th) Astros

In an alternate universe where the Mariners were contending this year, this series would be ripe for excitement. This would be the ideal time to face the Astros since they’re missing three of their superstars right now—José Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa are all out with various injuries. Or maybe not. Since losing both Springer and Correa last weekend, they’ve won five of their six games. That’s a testament to both the amount of depth in the organization and the strength of their pitching staff.

Astros Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Myles Straw LF R 217 0.362 88
Alex Bregman SS R 256 0.245 154 -1.3
Michael Brantley DH L 247 0.328 149 0.2
Yuli Gurriel 3B R 229 0.289 94 -2.1
Josh Reddick RF L 212 0.311 114 -0.9
Robinson Chirinos C R 169 0.289 131 -0.3
Tyler White 1B R 128 0.333 70 -0.1
Tony Kemp 2B L 105 0.240 80 -0.4
Jake Marisnick CF R 125 0.353 129 0.9
Straw’s stats from Triple-A

Rather than calling up their top offensive prospects to replace their injured stars, the Astros have promoted Myles Straw and Derek Fisher. These two speedy outfielders should see plenty of opportunities to make an impact during the next month or so. To replace Correa, Alex Bregman has simply shifted over to his natural position like he did for a while last season. His versatility is a huge bonus for the Astros as he’s in the midst of another strong offensive season.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Corbin Martin (Triple-A)

25 1/3 29.3% 12.1% 5.0% 49.1% 1.42 3.50

Despite being drafted just a few years ago in 2017, Corbin Martin beat fellow top prospects Forrest Whitley and J.B. Bukauskas to the majors this year. Both Whitley and Bukauskas have really struggled in the minors this year, and the Astros needed some reinforcements in their rotation after the injury to Collin McHugh, so Martin got the call. He was a solid performer in college but the Astros drafted him after his junior year in the second round—a reach simply based on his pedigree. But the Astros saw the potential for a middle of the rotation starter with some development. He quickly took to the adjustments the Astros proposed and he’s quickly moved through their organization. He throws a hard fastball in the mid-90s with a plus slider and an above average changeup. He’s made four starts in the majors and has really struggled so far.

LHP Wade Miley

69 1/3 19.2% 5.7% 15.7% 49.3% 3.25 4.39
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 13.4% 91.0 2220 87 111 104
Sinker 7.0% 90.1 2063
Cutter 50.3% 87.6 2259 77 87 103
Changeup 15.7% 81.7 1862 147 140 73
Curveball 11.1% 76.4 2437 58 101 62
Stuff+ Explainer; Miley’s sinker does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview:

One of the biggest reasons why the Astros didn’t try to re-sign Dallas Keuchel is because they were able to sign a replica for a pittance. Wade Miley completely reinvented himself with the Brewers last year, fully embracing some newfound contact management skills. He scrapped his slider in favor of a harder cutter and started throwing that pitch almost half the time at the expense of his mediocre fastball. With three pitches that induce contact on the ground more than half the time the batter puts the ball in play, he easily generated a career-high ground ball rate. Even more impressively, he allowed just three home runs all season long, holding opposing batters to just a .330 slugging percentage. The cutter itself isn’t all that notable from a stuff perspective. But he uses it like Marco Gonzales uses his cutter, busting it inside to right-handed batters to generate weak contact. That new pitch also helped his fastball play up since he didn’t have to rely on it as much. The Astros have had Miley lean even more into these changes he made last year and he might now be an even better contact manager than Keuchel himself.

Miley has seemingly found a useful combination of the contact management skills developed last year with a strikeout rate in line with what he was posting before. There was no way he was going to be able to replicate the miniscule home run rate from last year. Indeed, he’s allowed at least one home run in all but two of his starts. But because he isn’t allowing very many baserunners, all those additional dingers haven’t really hurt him that much.

RHP Brad Peacock

59 2/3 25.1% 7.4% 7.5% 38.1% 3.17 3.25
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 29.7% 93.1 2303 85 107 88
Sinker 29.5% 92.2 2244 128 43 112
Changeup 4.4% 83.1 1928
Curveball 8.7% 79.0 2598
Slider 27.7% 81.5 2754 71 99 94
Peacock’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

Bouncing from the rotation to the bullpen and then back to the rotation in successive years really hasn’t fazed Brad Peacock. Back in 2017, he made 21 solid starts for the Astros during their championship campaign. A year later and he was bumped to the bullpen to make room for Gerrit Cole. As you’d expect, his strikeout rate improved as a reliever and he was able to drop his walk rate as well. Some trouble with the long ball pushed his ERA and FIP into the mid-threes though. His strikeout rate has dropped back down as a starter this season, but he’s managed to maintain his improved walk rate. He’s also cut his home run rate despite a big jump in hard contact allowed.

RHP Justin Verlander

87 1/3 31.0% 5.7% 14.9% 35.6% 2.27 3.66
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 52.1% 95.0 2584 155 166 67
Changeup 5.7% 87.8 1838
Curveball 16.9% 79.7 2809 127 91 93
Slider 25.3% 88.0 2623 143 113 112
Verlander’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview:

Joining the Astros has helped Justin Verlander discover the fountain of youth. At 35 years old, he arguably posted his best season ever last year, setting career-bests in strikeout rate, walk rate, and FIP. He also allowed the highest fly ball rate of his career as his high-spin, “rising” fastball rose even further. Of course, with all those fly balls comes a pretty high home run rate as well. That seems to be his one weakness in his old age. But when you’re not walking anyone and allowing very few base hits, a few solo home runs don’t really hurt all that much. When he needs to generate weak contact, he can turn to either of his breaking balls. Opposing batters managed just four extra-base hits off his curveball last year and posted a .144 ISO off his slider.

Verlander just continues to dominate the American League. His peripherals have slid a little the wrong way with his home run rate really hurting him. But he’s managed to keep his ERA down by stranding 95% of the runners that reach against him.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 40-20 0.667 -- W-L-W-W-W
Rangers 30-27 0.526 8.5 W-L-W-W-W
Angels 29-30 0.492 10.5 W-W-L-W-W
Athletics 29-30 0.492 10.5 L-L-L-L-L
Mariners 25-37 0.403 16.0 L-L-W-L-L

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 18-41 0.305 -- L-L-W-L-L
Royals 19-40 0.322 1.0 L-W-L-L-L
Blue Jays 21-38 0.356 3.0 L-L-L-L-L
Marlins 21-36 0.368 4.0 W-L-L-W-W
Tigers 22-34 0.393 5.5 W-W-W-L-L

The Mariners have moved up a spot in the 2020 draft order because the Giants won their series in Baltimore over the Weekend. The Astros swept the A’s over the weekend pushing Oakland into a four-way tie in the Wild Card race with the Angels, White Sox, and Cleveland. The Rangers won their four-game series against the Royals and now hold the second Wild Card spot outright.