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Windy Pity: Mariners (58-80) at Cubs (73-63)

Mariners Head to Chicago; May Make Time to get Johnnie’s

Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

It’s the home stretch. September is here, which is the last month of the regular season if you pretend the first couple days in October don’t exist. The Mariners head to the North Side of Chicago for a quick two-game set, ready to face down an armada of boat shoes and Ray-Bans and dash the playoff hopes of Chicago’s investment bankers.

At a Glance

Mariners Cubs
Mariners Cubs
Game 1 Monday, September 2 | 11:20 am
LHP Justus Sheffield RHP Kyle Hendricks
35% 65%
Game 2 Tuesday, September 3 | 5:05 pm
RHP Félix Hernández LHP Jon Lester
38% 62%

Team Overview

Overview Cubs Mariners Edge
Overview Cubs Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 100 (5th in NL) 103 (7th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 21 (7th) -71 (14th) Cubs
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 94 (5th) 113 (14th) Cubs
Bullpen (FIP-) 102 (8th) 111 (13th) Cubs

The Cubs’ ranks look like a team that is right in the thick of things. They’re not the elite of the NL, but they do everything pretty darn well and have themselves in a nice place with a month to go, 2.5 games ahead of the Phillies for the NL’s second wild card spot. As an aside, playing a team that plays actual good defense is always mind-blowing: seeing an actual positive number in the DRS column is pretty weird.

Projected Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Jason Heyward CF L 506 0.285 97 2.1
Nicholas Castellanos RF R 565 0.338 119 -2.1
Kris Bryant 3B R 564 0.329 132 3.0
Anthony Rizzo 1B L 538 0.304 141 -4.3
Javier Báez SS R 560 0.345 113 1.7
Kyle Schwarber LF L 506 0.243 106 -2.9
Addison Russell 2B R 208 0.277 82 0.3
Victor Caratini C S 213 0.318 116 -0.7

Nick Castellanos has absolutely scorched the ball since coming over from Detroit, with a 168 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR generated in just 26 games. He’s been a big shot in the arm to Chicago’s lineup, which already featured a plethora of good or great hitters. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras: this is the sort of lineup the Mariners are aiming for in the next few years. Victor Caratini also provides valuable contributions for them behind the plate. Former popular Mariner free agent target Jason Heyward continues to serve as a cautionary tale for even the most attractive free agents, as he is having one of his best years in a Cubs uniform with a 98 wRC+ and 18 home runs, but defense that has dipped into negative value. The Cubs are paying his $184mm contract for four more years. Technically he can opt out after this year, but, uh, I don’t think he’ll be doing that.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Kyle Hendricks

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
148 20.6% 4.8% 12.0% 40.7% 3.47 3.95
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 21.5% 87.4 2044 62 160 107
Sinker 41.4% 87.0 1956 58 110 98
Changeup 28.4% 79.0 2127 132 87 113
Curveball 8.7% 71.7 2798 87 92 74

I’m not sure people talk enough about Kyle Hendricks. It’s probably partly the curse of not throwing hard, but he’s good for 3-4 fWAR every single year, pretty much without fail, and is controlled on the cheap thanks to a remarkably team-friendly extension. He’s one of the best deals in baseball for the Cubs, and it’s kind of unfortunate for him, because he’s going to be on this contract until he’s 33, and he deserves a bigger payday than he’s had so far. He’s roughly like Marco Gonzales: not elite, doesn’t throw hard, but solidly in that second echelon of MLB-caliber starting pitchers, who sneak into an all-star game now and again and just produce results for their clubs.

LHP Jon Lester

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
144 1/3 21.7% 6.4% 15.0% 42.1% 4.36 4.32
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 29.6% 90.9 2248 78 86 74
Sinker 9.9% 89.6 2132 89 126 78
Cutter 33.8% 88.1 2384 66 83 105
Changeup 11.8% 84.6 1941 89 79 88
Curveball 14.9% 74.7 2606 51 127 66

Jon Lester is not a raging free-agency success story, but he’s still pretty good. Borderline-elite in his first two years in the windy city, he was solidly decent the next two, and has been more or less the same again for them this year. In the fifth year of a six year deal, Lester looks like a particular victim of the juiced balls, as the drop in his performance came in the first big juiced ball year (2017) and his HR/9 jumped to levels he hadn’t seen since the first couple years of his career in Boston. Lester has spent his whole career on “lovable losers” teams, including a brief stint in 2014 with the A’s where he kind of pitched the Mariners out of the playoffs. I forgot about that. Dangit, Jon Lester.

AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 89-49 0.645 -- W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 78-58 0.574 10.0 L-W-W-L-L
Rangers 67-71 0.486 22.0 W-L-W-W-L
Angels 65-73 0.471 24.0 W-L-L-W-L
Mariners 58-80 0.420 31.0 L-W-L-L-W

The AL West is totally uninteresting, but oh baby, look at that Mariner winning percentage.

AL Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 80-58 0.580 +0.5 L-W-W-W-W
Cleveland 79-58 0.577 -- W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 78-58 0.574 0.5 L-W-W-L-L
Red Sox 74-63 0.540 5.0 W-W-W-L-W
Rangers 67-71 0.486 22.0 W-L-W-W-L

The Rays catching fire recently and overtaking Cleveland and Oakland is a shot of life into the arm of a wild card race that had become maybe a little dull. The Rays sneaking into the playoffs and getting a game at the Trop would be a neat thing—it’s not obligatory to like the Rays, but I find myself unable to help it. They’re fun. Rays Up!

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tigers 40-94 0.299 -- L-L-L-W-L
Orioles 45-91 0.331 4.0 W-L-W-L-L
Marlins 48-88 0.353 7.0 L-W-L-L-L
Royals 49-89 0.355 7.0 W-L-L-W-W
Blue Jays 55-83 0.399 13.0 W-L-L-W-L
Mariners 58-80 0.420 16.0 L-W-L-L-W
Rockies 59-79 0.428 17.0 L-L-L-L-L
Pirates 60-77 0.438 18.5 L-W-W-W-W
White Sox 60-76 0.441 19.0 L-L-L-L-L
Reds 64-73 0.467 22.5 L-L-L-L-W

The Mariners continue to inch up on the Blue Jays for the 5th spot in the draft, but the Rockies, well, honestly, the Rockies are in Anchorman-whole-wheel-of-cheese territory. I’m not even mad; that’s amazing. They are the proud owners of an impressive losing streak and in hot pursuit of the Mariners. The Pirates, meanwhile, have won four straight and pulled out of their tailspin just a little bit.