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Series Preview: Mariners (39-55) at Angels (45-46)

The Mariners open post-All Star Break play in the city of Angels (adjacent).

2019 MLB All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

While six teams separate the Mariners and Angels in the standings, only one of those teams is from the AL—the Chicago White Sox. Still, the Angels aren’t so terrible that they couldn’t chase the surprisingly-decent Rangers or the pitching-beknighted A’s, if they’re able to knock around the depleted Mariners some and those other teams hit the skids. Of course, they’re also fighting against the emotional weight of losing a teammate midseason. The death of Tyler Skaggs will hang heavy over this team for the rest of the season and well into the future.

At a Glance

Mariners Angels
Mariners Angels
Game 1 Friday, July 12 | 7:07 pm
RHP Mike Leake RHP Félix Peña
46% 54%
Game 2 Saturday, July 13 | 6:07 pm
LHP Wade LeBlanc RHP Matt Harvey
45% 55%
Game 3 Sunday, July 14 | 1:07 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi LHP José Suárez
42% 58%
Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 108 (4th in AL) 107 (6th in AL) Angels
Fielding (DRS) -7 (9th) -64 (14th) Angels
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 116 (14th) 114 (13th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 99 (8th) 112 (13th) Angels

The Angels and Mariners have basically held steady since their last meeting a month ago, getting marginally worse in some areas but marginally better in others. The Mariners come into this series down their best bullpen piece in Austin Adams, which puts the pressure on the rotation to out-duel the Halos pitching if the Mariners want to avoid getting swept. Better defense and bullpen play has been the separator between the Halos and the M’s this year, as they’ve actually had slightly worse pitching from their rotation as well.

The Angels are trying to desperately avoid their fourth straight losing season, and the players capable of making an impact have slowly begun to return. Shohei Ohtani has not been the world-beater he was a year ago, but his competence and Albert Pujols feasting mostly on the Mariners has kept their bats among the better in the league. Andrelton Simmons is back from his ankle injury but now Jonathan Lucroy has been lost to a broken nose and concussion.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Kole Calhoun RF L 360 0.259 109 0.7
Mike Trout CF R 391 0.303 186 4.5
Shohei Ohtani DH L 218 0.343 143 -1.0
Justin Upton LF R 58 0.324 118 0.9
Andrelton Simmons SS R 230 0.301 92 0.1
Albert Pujols 1B R 295 0.219 92 -3.0
Matt Thaiss 3B L 372 0.303 115
Dustin Garneau C R 46 0.357 107 -1.4
David Fletcher 2B R 329 0.309 110 -0.9

The Angels lost one of their best players when Tommy La Stella unfortunately fouled a ball off his leg, fracturing his tibia and causing him to miss the All-Star Game. Matt Thaiss has been called up from Triple-A to replace him, but while Thaiss brings plenty of power, he’s not a third baseman, nor even a second baseman, so there’s a chance there’s some Ryon-esque defense over at the hot corner if the Angels, who are heavy on the 1B/DH types already, are forced to play him there. He’s only had 10 MLB PAs, so the numbers in the chart are from his time with the Salt Lake Bees, in the offensive-happy PCL.

If it feels like the numbers above are a bit low for how the Angels have punished M’s pitching this year, you’d be right. The Angels are running a tOPS+ of 128 against the Mariners, meaning they’re hitting 28% better than their average numbers vs. the M’s. Most teams probably hit better in Seattle, of course, but their 114 sOPS+ against Seattle shows even compared to how others have fared against the Mariners they’ve been better than most.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: JUL 05 Angels at Astros Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

RHP Félix Peña

74 1/3 25.2% 8.2% 19.2% 39.7% 4.72 4.92
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 5.9% 91.8 2091
Sinker 43.2% 92.2 2107 78 96 88
Changeup 11.8% 84.4 1682 55 115 148
Slider 39.1% 83.1 2489 69 141 103
Peña’s four-seam fastball does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

From the previous series preview:

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 so he’s prone to some blowups if he loses the feel for his sinker or slider. The Angels have started using an opener in front of Peña and that’s helped him survive facing the opposing lineup a second or third time through.

RHP Matt Harvey

48 16.2% 9.7% 22.4% 41.0% 7.50 6.22
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 46.5% 94.0 2192 99 71 80
Changeup 11.4% 86.4 1776
Curveball 14.7% 82.0 2511 142 106 56
Slider 27.5% 88.0 2429 132 105 87
Harvey’s changeup does not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

It’s been a lifetime since Matt Harvey was named the Gotham Knight after his electrifying debut for the Mets. His thoracic outlet syndrome and subsequent surgery explains why his velocity took a steep dive in 2017. He flirted with 95 mph heat last year but hasn’t been able to match that with the Angels. Without that kind of velocity, he’s been shelled, posting a 7.50 ERA and a 6.22 FIP before going down with a strained back. He’ll be making his first start off the injured list on Saturday.

LHP José Suárez

28 1/3 23.6% 10.2% 18.2% 28.4% 5.40 6.34
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 47.1% 92.1 2256 66 126 83
Changeup 36.4% 82.0 1591 138 131 125
Curveball 10.1% 76.9 2704
Slider 6.3% 81.3 2364
Suárez’s curveball and slider do not have large enough sample sizes for Stuff+ or Pitch Arsenal scores.

Along with Griffin Canning, José Suárez has made the jump from the Angels prospect list to the majors this year. Suárez actually had a higher prospect pedigree than Canning but he’s really struggled in his first taste of the bigs, unlike Canning. The diminutive Suárez pitched his way through three different levels last year after adding a couple of ticks to his fastball, up from 90 mph to 93 mph. His excellent changeup and promising curveball give him nice compliments to his improved heat. The strikeouts have followed him to the majors but his command has eluded him and he’s been crushed by the long ball.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 57-34 0.626 -- 7-3
Athletics 50-41 0.550 7.0 7-3
Rangers 49-42 0.539 8.0 4-6
Angels 45-46 0.495 12.0 4-6
Mariners 39-55 0.415 19.5 2-8

Watch out because here come the A’s. They’ve zipped ahead of the Rangers and now it is they, not the team from Texas, encroaching on that Wild Card spot that Red Sox fans are counting on as their way into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Angels and Mariners continue to float comfortably in the deepest depths of the AL West.

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 27-62 0.303 -- 5-5
Tigers 28-57 0.329 3.0 2-8
Royals 30-61 0.330 4.0 2-8
Blue Jays 34-57 0.374 6.0 5-5
Marlins 33-57 0.375 6.5 3-7

The Mariners remain just outside of the Top 5 as the Orioles-Tigers-Royals continue to tussle for the first overall pick. If the Mariners want to sneak into a top-5 pick, they need the Marlins to begin playing capably (unlikely in an NL full of decent-to-good teams) or the Blue Jays to go on a Vlad Jr.-fueled winning spree (unlikely in the AL East). They will also have to hold off the Giants or possibly the Mets, which is quite a sentence to type after that off-season trade.