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Series Preview: Mariners (8-19) vs. Rangers (10-14)

The Mariners host the reeling Rangers for a three-game weekend series.

Texas Rangers v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Taking one of three from Los Angeles feels OK, not going to lie here. What probably doesn’t feel OK? Becoming the first team ever to surrender a grand slam in four consecutive games. That’s what the Texas Rangers did. Everyone heard about TatisGate, the stupidest controversy in baseball in at least a week, but following on that, Wil Myers, Manny Machado, and Eric Hosmer each got it done as the Rangers were routed in four games by the suddenly superpowered San Diego Fathers. As a result, the Rangers will head to Seattle to face the Mariners and attempt to stop their steady plummet towards the basement of the AL West.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Friday, August 21 | 6:10 pm
LHP Kolby Allard LHP Nick Margevicius
54% 46%
Game 2 Saturday, August 22 | 6:10 pm
RHP Jordan Lyles LHP Justus Sheffield
49% 51%
Game 3 Sunday, August 23 | 1:10 pm
LHP Mike Minor RHP Justin Dunn
56% 44%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 71 (15th in AL) 84 (13th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 3 (7th) -1 (9th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 94 (3rd) 103 (6th) Rangers
Bullpen (FIP-) 111 (14th) 135 (15th) Rangers

Is that…. Is that a 50+% odds I see? Why yes it is. Facing a weaker squad after a brutal stretch, the Mariners finally see a better than even chance of winning a particular game, as newly-impressive Justus Sheffield goes to work in game two. Overall? The Rangers, as I mentioned in a prior preview, cannot hit. Not even a little bit. Their wRC+ has sunk further into the cellar since we last saw them and to the extent they might ever get a lead, their bullpen is bad—but not as bad as ours—enough to hand it right back. I pity these starters, man. They don’t deserve this.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Shin-Soo Choo LF L 81 0.245 70 0.2
Danny Santana DH S 38 0.294 30 0.0
Rougned Odor 2B L 71 0.182 41 -0.2
Joey Gallo RF L 96 0.263 133 1.2
Todd Frazier 3B R 89 0.328 112 0.2
Derek Dietrich 1B L 25 0.231 128 0.1
Nick Solak CF R 92 0.323 115 1.9
Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS R 84 0.333 80 -0.5
Jeff Mathis C R 26 0.286 59 0.4

This is a lot like the Mariners lineup in that there’s a few interesting things going on here and then a whole bunch of a tire fire that I have no interest in seeing any time soon. There’s a neat little core here, though it’s iffy whether Todd Frazier will form a part of the next great Rangers team. Joey Gallo continues to impress and Nick Solak has looked competent or more ever since his debut last season. Meanwhile, Chris Woodward continues to Play the Game the Right (Wrong) Way by inexplicably having three terrible hitters bat at the top of the lineup, most inexplicably Rougned Odor. Jeff Mathis inexplicably continues to get major league at bats after a wRC+ of a whopping 2 last year over 244 PA. 2! He’s actually wildly improved! Even FanGraphs’ love of catcher defense couldn’t keep him above the -2.0 fWAR threshold last year.

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Kolby Allard

45 1/3 15.9% 9.1% 6.8% 45.0% 4.96 4.01
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 46.5% 92.4 2109 78 83 102
Cutter 33.1% 87.7 2151 79 76 121
Changeup 15.1% 81.6 1652 152 67 105
Curveball 5.4% 77.6 1884
2019 stats; Allard’s curveball did not have a large enough sample size for Stuff+ stats.

A former first-round pick and top prospect with the Braves, Kolby Allard didn’t really get his major league career off the ground until he was acquired by the Rangers just before the trade deadline last year. He made nine solid starts for Texas in August and September posting a 4.01 FIP that was marred by an ugly 4.96 ERA. Across three starts this year, he’s lowered his FIP by nearly a full run this year but his ERA is even higher at 5.25. The biggest reason his FIP is so much lower than his ERA is that he really struggles once runners reach base. His strand rate last year was well below average and it’s fallen even further this year. His pitching motion is quite deliberate so it’s possible that when he’s forced to pitch out of the stretch, he loses some of his effectiveness.

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

From a previous series preview:

Jordan Lyles was 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.

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

From a previous series preview:

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.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 18-8 0.692 -- W-L-L-W-W
Astros 15-10 0.600 2.5 W-W-W-W-W
Rangers 10-14 0.417 7.0 L-L-L-L-L
Angels 8-18 0.308 10.0 L-W-L-L-L
Mariners 8-19 0.296 10.5 L-L-L-W-L

2021 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Pirates 4-17 0.190 -- W-L-L-L-L
Mariners 8-19 0.296 1.0 L-L-L-W-L
Angels 8-18 0.308 1.5 L-W-L-L-L
Red Sox 8-18 0.308 1.5 L-L-L-W-W
Tigers 9-14 0.391 4.0 L-L-L-L-L

The Mariners continue to match pace with the Angels and remain just a nip ahead. With Anaheim’s continued struggles even in a short season, one must wonder what this means for Billy Eppler, who once again has failed to put together a winner in a supposed contention year and has no contract past this season. In the broader draft order, the Mariners have at last passed the Red Sox for the #2 slot, but still can’t make up any ground whatsoever on the Pirates, who might not win 10 games this year. I mean, they’re unbelievable, guys.