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Series Preview: Mariners (5-9) vs. Rockies (9-3)

The upstart Rockies head to Seattle for a three-game series.

Colorado Rockies vs San Francisco Giants

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

Rockies Mariners
Rockies Mariners
Game 1 Friday, August 7 | 6:40 pm
RHP Antonio Senzatela LHP Yusei Kikuchi
55% 45%
Game 2 Saturday, August 8 | 6:10 pm
RHP Chi Chi González LHP Nick Margevicius
58% 42%
Game 3 Sunday, August 9 | 1:10 pm
RHP Germán Márquez LHP Justus Sheffield
61% 39%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rockies Mariners Edge
Overview Rockies Mariners Edge
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
2020 stats

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.

Rockies Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
David Dahl CF L 54 0.286 52 0.6
Trevor Story SS R 52 0.235 168 0.4
Charlie Blackmon RF L 51 0.410 145 0.6
Nolan Arenado 3B R 51 0.179 85 -0.1
Daniel Murphy 1B L 38 0.391 146 -0.9
Ryan McMahon 2B L 46 0.400 96 0.0
Matt Kemp DH R 28 0.333 156 0.0
Chris Owings LF R 26 0.353 112 0.3
Tony Wolters C L 34 0.269 24 0.1
2020 stats

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.

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

Colorado Rockies v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

RHP Antonio Senzatela

124 2/3 13.1% 9.8% 18.3% 53.8% 6.71 5.44
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 61.9% 93.7 2102 79 63 126
Changeup 8.0% 87.0 2059 43 51 112
Curveball 10.6% 78.8 2145 78 56 68
Slider 19.5% 84.4 2243 117 119 99
2019 stats

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

63 16.6% 11.9% 17.7% 43.3% 5.29 5.64
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 42.2% 92.4 2428 52 91 115
Sinker 11.7% 91.5 2302 104 40 69
Cutter 28.3% 86.9 2535 101 82 109
Changeup 11.4% 86.5 1708 81 142 81
Slider 6.5% 82.0 2306 65 43 45
2019 stats

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

174 24.3% 4.9% 20.1% 49.0% 4.76 4.06
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 35.4% 95.7 2225 108 75 101
Sinker 17.0% 94.7 2171 108 61 88
Changeup 3.0% 87.8 1969 89 28 67
Curveball 23.5% 84.9 2693 101 143 96
Slider 21.1% 87.4 2371 108 111 81
2019 stats

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
Athletics 9-4 0.692 -- W-W-W-W-W
Astros 6-6 0.500 2.5 L-W-W-L-L
Angels 5-8 0.385 4.0 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 5-9 0.357 4.5 L-L-L-W-L
Rangers 3-8 0.273 5.0 L-W-L-L-L

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.