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Two Tex Too Furious - Mariners (46-63) vs. Rangers (53-53) Series Preview

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As the deadline looms, two sellers meet for a two-game series.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners are through one of their three off days this week as the schedulers attempt to recompense them for their Japan trip and stacked early season rainout free schedule. While the players likely appreciate a day off, this was likely spent on the road in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It’s fortuitous that they’re there, near the Mariners AA affiliate as a few of the players making the trip down might not be there by game time in a few hours - Mike Leake, Domingo Santana, and Roenis Elías are the best bets to move for Seattle. Mike Minor and Lance Lynn have been Texas’s aces this season, but one or both could well be gone by tomorrow’s deadline.

It all makes for a strange vibe as these AL West rivals square off. Texas is stuck in the middle at the moment, with a surprisingly competent roster that could crater once its aces move, but not nearly enough juice to squirm into the loaded upper echelon of the AL. Seattle frolicked through the Tigers’ field this weekend, but that merely highlighted how abysmal the cellar-dwellers truly are.

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

The Rangers, in a way, are a beefed up version of Detroit. Texas has a solid, if shallow, starting rotation, but little else. Injuries and ineffectiveness have made the present and future tough to augur for the Lone Star Ballers, but Texas thus far has an 8-5 lead on the season series. After this, Seattle has just one more set of games against the Rangers, but all six remaining matchups will take place in Texas. That means baseballs carrying deep into the night sky and all sorts of potential for pitiful defense.

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

Oof. There are plenty of guys who can do damage in this lineup, but few doing so consistently. Joey Gallo hit the IL for 4-6 weeks the other day with a broken hamate bone that is famous for lingering. That means a lot of holes for Texas despite the stalwart Shin-Soo Choo and surprising Danny Santana. At long last, prospect Willie Calhoun is getting the chance for daily play again with Gallo sidelined, but he remains a defensive liability. Jeff Mathis has been, by several measurement metrics, the worst full-time player in baseball this year, and no that single-digit wRC+ is not a typo. Rougned Odor has also returned to his powerful pumpkin ways of 2017, with a 25-dinger pace and absolutely nothing else. When this team makes contact, it does damage, which makes them a tricky matchup for Seattle. What happens when a 26.1% team K-rate (29th in MLB) faces a pitching staff that only whiffs 19.8% of their opponents (29th in MLB as well)? Thus far, things have gone worse for the sailors than the cavalry.

Probable Pitchers

MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Ray Carlin-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

Stuff+ Explainer:

From a previous Series Preview:

A few years ago, Ariel Jurado was rising through the Rangers organization as a promising pitching prospect, peaking at #3 on FanGraph’s organizational prospect rankings in 2017. His scouting report indicated great control of a sinking fastball and two okay secondary offerings. The profile was a low-ceiling, back-end starter in the mold of Martín Pérez. Unfortunately, TINSTAAPP struck in full force last year. Jurado struggled mightily in his second stint in Double-A as his fastball suddenly became much more hittable. He repeated Double-A for the third time this year and things didn’t get much better. With nothing to play for, the Rangers called him up in August to see if exposing him to major league coaching could solve his issues. So far, he’s been just as hittable and his trademark control hasn’t exactly translated to the majors either.

Ariel Jurado has not become the groundball machine he was in the minors, but he’s managed to miss a few more bats and keep the walks controlled. It’s not made for anything incredible, but as the 5th starter/longman he’s held his own, and the 23-year-old might help fill out the Rangers rotation for the next few years.

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

From previous series previews:

Mike Minor’s transition back to the rotation last year was big success for the Rangers. He was healthy and his results got better as the year went on. It was pretty clear that the transition was a yearlong process for him. His fastball velocity increased nearly every month helping him add five points to his strikeout rate and shave almost half a run off his FIP in the second half of the season. His four-seam fastball contributes to an extreme fly ball profile, helping him suppress his BABIP, though that comes at the cost of a bunch of home runs. With a relatively low walk rate and few base hits, those home runs haven’t hurt him as much as they could have. Minor has increased the spin rate on his fastball by over 100 RPMs this year—it’s now the highest spin fastball thrown by a starter in the majors—but his vertical movement hasn’t changed at all. That tells me that the spin he’s added is pretty inefficient. That’s reflected in his results too. His whiff rate has basically stayed the same though he is inducing a few more popups.

If this is Mike Minor’s last hurrah with the Rangers, it won’t be too soon. He’s held the Mariners to 7 earned runs in 19.0 innings this year, most of which came at the hands of Daniel Vogelbach in Seattle during their most recent face-off. Seattle’s .648 OPS against Minor helped boost him to his first All-Star game this year, and may toss him into the thick of a playoff race in the next 24 hours.

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

For all their efforts, the A’s remain well entrenched behind the Astros, while the Angels somehow losing four of their last five to Baltimore and Detroit has squandered most of their hopes for a Wild Card dalliance. A resurgent Cleveland and a rash of rotation injuries/ineffectiveness has also opened up the AL Central and East to some intrigue, so the American League may yet have playoff races.

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

Impressively, a four-game sweep and five game winning streak had zero impact on the Mariners’ draft position. Thanks to some hot play by Miami, the Marlins only dropped one game closer to 1st overall, though the Pirates’ five-game skid and the White Sox booting four of five makes Seattle’s current spot at sixth overall a bit less secure.