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

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The Mariners head into the All-Star break after a three-game set against the A’s.

Minnesota Twins v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Like the final few days of school before summer break, it feels almost bizarre that the Mariners are playing the Athletics as most of the baseball world is focused on the upcoming All-Star Break and its festivities. The Mariners are limping into their vacation a bit, losing back-to-back late inning leads but otherwise playing encouragingly with a combination of veterans looking to boost their trade value and young guys trying to establish themselves. It feel like a century ago these teams met in mid-March for the Japan Series, and just four of the Mariners starting nine from Opening Day remain on the active roster today.

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)

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

It’s been three weeks since the M’s faced the only team with green in their color scheme but both teams are beginning to stabilize where they should be. Back in early June the Mariners were at the outset of righting the ship, in the sense that a ship floating listlessly, its hull halfway underwater, is superior to one sinking to the briny depths. 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.

Oakland has put on a healthy push, escaping the .500 doldrums they were mired in three weeks ago to push into 2nd place in the AL West. Their resurgence has led to what could be at least a mildly intriguing AL Wild Card race this summer, as five teams - Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Oakland, Texas, and Boston - are within 3.5 games of the WC1 as of right now. The A’s have to feel good about where they are considering the devastation injuries and suspensions have done to their pitching staff. Jharel Cotton, Marco Estrada, Daniel Gossett, and Sean Manaea have all spent much or all of the year on the 60-day IL. Top prospects A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo have missed significant time as well, and the latter just hit the IL again with a lat strain. Add in their best starter this season, Frankie Montas, getting an 80-game suspension (and postseason ban) for PEDs a week and a half ago and it’s a wonder Oakland is still in the postseason race at all.

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

Oakland has been a streaky team, and it’s not a shocker why. Their lineup is long more than it is terrifying, with only Matt Chapman and part-time player/full-time kopi luwak enthusiast Mark Canha posting well-above-average batting lines. Still, Oakland has avoided black holes, as it’s no shock their team improved significantly the moment Kendrys Morales was traded and Matt Olson returned from injury. Jurickson Profar has been the standout disappointment, regressing to the player he’d been for four of his five years in Texas before the breakout last year that led Oakland to trade for him. The tricksy A’s magic, it turns out, isn’t a guarantee. Long-time top prospect Franklin Barreto, who has bounced between AAA and the bigs several times over the past few years, will finally get extended run as the starter at 2B going forward as Profar drops to a UTIL role.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Daniel Mengden

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
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:

When a pitcher is bereft of overpowering or deceptive stuff, regulating the contact he allows is the only path left to success. Brett Anderson has completely embraced that reality. Among all qualified starting pitchers, Anderson’s strikeout rate is the lowest by a healthy margin. Opposing batters are making contact against him 82.8% of the time, the ninth highest mark in the majors. When they do make contact, they pound the ball into the ground or hit it weakly in the air. Even though the league home run rate is at an all-time high, Anderson has allowed just a single long ball this year. That miniscule home run rate is bound to go up, but he’s leveraging the Dallas Keuchel model for all its worth.

If you throw out a seven run clunker against the Rays a few weeks ago, Brett Anderson has put together an impressive stretch of starts. In seven of his last eight starts, he’s allowed no more than 3 runs in any of them. And even if you include that eighth start against Tampa Bay, his ERA during this stretch has been just 3.42.


RHP Homer Bailey

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
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:

Chris Bassitt made his way back from Tommy John surgery last year, making seven starts for the A’s down the stretch. He had shown some promise way back in 2015 but his injury derailed any progress that he was making. Now that he’s healthy again, he’s showing off some of the skills that made him an intriguing arm back then. He’s struck out almost a quarter of the batters he’s faced this year, though his overall strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t that great. He’s also given up his fair share of home runs, which has pushed his FIP well above his ERA. The odd thing is that he hasn’t allowed that much hard contact overall—he’s posted the seventh lowest hard contact rate among starting pitchers this year. That’s helped him keep his BABIP fairly low.


RHP Daniel Mengden

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
34 2/3 18.8% 10.4% 7.3% 38.5% 4.67 4.05

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.


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 remain fortified in the AL West’s cellar, sending rotating patrols of relievers to warn baffled passersby not to even try getting in there with them. With strong play around the division, there’s not a single <.500 team at the moment. The Angels overcame an utterly tragic week in Texas to win their series, but they’ll face a tall task in Houston to close the first half out. The surprising Rangers are a bit less surprising when you look at their schedule and notice they’ve yet to face the Yankees or Twins, and they’ll be challenged by the AL Central’s leader this weekend.

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

In the cellar world, Seattle is slated to receive the 6th pick in the draft as of today, one win and five losses worse than the Mets. Despite our longstanding watchword on floors, it would be difficult to imagine the Mariners sinking any lower in these ranks. More pertinently, it’s hard to imagine any of the teams below them outside of maybe the Blue Jays performing much better. The Mets are intent on trying, and with their commitments this season it makes sense, so they are a reasonable bet to rise a shade, while the Giants, White Sox, and even Pirates could easily fall back into the Mariners echelon.