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Series Preview: Mariners (38-53) vs. Athletics (48-40)

“they’re still playing?!” - my friend who does not follow baseball

Chicago White Sox v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

The Mariners closed out the first half of the season playing the Athletics; now they’ll open the season playing the surging A’s again. There’s a very good chance the Mariners go 0-5 on this road trip. But hey, at least it’s a little mini two-game series.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, July 16 | 7:07 pm
RHP Daniel Mengden LHP Marco Gonzales
61% 39%
Game 2 Wednesday, July 17| 12:37 pm
RHP Homer Bailey LHP Tommy Milone
61% 39%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

We’re assuming Tommy Milone is still available to make his start after he was called into mop-up duty in the Angels’ no-hit drubbing of the Mariners last Friday. It’s wise to treat Mr. Milone with care, as he might be the Mariners’ most valuable pitching trade chip, she typed, not at all biting her fist.

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 104 (7th in AL) 106 (6th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 11 (6th) -64 (15th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 100 (9th) 116 (14th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 87 (4th) 113 (13th) Athletics

The last time we did this series preview, John had the temerity to write this:

Of note, per DRS (and UZR/150) the Mariners are no longer the worst defensive team in baseball! **sound of champagne corks popping** Unsatisfied with merely the worst pitching staff/ERA/FIP in baseball, the Orioles have claimed the worst defense as well. Congratulations to the disasterbirds.

As they say, pride goeth before the UZR fall, and the Mariners have settled themselves back into the worst defensive team in baseball. Good going, everyone, but especially the disastersailors.

Oakland continues their steady climb, and have brought themselves up to a 20% of making the playoffs, which makes the AL West race look...okay, still not close:

But what of the wild card, you ask? Glad you did so!

I had to go click OAK on this graph to make them show up, which kind of shows you what a precarious position the A’s are in. Houston is the AL West lock, the Yankees seem to have the AL East, and Minnesota has the Central. That leaves Oakland contending with a plucky Tampa Bay team, the reigning World Champs, and Cleveland, all of whom they lag behind considerably. The dropoff from here is steep, with the Angels and the Rangers fighting it out for the next position; the Angels are surging while the Rangers are fading, and while either could challenge Oakland with a hot streak, that’s seeming less and less likely as the summer wears on. Even if they can hold off an inter-divisional challenger, Oakland will have to get past two of those other teams to get themselves even into Wild Card positioning, so they’ll be motivated to wallop the frail Mariners on their home turf.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien SS R 437 0.288 115 0.9
Matt Chapman 3B R 400 0.292 134 0.4
Matt Olson 1B L 255 0.262 132 0.0
Khris Davis DH R 314 0.268 93 -1.0
Mark Canha RF R 194 0.229 138 0.2
Ramón Laureano CF R 369 0.316 110 3.2
Chad Pinder LF R 211 0.283 86 -1.2
Franklin Barreto 2B R 30 0.133 133 0.7
Chris Herrmann C R 21 0.455 122 0.2

Franklin Barreto has usurped Jurickson Profar in the Home of Former Top Prospects and will continue to endeavor to get his MLB lifetime K% under 40. Chad Pinder is currently edging Profar out for the starting job in LF, with his whopping wRC+ of 90 (compared to Profar’s 72), but the utilityman will probably pop up at some point in the series. The A’s lineup is finally back at full strength with Khris Davis and the Matts recovered from their relative ailments; they don’t hit for much average but there’s plenty of pop in this lineup, even with Khris Davis not contributing the massive sacks of taters as is his wont.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Daniel Mengden

40 17.7% 9.1% 8.0% 38.3% 4.73 4.16
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 35.3% 92.4 2230 80 49 121
Sinker 15.7% 91.1 2106 93 91 119
Cutter 12.7% 86.6 2192 69 67 86
Changeup 11.7% 83.6 1974
Curveball 10.0% 73.0 2531
Slider 14.6% 84.1 2375 125 100 204

From the previous series preview:

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 Homer Bailey

90 20.8% 9.8% 14.0% 45.8% 4.80 4.48
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 47.3% 92.4 2070 86 81 101
Splitter 26.2% 84.6 1109 77 119 119
Curveball 9.3% 78.8 1936 97 90 75
Slider 15.4% 87.8 1839 141 71 79

From the previous series preview, back when Bailey was a Royal:

Last season, Homer Bailey made more than 20 starts for the first time since 2014. His recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2015 hasn’t been easy. And though he probably deserves a little better based on his peripherals, his ERA hasn’t dropped below six since returning from that elbow injury. The Reds basically paid the Dodgers to take his contract off their hands this offseason and he was released as soon as the paperwork was filed. He caught on with the Royals in spring training, and to his credit, made the starting rotation to start the season. His stuff is clearly diminished, though his splitter and slider show a little promise. At this point, the Royals are hoping to extract the last little bit out of Bailey while their pitching prospects percolate in the minors.

Bailey has surprisingly stuck around in the Royals rotation this year. He’s made 14 starts with a 4.30 FIP, which is much better than many expected. His splitter is his only pitch that generates above average results, propping up both his strikeout rate and groundball rate. Back when the Mariners were in the midst of their season opening hot streak, they crushed seven runs off Bailey in five innings.

A fun fact: when I googled “Homer Bailey look-” to try to pull up the previous series preview about him, Google was all too happy to autocomplete “Homer Bailey looks like Batman.” Enjoy that particular rabbit hole of the internet.

The Big Picture:

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 59-36 0.621 -- 6-4
Athletics 53-41 0.561 5.5 8-2
Rangers 50-44 0.532 8.5 4-6
Angels 49-46 0.516 10.0 7-3
Mariners 39-58 0.402 21.0 2-8

The Mariners continue to be the declassé of the AL West, as the Angels begin the second half strong after throttling the Mariners in a three-game sweep out of the ASB. The Rangers’ Texan magic, without Adrian Beltre’s head to rub for luck, continues to fade, as the A’s and Astros continue to separate themselves as postseason contenders.

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 28-65 0.301 -- L-L-W-L-L
Tigers 29-60 0.326 3.0 L-L-L-W-L
Royals 33-62 0.347 4.0 L-W-W-L-W
Blue Jays 35-60 0.368 6.0 W-L-W-L-L
Marlins 34-57 0.374 7.0 W-L-W-L-L
Mariners 39-58 0.402 9.0 W-L-L-L-L
Mets 42-51 0.452 14.0 W-L-L-W-W
White Sox 42-48 0.467 15.5 W-L-L-L-L
Reds 43-48 0.473 16.0 L-L-W-L-W
Pirates 44-49 0.473 16.0 W-L-L-L-L

After getting drubbed by the Angels in the first series of the second half, the Mariners have sunk a little in the standings—or risen, depending on your perspective. Every team but the Mariners in this bottom echelon has at least a win in this second half, so if they keep playing similarly uninspired baseball, the Marlins/Blue Jays look like assailable targets for a Top-5 pick. If reading this celebration of slumming depresses you, make sure to check out the 2020 draft preview series, where we look at some of the top talents available in the 2020 draft and hopefully help cushion this losing season in some way.