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Series Preview: Mariners (6-11) at Rangers (6-8)

The Mariners get their first look at Globe Life Park Field in Arlington.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Well, as was referenced in the Rockies preview, the Rockies continued their torrid 2020 pace and took yet another series. Not a wholly bad series for the M’s, as Justus Sheffield, Dylan Moore, and J.P. Crawford looked really good, and they kept themselves thoroughly in the 1-1 draft pick race, but not a lot of fun signs over the weekend either. Fortunately, they now get to face a decidedly lackluster Texas squad in the Shootout at the Tin-Roof Corral. It should be a slapfight for the ages.

At a Glance

Mariners Rangers
Mariners Rangers
Game 1 Monday, August 10 | 6:05 pm
RHP Justin Dunn RHP Kyle Gibson
45% 55%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 11 | 6:05 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Mike Minor
45% 55%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 12 | 6:05 pm
RHP Taijuan Walker RHP Jordan Lyles
47% 53%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 73 (15th in NL) 89 (12th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) -1 (10th) 1 (7th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 85 (3rd) 105 (5th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 107 (14th) 162 (15th) Rangers
2020 stats

Are you tired of watching the Mariners hit? First of all, that’s weird, they haven’t been THAT bad (or at least some of them haven’t) and second, hoo boy the Rangers. Ragners? Ramgers? Whatever you want to call them, as a team they’re hitting like 2019 Mallex Smith. The starting pitching has been very good, as was expected after they invested heavily over the last few seasons. But it’s not enough to carry a club that is currently miserable at literally everything else. The Rangers did sweep the Angels over the weekend (LOL), but the rest of their roster simply isn’t good enough to compete this year and there isn’t much talent on the farm to give them any sort of reinforcements. All that investment in their pitching staff looks a little premature after Corey Kluber went down with a season ending shoulder injury. It all reeks of a team desperately trying to squeeze something out of a season where they opened a new stadium but their roster wasn’t ready for the big time.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Shin-Soo Choo LF L 42 0.182 105 -0.7
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B R 45 0.412 126 0.6
Todd Frazier 1B R 54 0.361 145 0.3
Joey Gallo RF L 54 0.292 137 0.6
Nick Solak CF R 50 0.263 82 0.4
Rougned Odor 2B L 39 0.167 17 0.0
Elvis Andrus SS R 59 0.217 43 -0.2
Willie Calhoun DH L 32 0.120 -27 0.0
Robinson Chirinos C R 33 0.158 -1 -0.7
2020 stats

Looking at this lineup and you start to see why Texas is (1) in second place in the AL West and (2) has a run differential of… -11. OK, well, technically, they’re in second place because the AL West looks terrible. REGARDLESS! Isiah Kiner-Falefa remains the sort of come out of nowhere player the Mariners need to turn up for their rebuild to succeed (looking at you, Dylan Moore), and helps anchor 4/5ths of a competent major league lineup. The back end? Well, uh, hopefully Willie Calhoun pulls it together. Rougned Odor is still hilaribad, and not even Elvis Andrus’ defense can save a 43 wRC+. Oh, by the way, I feel like Shin-Soo Choo has been around FOREVER for Texas, so I can’t even imagine how it feels to actual Rangers fans.

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

Arizona Diamondbacks v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

RHP Kyle Gibson

160 22.7% 7.9% 20.4% 51.4% 4.84 4.26
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 18.3% 93.4 2211 112 57 123
Sinker 32.0% 93.2 2098 97 83 92
Changeup 16.2% 85.3 1660 117 131 89
Curveball 12.8% 80.1 2482 91 126 76
Slider 20.8% 84.1 2469 78 151 110
2019 stats

Kyle Gibson was a product of the old Twins pitching development program that emphasized sinking fastballs and pitching to contact. Through the first six years of his career in Minnesota, he ran a 17.2% strikeout rate paired with a 51.5% groundball rate. It was a solid, if unspectacular profile, but it resulted in a 4.30 FIP. Last year, after a regime change in the Twins organization, Gibson started to throw his slider and his changeup a little more often. Both pitches generate above average whiff rates and his strikeout rate rose to a career high as a result. The Rangers have continued tinkering with his pitch mix and he’s now throwing his slider and changeup more often than ever before. So far, his strikeout rate has climbed even higher though his walk rate has suffered a bit as well.

LHP Mike Minor

208 1/3 23.2% 7.9% 12.9% 40.0% 3.59 4.25
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 44.6% 92.5 2650 87 113 113
Changeup 24.6% 86.2 2287 75 105 126
Curveball 11.4% 80.7 2775 104 122 108
Slider 19.4% 86.4 2737 135 67 102
2019 stats

Since joining the Rangers in 2018, Mike Minor has been a solid mid-rotation arm, posting a 4.32 FIP that’s a bit higher than the 3.84 ERA he’s compiled over the past two years. The main reason he’s been able to outperform his peripherals is due to an extreme fly ball profile that includes tons of pop ups and weak fly ball contact. His high-spin fastball is the main culprit but batters swing under all of his pitches regularly. The high spin rate on all of his pitches should help him generate whiffs — and that’s true for his fastball and curveball — but the odd thing is that his slider doesn’t get whiffs very often. For one reason or another, that pitch is used more to generate weak contact rather than whiffs. Minor has emphasized the use of that pitch over his curveball which means his strikeout rate is a little lower than you’d expect when seeing above average whiff rates on three of his pitches.

RHP Jordan Lyles

141 24.4% 9.2% 15.5% 40.3% 4.15 4.64
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 51.1% 92.6 2162 105 107 113
Changeup 7.1% 85.6 1549 81 74 82
Curveball 31.9% 80.6 2491 135 95 89
Slider 9.9% 87.5 2333 148 59 93
2019 stats

Like Gibson, Jordan Lyles was another beneficiary of a change in pitch mix last season. After joining the Brewers in late July, he focused his repertoire to feature his riding four-seam fastball and his diving curveball, while sprinkling in his slider against right-handed batters. The result was 10 of 11 starts down the stretch in which he allowed two or fewer runs. He’s maintained that same pitch mix that he established in Milwaukee but the results haven’t followed in his first few starts in Texas. His whiff rates are down across the board and he’s walked as many batters as he’s struck out. None of his pitch characteristics are out of whack so this might be just some early season struggles after his delayed start to the season.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 12-4 0.750 -- W-W-W-W-W
Rangers 6-8 0.429 5.0 L-L-W-W-W
Astros 6-9 0.400 5.5 L-L-L-L-L
Mariners 6-11 0.353 6.5 W-L-L-L-W
Angels 5-11 0.313 7.0 L-W-L-L-L

OK, look, playing for draft position, blah de blah, but come on: these standings are just one giant grinch gif right now. Houston at 6-9? Beyond nice. Anaheim in the cellar? Truly, the finest of vintages. Overall, in a short season, Oakland has put a humongous amount of space between themselves and Houston, their only serious challenger, sitting 5.5 games up on the Astros with just 45 games to play. The Astros are down to a 16.4% chance to win the AL West, per FanGraphs, although they do maintain an almost 80% chance of snagging some sort of playoff spot thanks to expanded playoffs. And fear not, ye Kumar desirers: despite Anaheim’s spot behind the Mariners, just about all projection systems still expect them to finish several games in front of Seattle. Then again, I don’t know if those systems understand how many home runs Jo Adell will catapult over the fence ... for the other team.