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Series Preview: Mariners (42-63) vs. Tigers (30-67)

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The Mariners welcome the worst team in baseball, or the best if you want that draft pick

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Here this weekend to remind us that the Rangers, Athletics, Angels and Astros are not the only other teams in baseball are the Detroit Tigers, who the Mariners have not faced since May 20, 2018. Seattle won that game 3-2 in 11 innings to take the series 3-1. Seattle’s three runs were scored by Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura. Pitching in relief for the Mariners, after Wade LeBlanc’s 5.1 innings, were Ryan Cook, James Pazos, Dan Altavilla, Juan Nicasio, Edwin Diaz and Nick Vincent. Mike Zunino, of all people, had a hit. Those were different Mariners. The Mariners as we know them have never played the Detroit Tigers.

The AL Central boasts the American League’s tightest playoff race, with Cleveland trailing the Twins by two games. The division is also home to two teams worse somehow than the 2019 Mariners - and the worst of those teams by far is the Tigers.

At A Glance

Mariners Astros
Mariners Astros
Game 1 Friday, August 2 | 5:10 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi LHP Wade Miley
31% 69%
Game 2 Saturday, August 3 | 4:10 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Aaron Sanchez
41% 59%
Game 3 Sunday, August 4 | 11:10 am
LHP Tommy Milone RHP Justin Verlander
27% 73%

Team Overview

Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 120 (1st) 107 (6th in AL) Astros
Fielding (DRS) 74 (1st) -62 (14th) Astros
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 90 (4th) 114 (13th) Astros
Bullpen (FIP-) 93 (7th) 113 (14th) Astros

This is an interesting match-up. The Mariners are only passable on offense, and the Tigers are only passable at starting pitching. Everything else is terrible for everyone. To begin each inning we’ll see the worst offense in the league facing the second worst starting rotation and then the worst bullpen in the league, and to end each inning we’ll see decent batters facing decent pitching, at least until Detroit’s bullpen takes over. In later innings, if any sense is to be made of these numbers, Seattle should be able to do some damage against a bullpen under-performing almost as admirably as their own. The gap between your standard shaky MLB defense and the Mariners/Orioles is really on display here: Detroit’s fielding, near the last in the league, is pretty bad, but Seattle’s, just two places further down the list, is much, much worse. However, the Orioles, now boasting a Defensive Runs Saved of -79, have graciously put some distance between themselves and the second-to-last Mariners. Despite the Tigers having the edge in three of four categories, it seems likely(?) that the Mariners(?) should do well(?) against Detroit.

Astros Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
George Springer RF R 355 0.297 156 1.3
José Altuve 2B R 326 0.317 138 -1.1
Michael Brantley LF L 447 0.329 140 -0.2
Alex Bregman 3B R 473 0.248 149 -1.1
Yordan Álvarez DH L 160 0.395 186 -0.4
Carlos Correa SS R 240 0.329 136 -1.2
Yuli Gurriel 1B R 438 0.291 124 -2.2
Jake Marisnick CF R 226 0.323 101 1.3
Robinson Chirinos C R 320 0.302 118 -1.2

With 2B Josh Harrison on the 60-day IL, Detroit has been using Harold Castro more at 2B. Harrison had been struggling this year on offense, with just 24 hits and 6 walks s in 136 chances. Castro is an upgrade on offense, but all four of Castro’s errors this year have come at second base while Harrison had none. Offensively, the team is lead by Nicholas Castellanos and Niko Goodrum, with Goodrum also leading the team in stolen bases with 11. Miguel Cabrera, batting .279 at 36 years old, is still a threat on offense but a liability on the basepaths. It seems fortunate for the Mariners that Goodrum bats 6th in the lineup - if he gets on base, his speed threat will likely be limited on account of being followed by three of the lowest wRC+ batters on the team in Christin Stewart, John Hicks and Jordy Mercer.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Wade Miley

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
126 2/3 20.5% 7.7% 15.0% 53.3% 3.06 4.34
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 15.4% 91.2 2208 93 122 130
Sinker 6.1% 89.7 2046 72 91 54
Cutter 48.2% 87.5 2250 74 86 106
Changeup 19.0% 81.4 1861 151 135 97
Curveball 10.0% 76.0 2433 54 91 70
Slider 1.3% 82.0 2404

Drew VerHagen, formerly Detroit’s number 11 prospect, has been brought up from Triple-A Toledo to make tonight’s start. VerHagen hasn’t pitched for the Tigers since May 10th. He began the year in the bullpen and had an extremely rocky start, throwing just six innings over ten appearances and giving up ten hits, ten walks and ten runs. He’s spent the past ten weeks starting for the Mud Hens and has gone 4-2 with a 4.42 ERA in 11 starts, with 51 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 53 innings. Last year he threw 56.1 innings for the Tigers, almost all in relief, with an ERA of 4.63, 53 strikeouts and 19 walks.

RHP Aaron Sanchez

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
112 2/3 18.9% 11.3% 14.7% 47.0% 6.07 5.03
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 21.3% 94.3 2287 121 120 99
Sinker 37.0% 94.2 2250 126 91 113
Changeup 19.6% 88.7 1815 67 72 108
Curveball 22.1% 78.9 2875 110 119 102

Due to a rain delay, Daniel Norris pitched only four innings in his last start and will come to Seattle on plenty of rest. He has struggled on the year, giving up 56 earned runs on 119 hits and 26 walks in his 100.1 innings pitched, with a record of 2-8. Prior to his shortened game last week, in which he gave up 1 run on 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 3, he earned a loss July 15th against Cleveland, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 over 5.2 innings.

LHP Tyler Alexander

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
85 24.7% 4.7% 17.3% 37.9% 5.72 5.10

Tyler Alexander will make his third major league appearance Friday night. In his first start on July 3rd he pitched 5 innings, giving up just 2 runs, both solo home runs, but earning the loss in a 6-9 game against the White Sox. He gave up 5 hits but walked none and struck out 4. In his second chance, a 4-3 win over the Blue Jays, he pitched 7 innings and gave up just 3 hits, 1 run and 1 walk, striking out 1. Several of his outs were long fly balls, and with his low velocity he may be vulnerable to the long ball. He’s known for his precision and is expected to be a durable, high-innings guy, but his fastball tops out at 92MPH and he throws an average slider and changeup. His ceiling has been said to be a number 4 or 5 starter at best, but he has impressed in his first two opportunities.

LHP Matt Boyd

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
126 32.1% 5.0% 16.5% 36.5% 4.07 3.57
Pitch Type Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 49.3% 92.4 2392 92 136 125
Changeup 5.6% 79.6 1960 147 139 103
Curveball 4.5% 72.5 2236
Slider 37.1% 80 2365 59 123 105

Saturday is expected to be Matthew Boyd’s last start for the Tigers, with most rumors pointing him toward the Phillies. Boyd is usually good for a decent number of strikeouts and relatively few walks, and can eat through innings. In his last start, a 15-inning loss to the Phillies, he threw 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8. On the year so far he’s 6-8, suffering from Detroit’s anemic offense, but with an ERA sitting just over 4, he would benefit from finding a home toward the back of the rotation with a team that can produce more on offense.

The Big Picture

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 70-40 0.636 -- W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 62-48 0.564 8.0 W-W-W-L-W
Angels 56-54 0.509 14.0 L-W-L-W-L
Rangers 54-54 0.500 15.0 W-L-L-L-W
Mariners 47-64 0.423 23.5 W-W-W-W-L

AL Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Cleveland 63-45 0.583 +1.5 W-L-L-W-L
Rays 63-48 0.568 -- L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 62-48 0.564 0.5 W-W-W-L-W
Red Sox 59-51 0.536 3.5 W-L-L-L-L
Angels 56-54 0.509 6.5 L-W-L-W-L

The benevolent Mariners ended Texas’ eight-game losing streak this past week, but those eight games put major distance between the Rangers and that second wild card spot - they now sit two games behind the Angels, who themselves are 4.5 games back of the Athletics for the spot. As far as the AL West’s “race” is concerned, the Astros expect Carlos Correa, who has missed 49 games after a massage resulted in a cracked rib, to return to their lineup tomorrow. With Correa’s return, this race will likely be even less of a race than it is currently.

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tigers 32-72 0.308 -- L-L-W-L-W
Orioles 36-72 0.333 2.0 W-L-L-W-L
Royals 40-70 0.364 5.0 L-W-L-L-L
Marlins 42-65 0.393 8.5 W-W-L-L-W
Blue Jays 44-67 0.396 8.5 L-W-W-W-W
Mariners 47-64 0.423 11.5 W-W-W-W-L
White Sox 46-60 0.434 13.0 W-L-L-L-L
Pirates 47-61 0.435 13.0 L-L-L-W-L
Rockies 50-59 0.459 15.5 L-L-W-L-L
Padres 50-57 0.467 19.5 W-L-W-L-L

This four-game series presents the Mariners with an opportunity to gain some ground on the first-place last-place team in the Tigers, perhaps bumping the Orioles up to the top spot in the meantime. However, this particular matchup looks more likely to push the Tigers even further along in their quest for next year’s first-round pick.