Fresh off a series loss to Anaheim that featured 17.5 Mike Trout dingers (do not fact check me) the Mariners set up for another home series against the Rockies. Now having lost 5 of their last 6, the Mariners have sunk from “hey this is neat, we’re being buoyed to our young players” to “hey at least some of our young players are doing good things some of the time?” Hopefully, Kumar Rocker notwithstanding, the slide stops soon on the backs of the aforementioned young players. Would you like some better news? Kyle Lewis and J.P. Crawford are still top 20(ish) players in baseball by fWAR—and by bWAR they’re top 10 players, with Kyle Lewis sixth among position players and J.P. Crawford sitting in the #1 spot. Yes, that’s right, J.P. Crawford (1.1 bWAR) is the best player in baseball. Happy Friday.
At a Glance
|Game 1||Friday, August 7 | 6:40 pm|
|RHP Antonio Senzatela||LHP Yusei Kikuchi|
|Game 2||Saturday, August 8 | 6:10 pm|
|RHP Chi Chi González||LHP Nick Margevicius|
|Game 3||Sunday, August 9 | 1:10 pm|
|RHP Germán Márquez||LHP Justus Sheffield|
|Batting (wRC+)||97 (9th in NL)||97 (10th in AL)||Rockies|
|Fielding (DRS)||8 (2nd)||6 (4th)||Rockies|
|Starting Pitching (FIP-)||80 (5th)||118 (11th)||Rockies|
|Bullpen (FIP-)||77 (4th)||158 (15th)||Rockies|
The Rockies, like the Mariners, are off to a rough sta—oh sorry, force of habit when writing about Colorado. In fact, they’re clustered at the top of baseball with the Twins, Cubs, and Yankees (no, you don’t count, Marlins, sit down). Nor is it entirely attributable to a weak schedule: they haven’t faced murderer’s row, but they’ve risen to every test to date, buzzsawing through the Rangers, A’s, Padres, and Giants, without a single series loss on the season. In a short season, whether this start is for real or not, it’s very likely going to be enough to propel them into the playoffs in a season where no one really expected it (at least before they changed the playoff rules.
How are they doing it? Surprisingly for a team that plays at the altitude of Artist Point, on the backs of pitching and defense. It turns out the key to a strong bullpen is likely getting rid of Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, while their rotation has been absolutely lights out. The hitting isn’t bad, either, but it’s been doing just enough and then some to carry the team, pushing them to a run differential of +24 on the year, trailing only the Twins and Dodgers. The Mariners? Worst in baseball, at -33.
As it often goes early in a year, the Rockies’ lineup with their limited PA have been feast or famine. The heart of this order ought to be quite intimidating, and to date it is—but you might expect Daniel Murphy and Nolan Arenado to swap wRC+ numbers before all is said and done. Matt Kemp hasn’t played a ton but has managed to look like his prime self rather than the broken down end of career version of a few years ago. There are lots of thumping names in this lineup, and while they haven’t all performed to date, you’d expect them to trend the right way and keep this offense afloat when a few surprises start to regress.
RHP Antonio Senzatela
A fixture at the back of the Rockies bullpen for the last few years, Antonio Senzatela has made two very strong starts to begin this season. The biggest change in his profile has been a huge swing in his batted ball profile. Throughout his career, he’s relied on his low-spin, sinking four-seam fastball to generate contact on the ground. This year, his groundball rate has fallen to 38.2% because he’s locating his fastball up in the zone more often. That’s resulted in a few more whiffs with the pitch but it’s also meant batters are putting the ball in the air far more often. That’s a dangerous gambit to make, especially when he’s pitching at home.
RHP Chi Chi González
A former top pitching prospect with the Rangers, Chi Chi González never fulfilled his promise with Texas. Tommy John surgery derailed his career in 2017 and he signed with the Rockies as a minor-league free agent last year. His biggest problem in the majors has been a lack of command and that continued even after switching organizations. His 1.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Colorado last year was just a bit above his career 1.15 ratio. His best pitch is his changeup which he uses to generate nearly all of his whiffs. His cutter is a decent pitch as well but he relies on his mediocre fastball far too much to really leverage his secondary offerings.
RHP Germán Márquez
Germán Márquez is the poster child for talented pitchers whose results are marred by pitching in Coors Field. By pure stuff, Márquez possesses two plus breaking balls that both generate ample whiffs and a fastball that averages nearly 96 mph. But that simply isn’t enough when balls are flying out of stadiums at record rates and you pitch half of your games at altitude. That’s how, despite posting a career best strikeout-to-walk ratio, Márquez scuffled through a disappointing season in 2019 with an ERA nearly a run higher than his FIP and more than a run higher than his xFIP.
The Big Picture:
The AL West
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
|Team||W-L||W%||Games Behind||Recent Form|
Well, somehow the Mariners aren’t in the cellar of the AL West. That honor goes to the Rangers, who have not been able to make any noise whatsoever even with some solid individual performances. It’s tempting to put more import on the standings as we approach the 15 game mark, but it’s also important to remember just what the Mariners looked like at 15 games a year ago, and what an absolutely tiny amount all this means (they were 13-2 if you don’t remember). Do the Mariners look about like we guessed, record-wise? Yes! Does it really mean that’s the team they are? No! I mean probably, but also, no! Oh, and also, back at the top, the A’s have been on fire (partly thanks to us) and have set up a rickety 2.5 game lead in the west over the Astros, who have been beset by bad news seemingly all year. The baseball gods may have been quarantined, Houston, but they have not forgotten your miscreancy.