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Harm in Charm City: Mariners (65-88) at Orioles (49-104)

The battle of the Cespedes BBQ fellas

Baltimore Orioles v Kansas City Royals Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

Riding a wave from the sweep in Pittsburgh against a team scuffling on and off the field, the Mariners head to the home of one of baseball’s very worst teams. How bad you may ask? Well, you may recall back in June when the Mariners went 3-1 against the Orioles when they came to Seattle. At the end of that series, the Orioles has just lost their 56th game. Between then and today, September 20, the Orioles lost 48 (forty. eight.) more games while winning only 27 more games (Quick maths!). The O’s casually hit the 100 losses mark a few games back and just keep on strollin’. Godspeed, Birdland.

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

The Orioles are currently 3.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. I never thought I’d be so mad that the Mariners had to play the Pirates and Orioles back-to-back, but here we are. Your mileage may vary on having anxiety about winning too many games at the end of a lost season and then missing out on an elite MLB talent. Yes, it happened to the Mariners at the end of the 2008 season and they lost the top pick to the Nationals, who chose Stephen Strasburg, and the Mariners chose Dustin Ackley, and well, here we are. BUT! Does a player picked 6th versus a player picked 7th or 8th automatically do better in their professional career? (doubles over from maniacal laughter) Oh hey, you’re still here. Uh, the answer is no. There are no guarantees with prospects, but in general, yes, you want the opportunity to pick while the highest number of good talent is still on the board, so yes, #TeamTank and all that.

As we saw with the Pirates series, featuring players who literally could not be arsed to give 2 shits about those 3 games and are already trying to figure out where they’ll be living in 10 days and what they’ll be doing with the rest of their lives, the Orioles are pretty much in the same boat. The Mariners, while still quite bad on the whole, are full of players actively trying to perform well, especially the fresh batch of September call-ups. It feels like a counter-productive combination (rebuilding/playing for draft picks with new, young, and pretty good players) when the Mariners play teams far worse than them, but thankfully (I can’t believe I’m saying this), they play the Athletics and Astros to close out the season next week and we can all take a wild guess what will happen there.

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

Much like the previous series in June, once you get beyond Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar in this lineup, shit gets grim fast. I look at this and I honestly wonder how they score runs ever? They say you “Gotta keep the devil way down in the hole,” but I don’t think that means having a clean-up hitter clocking in with a .246 average and a sub-100 wRC+. Also, hey Mark Trumbo is back!

Probable Pitchers

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays
pictured: Orioles fans clinging on to John Means, the bright spot in a miserable season
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

LHP Sean Manaea

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

Brooks is the listed starter, but it looks like that might not happen:

Bullpen days can be challenging in September because, almost like in a Spring Training game, hitters don’t get to get multiple looks at a particular pitcher. That being said, the Orioles bullpen has the worst FIP in baseball, at 5.47, making them one of the few bullpen groups worse than the Mariners.

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

A-Woj bounced around with three different organizations in 2019 before winding up with the pitching-starved Orioles. The 30-year-old has been objectively bad by every measure, and had his last start skipped due to fatigue.

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

What is a John Means? Well, he was the Orioles’ lone All-Star representative and represents their best chance at a win in this series. Means, an 11th-round pick in 2014, never had a ton of prospect pedigree, making one appearance on Baltimore’s top-30 list in 2017 at #29 as a gap-filler in a poorly-rated Orioles system. Now he’s the de facto ace of an admittedly weak Orioles rotation, but that doesn’t stop him from being a bright spot for the suffering fans in orange. Means’ success comes from a fastball with high spin and a putaway changeup, and so far he’s evinced the most important trait for a successful AL East starter: an ability to keep the ball in the ballpark, with a HR/FB rate under 10%. Combine that with his ability to control the zone and Means looks to be a solid backend piece of the O’s rotation for some time to come.

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. Tonight’s games have major playoff implications: the Braves can clinch the NL East with a win or a Nationals loss, the Giants are eliminated if they lose or the Nationals and Brewers win, the Astros can clinch the AL West with a win and an A’s loss, the Red Sox will be eliminated if they lose or Cleveland wins.

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 sweep of the Pirates tied them with the Mariners for the sixth draft pick, and the Mariners should slide into seventh given a likely series win (if not sweep) against one of baseball’s most dreadful teams. The Pirates, meanwhile, have to face down the Cubs and Brewers, so it’s looking more and more like the Mariners might be selecting towards the back half of the top 10.

Luckily, it’s a stacked draft this year; unluckily, that doesn’t take away the bad baseball we watched in May, and the constant use of the Mariners as easily-accessible punching bags by national writers. Sigh. At least a strong finish will help us head into the off-season feeling confident about the direction of the team.