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Naval WARfare: Mariners (62-88) at Pirates (65-85)

The Mariners contend against another team eyeing up a high draft pick

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

September always looked like it’d be the most interesting month of the year for the 2019 Mariners, but even the cheeriest prognostication would’ve been laughed out of the building for the past week and a half. Now, after a 4-2 homestand, the Mariners head to Pittsburgh to face a team that looks nearly as different as they do since they last faced off.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Thursday, September 26 | 7:10 pm
LHP Sean Manaea RHP Félix Hernández
64% 36%
Game 2 Friday, September 27 | 7:10 pm
RHP Mike Fiers LHP Justus Sheffield
60% 40%
Game 3 Saturday, September 28 | 7:10 pm
LHP Brett Anderson LHP Marco Gonzales
56% 44%
Game 2 Sunday, September 29 | 12:10 pm
RHP Tanner Roark RHP Justin Dunn
58% 42%

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 108 (4th in AL) 99 (7th in AL) Athletics
Fielding (DRS) 34 (4th) -90 (14th) Athletics
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 103 (9th) 113 (13th) Athletics
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (5th) 109 (14th) Athletics

In some ways, the Pirates are Seattle’s closest NL facsimile. Both clubs entered 2019 outgunned and at the end of a competitive five year stretch. The Pirates seemed to pretend their roster contained a divisional contender but thanks to unsuccessful big swings in trades and miserly ownership, the Bucs are cellar-bound with little looking up. Their rotation did have promise at the season’s outset, but injuries and inconsistency have scuppered the Good, er, Bad Ship Pirate. Joe Musgrove has been good, but it’s impossible not to look at him in contrast with Gerrit Cole. Trevor Williams, Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Jordan Lyles, and Mitch Keller have all shown promise between trips to the injured list, but not nearly enough to overcome disastrous outings and terrible defense.

Moreover, the team has been beset by internal issues. The team has been involved in multiple rhubarbs, instigating a beanball feud with the Reds in particular from the season’s first weeks. Numerous players have received internal or league-mandated suspensions for fighting and/or other misconduct, shading an already-disappointing season in an even grislier light.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
I am assuming this is Bryan Reynolds.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Projected Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien SS R 732 0.300 138 1.6
Matt Chapman 3B R 656 0.267 123 0.2
Matt Olson 1B L 534 0.301 135 -0.3
Mark Canha CF R 489 0.311 148 -1.3
Ramón Laureano RF R 468 0.347 128 4.9
Khris Davis DH R 523 0.263 81 -1.9
Chad Pinder LF L 359 0.280 85 -1.6
Sean Murphy C R 49 0.308 160 1.0
Jurickson Profar 2B S 508 0.217 88 1.7

Even with a couple minor breakouts from BABIP god Bryan Reynolds and exit velo monster Josh Bell, the Pirates offense has been a travesty. The lack of star power, combined with terrible defense and a total lack of depth, has been crushing. Bell is suffering a groin injury, so he may not even play this week, limiting them further. Reynolds is running a .400 BABIP that approaches the highest in MLB history, which means in a sense the Pirates are lucky they have even the showing they’ve gotten.

Probable Pitchers

Detroit Tigers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Mitch Keller, whose in-between-innings ritual apparently involves sucking on a lemon
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

LHP Sean Manaea

23 2/3 28.1% 7.9% 10.7% 36.4% 1.14 3.90

Keller, the Pirate’s #1 prospect, made his MLB debut in late May for a spot start before being optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis. He was recalled for a week in mid-June before being summoned to the bigs for good August 12, just in time to wear the godawful Player’s Weekend uniforms. Keller’s rookie year has been soft-pedaled by a dreadful Pirates team and an ERA of over eight that doesn’t reflect his solid 3.61 FIP. He’s striking out almost 30% of batters with his arsenal of a fastball that touches 98, a curve with some good bite to it, a slider that’s still a work in progress, and he’ll also throw a changeup occasionally, although that took a backseat as he worked on developing his slider.

RHP Mike Fiers

179 2/3 16.6% 7.0% 14.2% 39.3% 3.91 5.04
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 31.6% 90.9 2322 65 96 105
Sinker 20.2% 90.5 2257 57 75 109
Changeup 12.3% 84.4 1936 79 56 102
Curveball 17.3% 74.3 2780 78 95 109
Slider 18.5% 86.2 2483 122 58 95

With the Mariners using a record number of players in 2019, far be it for us to play the WHO? card. With that being said: Dario Agrazal? Agrazal, who is not a cartoon villain’s cat, has been in the Pirates organization since 2013 and is finally getting his chance at the bigs thanks to injuries to Chris Archer and Jameson Taillon. Agrazal has never been a strikeout pitcher, instead pitching to contact and inducing lots of grounders with his heavy sinker, but that ability hasn’t shown up at the big-league level, where he’s lost 10% on his grounder rate. That leaves...not a lot to work with, although Agrazal does do a good job limiting walks and therefore damage. Think Iván Nova Lite (very lite).

LHP John Means

143 19.1% 6.0% 9.7% 31.0% 3.65 4.40
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 51.4% 92.2 2375 126 98 89
Changeup 28.8% 81.2 2335 134 84 94
Curveball 5.6% 76.9 2229 53 88 50
Slider 14.2% 84.1 2317 65 83 96

Despite the name of a RHP, Steven Brault deceptively pitches from the left side. After spending most of the past three years in a bullpen/spot starter role, Brault has been forced into the rotation full-time thanks to the decimated bullpen state. It’s gone badly, as usual. With the Pirates comes the complementary bad/superfluous sinker, as well as a neat lower-spin changeup and higher-spin slider that can pair well at times. Unfortunately, Brault’s command hasn’t been enough to overcome his bat-hunting repertoire, and the getaway game of the series could be a strange matchup between Brault and the young Justin Dunn.

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 104-54 0.658 -- W-L-W-W-W
Athletics 95-63 0.601 9.0 W-W-L-L-W
Rangers 75-83 0.475 29.0 L-L-W-L-L
Angels 71-87 0.449 33.0 L-W-L-W-L
Mariners 66-92 0.418 38.0 L-W-L-L-L

AL Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 95-63 0.601 +0.5 W-W-L-L-W
Rays 95-64 0.597 -- W-L-W-W-W
Cleveland 93-65 0.589 1.5 W-L-W-W-L

In case you missed it, the Mariners were the first AL West team eliminated from post-season contention, way back on September 4. The Angels were bounced September 11, and Texas on September 13. The next to go will likely be last year’s champs, as the Wild Card looks to be a three-team race between Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland, only two of whom will receive Rob Manfred’s rose.

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tigers 46-111 0.293 -- L-L-W-L-L
Orioles 52-107 0.327 5.0 L-W-L-W-L
Marlins 55-103 0.348 8.5 L-W-W-L-L
Royals 58-101 0.365 11.0 L-W-L-W-L
Blue Jays 65-94 0.409 18.0 L-L-W-L-W
Mariners 66-92 0.418 19.5 L-W-L-L-L
Pirates 67-91 0.424 20.5 L-L-L-W-W
Rockies 68-90 0.430 21.5 L-W-L-W-L
White Sox 69-88 0.439 23.0 W-W-L-L-W
Padres 70-88 0.443 23.5 L-L-W-L-L

The Rockies pulling out of their tailspin with a series win against the Cardinals and a sweep of the Padres, and the Mariners taking the series against the White Sox means there’s a bunch of teams clustered around a .430 winning percentage: the Rockies, White Sox, and Pirates, who could leapfrog over (under?) those other two teams with a strong showing against Seattle. Toronto, fresh off a surprising series win against the Yankees, gets an opportunity to play the Orioles and possibly add another team to this cluster. They’re almost to a whole .400 winning percentage! Meanwhile, the Tigers flirt with ending the season with a winning percentage that begins with 2, coming perilously close to the 2003 Tigers, who ended the season at 23-119.

Also worth noting, the Pirates’ star closer Felipe Vasquez was arrested within the past 24 hours on a number of charges, including solicitation of a child. Below is a link to the writeup from our partner Pirates site, Bucs Dugout. Should you choose to comment here or there, please treat the topic with the seriousness it obviously merits.