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Series Preview: Mariners (13-20) at Angels (10-22)

The Mariners begin a four-game set against the cellar-dwelling Angels.

Los Angeles Angels v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It may not feel like it after yesterday, but the Mariners were quite literally one strike from a sweep of the Padres, who came in as one of baseball’s hottest teams. Now they go from one end of that scale to the other, facing (checks notes) the literal worst team in baseball just up the road in Anaheim. Thanks to a hurricane, the Angels had their four-game set in Houston turned into a three game set, where they captured one game.

In other news, MLB released the latest results of their testing, and reported not a single positive test for players. Obviously encouraging—perhaps early missteps and some high-profile occurrences in Cleveland were enough to inspire a strong level of caution. Having made it past the 30-game mark, this represents significant forward momentum towards finishing the regular season, a result that was far more in doubt two or three weeks ago.

At a Glance

Mariners Angels
Mariners Angels
Game 1 Friday, August 28 | 6:40 pm
LHP Nick Margevicius LHP Andrew Heaney
39% 61%
Game 2 Saturday, August 29 | 6:40 pm
LHP Justus Sheffield RHP Griffin Canning
44% 56%
Game 3 Sunday, August 30 | 1:10 pm
RHP Justin Dunn RHP Dylan Bundy
40% 60%
Game 4 Monday, August 31 | 1:10 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales LHP Patrick Sandoval
48% 52%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Overview Angels Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 101 (8th in AL) 94 (12th in AL) Angels
Fielding (DRS) -6 (12th) 4 (6th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 115 (11th) 98 (4th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 92 (8th) 135 (15th) Angels

Someone hasn’t told FiveThirtyEight about the Angels, I guess, as they have a very solid advantage in every game of this series percentagewise. Only Marco gets us close to even. At some point, the people that make these systems need to start applying an Angels correction, which is what you deserve when you’re projected to be .500 or better every year and then this keeps happening.

And why do the Angels look like this? Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Starting. Pitching. Dylan Bundy’s very good year is the brightest spot for this rotation, though Andrew Heaney has also shown some signs of life. The hitting is average, less than you’d expect for a lineup featuring two of the game’s absolute best hitters, and the fielding is blasé at best.

Angels Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
David Fletcher 2B R 150 0.342 132 1.4
Tommy La Stella 1B L 117 0.258 134 -1.3
Mike Trout CF R 126 0.265 138 -0.2
Anthony Rendon 3B R 120 0.342 171 0.3
Shohei Ohtani DH L 104 0.197 82 0.3
Brian Goodwin LF L 105 0.345 124 -0.2
Jo Adell RF R 64 0.324 35 -0.5
Jason Castro C L 58 0.308 106 -0.3
Andrelton Simmons SS R 34 0.296 63 0.2

Mike Trout is having a… down year? He’s still very good mind you. But this is something of a surprise. Fortunately for the Angels, the guys surrounding him have been as good or better than advertised, with one huge exception. Shohei Ohtani continues to have a rocky time with injuries, and has not been able to get anything going at the plate this year even after being shut down from pitching. Jo Adell’s struggles are well-documented, though he has managed to get the K% under 40%, and Andrelton Simmons seems to be on roughly the Brendan Ryan career track, where even that defense can’t quite pick up the bat. This lineup remains wildly uneven, with the incredible highs matched by equal lows.

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: AUG 21 Angels at Athletics Photo by Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

LHP Andrew Heaney

95 1/3 28.8% 7.3% 18.3% 33.6% 4.91 4.63
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 58.0% 92.5 2524 75 185 129
Changeup 15.1% 84.7 1988 120 95 104
Curveball 26.9% 79.4 2545 91 134 69
2019 stats

From a previous series preview:

Last year, Andrew Heaney posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio right in line with his outstanding 2018 season, right around four K’s per walk. Despite that consistency, his FIP rose by more than half a run in 2019. As a heavy fly ball pitcher, Heaney was hit exceptionally hard by the dragless ball last year, allowing almost two home runs per nine innings. All three of his pitches generate plenty of swings and misses but they’re all prone to getting walloped if they’re located poorly. His “sinker” is one of the more interesting pitches in baseball. It’s shape is more like a four-seam fastball but he throws it with just one finger on the seams. The result is a pitch with both ride and tail, a hybrid fastball that batters have trouble picking up.

This will be Heaney’s third start against the Mariners this season. He was decent in the previous two, allowing two runs in the first and one in the second. He hasn’t made it out of the sixth inning in any of his starts this year and has struggled recently with bouts of wildness, though his strikeout rate is still excellent.

RHP Griffin Canning

90 1/3 25.0% 7.8% 12.8% 37.6% 4.58 4.37
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 42.3% 93.9 2335 143 112 91
Changeup 12.8% 89.1 1671 43 94 96
Curveball 16.0% 82.0 2425 91 111 142
Slider 28.9% 88.9 2506 125 129 99
2019 stats

From a previous series preview:

Griffin Canning was one of the Angels top prospects heading into the 2019 season. He made his debut in late April and showed off good peripheral skills even if they didn’t have a positive impact on his run prevention results. An elbow injury sidelined him in August but the longer offseason helped him get healthy in time for the delayed start to the season. His repertoire features a good fastball paired with a trio of solid secondary offerings. His slider is his best pitch though he’s really improved his curveball this year.

Canning was scheduled to start against the Mariners earlier in the season but that start was pushed back so he’s one of the few Angel starters the Mariners haven’t seen yet. He’s really struggled with consistency this year with his strikeout rate sitting well below where it was last year.

RHP Dylan Bundy

161 2/3 23.1% 8.3% 16.4% 41.5% 4.79 4.73
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 42.4% 91.1 2458 79 89 93
Sinker 7.5% 91.3 2288 70 96 104
Changeup 17.4% 83.4 1569 114 109 92
Curveball 9.9% 74.8 2404 91 94 108
Slider 22.8% 81.1 2573 71 137 124
2019 stats

From a previous series preview:

Dylan Bundy was the poster child for a change of scenery after five frustrating seasons in Baltimore. He had always possessed good stuff but continued to see poor results that didn’t reflect the underlying quality of his pitches. Traded to the Angels in the offseason, he was in the middle of an eye opening spring training before everything shut down. He’s relied heavily on his slider and changeup while reducing the use of his fastball this year. His slider has been absolutely untouchable, allowing just three hits off the pitch with a whiff rate over 50%!

Like Heaney, this will be Bundy’s third start against the Mariners. He was absolutely masterful in his last outing in Seattle, spinning a one-run complete game with ten strikeouts. His run of dominance was derailed a bit by the Giants and A’s, after allowing four runs in each of his last two starts.

LHP Patrick Sandoval

39 1/3 24.9% 11.2% 21.4% 46.6% 5.03 4.59
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 46.4% 93.0 1970 88 78 88
Changeup 31.0% 83.6 1662 109 166 83
Curveball 13.4% 78.0 2739 121 124 83
Slider 9.2% 86.6 2303 140 121 123
2019 stats

From a previous series preview:

Patrick Sandoval made his major league debut last year as the Angels injury issues forced them to reach deep into their pitching depth for innings. Sandoval had tweaked his release point early last year causing him to lose command of his arsenal. The adjustment was made to benefit the shape of his pitches, particularly his changeup, but he was thrown into the majors before he had grown comfortable with the new arm angle. With an offseason to continue working on his mechanics, Sandoval should be ready to show what he can do at the highest level. His fastball doesn’t possess the high spin you’d expect from a four-seamer but it’s incredibly spin efficient so he’s able to generate a similar amount of ride as a high spin heater. The new tailing action on his changeup that came with his arm angle adjustment paid off with an elite whiff rate, the ninth highest for a changeup thrown at least 50 times last year.

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 22-10 0.688 -- L-W-L-W-W
Astros 17-14 0.548 4.5 L-L-W-W-L
Mariners 13-20 0.394 9.5 W-W-W-L-W
Rangers 11-19 0.367 10.0 L-L-W-L-L
Angels 10-22 0.313 12.0 W-L-L-L-W

2021 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Angels 10-22 0.313 -- W-L-L-L-W
Pirates 9-19 0.321 0.5 W-L-L-W-W
Red Sox 10-21 0.323 0.5 W-L-L-W-L
Rangers 11-19 0.367 2.0 L-L-W-L-L
Royals 12-19 0.387 2.5 L-L-L-W-L

The Mariners have played their way solidly out of the basement! Mind you, they still aren’t especially close to contention—we don’t have the Wild Card standings here but they’re still four games back of the Blue Jays and obviously just gave them a pretty good pitcher—but it’s nice to see the team climbing the standings on the strength of players who should become key cogs of the next successful Mariner team. The corollary of that is they’ve vanished from the draft order, although they’re just a smidge (.394) behind the Royals’ .387 winning percentage. Still enough to earn a very good pick unless they really start to make some noise.