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Houston Has No Problems: Mariners (58-82) at Astros (90-50)

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[intoning] draft pick, draft pick, draft pick

MLB: JUN 22 Royals at Astros Photo by: Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is going to be rough. You know it’s going to be rough, We know it’s going to be rough, Orbit knows it’s going to be rough and is sharpening his weird alien teeth at the prospect of feasting on the lowly Mariners. But as unpleasant as this series promises to be, it’s coming at a fairly opportune time for the Mariners, who have the suddenly-disastrous Colorado Rockies nipping at their heels for the sixth draft pick. The Rockies have lost NINE in a row and face an unfavorable slate for the rest of the year, so as unpleasant as it might be to watch these games, the outcome of a road loss isn’t the worst thing for the Mariners, who have a slightly easier go of it down the stretch. NB: If you aren’t sold on the idea of draft picks, just take a look at some of the shiny new toys available in the 2020 draft, which promises to be one of the better ones in recent memory.

Let’s save the wins for fans at home, swallow this bitter medicine, and move on.

At a Glance

Mariners Astros
Mariners Astros
Game 1 Thursday, September 5 | 5:10 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Wade Miley
34% 66%
Game 2 Friday, September 6 | 5:10 pm
LHP Tommy Milone LHP Framber Valdez
35% 65%
Game 3 Saturday, September 7 | 4:10 pm
LHP Yusei Kikuchi RHP Justin Verlander
23% 77%
Game 2 Sunday, September 8 | 11:10 am
LHP Justus Sheffield RHP Gerrit Cole
27% 73%

Team Overview

Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Overview Astros Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 124 (1st in AL) 102 (8th in AL) Astros
Fielding (DRS) 80 (1st) -80 (14th) Astros
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 89 (3rd) 113 (14th) Astros
Bullpen (FIP-) 95 (7th) 111 (14th) Astros

Move along, nothing much to see here. Okay one interesting thing: If you had held me over a giant vat of clam chowder and demanded I answer correctly which team is first in starting pitching or be plunged to a disgusting clammy near-death, I would be picking potato chunks out of my hair because of course the answer is The Rays but doesn’t it seem like it should be the Astros? Call it the Verlander Effect, I suppose.

Projected Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
George Springer CF R 486 0.322 155 1.1
José Altuve 2B R 463 0.308 139 -4.8
Michael Brantley LF L 564 0.336 142 0.9
Alex Bregman SS R 598 0.288 163 -2.3
Yordan Álvarez DH L 283 0.365 181 -2.1
Yuli Gurriel 1B R 552 0.298 135 -2.0
Abraham Toro 3B S 41 0.222 104 -0.3
Robinson Chirinos C R 391 0.304 108 -1.7
Jake Marisnick RF R 280 0.319 90 2.6

The Astros have six regulars with a wRC+ of over 135. That is...not good news for the Mariners’ beleaguered pitching staff. Of note, George Springer will likely miss this series after being diagnosed with a “mild” concussion. Springer hit his head hard on the outfield wall in Milwaukee the other night and had to be carted off the field. Dynamic rookie Kyle Tucker will replace him, joining other dynamic rookie Yordan Alvarez, are we at the end of the Astros running out superstar rookies yet?


Probable Pitchers

Detroit Tigers v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

LHP Wade Miley

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
156 20.6% 8.3% 15.2% 50.9% 3.06 4.36
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 15.3% 91.1 2212 58 117 121
Sinker 6.2% 89.6 2058 34 96 54
Cutter 47.7% 87.5 2256 56 83 98
Changeup 20.3% 81.3 1865 138 136 93
Curveball 9.5% 75.7 2427 50 98 70

I’m so tired of Wade Miley. I don’t know why. He was bad for the Mariners but lots of pitchers are bad for the Mariners. I don’t even mind Hector Noesi as much as I mind Wade Miley. Please go away, Wade Miley. In any event, he’s probably not going to go away and probably is going to start tonight against the Mariners, seeing as he’s on the schedule and all. Miley has significantly outpitched his FIP this year, and his everything-but-the-kitchen sink arsenal has played up since arriving in Houston. None of Miley’s pitches but his changeup are great at getting whiffs, but all of them are good at inducing weak contact since he joined Houston. I expect him to get a lot of it tonight against us.


LHP Framber Valdez

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
61 2/3 20.6% 12.1% 28.1% 62.0% 5.55 5.08
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 19.2% 94.3 2220 98 31 126
Sinker 42.2% 92.5 2171 112 116 95
Changeup 4.2% 88.4 1821
Curveball 34.4% 79.5 2958 124 150 84

Framber Valdez is unequivocally the Mariners’ best chance to steal a win in this series. They have a whopping 35% chance here, according to 538! Valdez is approaching the 100 IP mark in the big leagues over the last two years with Houston, and the huge thing holding him back is walks, walks, and more walks. His 5.29 BB/9 mark is absolutely abysmal and an abnormally low strand rate this year means he’s been punished for it. He’s also giving up a 28.1% HR/FB%, which is Jay Bruce levels of crazy. Valdez just doesn’t know where the ball is going often enough to really be effective, and even the Astros haven’t been able to get that problem under control.


RHP Justin Verlander

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
193 35.1% 4.8% 16.1% 34.6% 2.56 3.41
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 51.1% 94.9 2577 148 171 83
Changeup 4.0% 87.3 1841 88 96 123
Curveball 16.8% 79.6 2820 118 92 93
Slider 28.0% 87.8 2616 139 120 109

Justin Verlander is finally showing signs of age. How? Well, you see, he’s.... having a great year, the only “downside” being that it comes partially on the heels of a .202 BABIP. Everything else is about as elite as ever. Strikeouts? High. Walks? Low, and they remain drastically under the walk rates he ran in Detroit, as they have since he joined the Astros. Velocity? Still sitting 95 on his fastball. Raw stuff? He gets tons of whiffs, especially on the fastball, and can fool hitters with just about anything. The best thing I can say to you, a Mariners fan, about Verlander is that he’s only under contract through 2021, when he will be 38. So maybe at some point he won’t be elite. This is not that point.


Houston Astros v Milwaukee Brewers
Carrot Gole
Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

RHP Gerrit Cole

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
176 1/3 38.7% 6.3% 17.8% 40.1% 2.81 2.88
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 54.3% 97.4 2526 150 200 99
Changeup 6.9% 89.0 1825 97 127 94
Curveball 15.9% 82.7 2905 170 107 105
Slider 22.5% 89.5 2624 144 113 99

Heading into free agency, Gerrit Cole continues to post what seems certain to be his best season ever. Already at 5.6 fWAR, his much-published boost from coming to the Astros has taken firm hold, and he has turned into an absolute monster for them. Always a guy with decent strikeout numbers, Cole now has the best K/9 among qualified starters in the majors, and it’s not all that close. He’s a top-5 pitcher in baseball, and this winter, he’ll be paid like it. He’s earned it.

One injury note: it was announced today RHP Aaron Sanchez, recently acquired in trade from the Blue Jays, will have season-ending shoulder surgery.


AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 90-50 0.643 -- W-L-W-W-L
Athletics 80-58 0.580 9.0 W-L-L-W-W
Rangers 68-73 0.482 22.5 W-L-W-L-L
Angels 65-75 0.464 25.0 L-W-L-L-L
Mariners 58-82 0.414 32.0 L-L-W-L-L

AL Wild Card

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 82-59 0.582 +0.5 W-W-W-L-W
Athletics 80-58 0.580 -- W-L-L-W-W
Cleveland 81-59 0.579 -- L-L-W-L-W
Red Sox 75-64 0.540 5.5 W-L-W-L-W
Rangers 68-73 0.482 13.5 W-L-W-L-L

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tigers 40-97 0.292 -- W-L-L-L-L
Orioles 46-93 0.331 5.0 L-L-L-W-L
Marlins 49-89 0.355 8.5 L-L-L-W-L
Royals 51-89 0.364 9.5 L-W-W-W-W
Blue Jays 55-85 0.393 13.5 L-W-L-L-L
Mariners 58-82 0.414 16.5 L-L-W-L-L
Rockies 59-82 0.418 17.0 L-L-L-L-L
White Sox 61-78 0.439 20.0 L-L-L-W-L
Pirates 61-78 0.439 20.0 W-W-W-L-W
Padres 64-75 0.460 23.0 W-W-L-L-L

I would like to bop the Rockies on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. Stop it. Just STOP IT. The proud owners of a 9-game losing streak, they have nearly caught the Mariners, who remain 3 games back of the Blue Jays for the 5th spot. Otherwise, the White Sox and Pirates have pulled out of their tailspin, so it’s likely us, Toronto, and Colorado in some order for 5-6-7 in the draft. However, with the Mariners playing both the White Sox and Pirates down the stretch, they’ll have a chance to control their own draft destiny a little.