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Doubleheader Preview: Mariners (21-25) vs. Athletics (29-17)

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Let’s play two (but maybe at a later date).

Oakland Athletics v Texas Rangers - Game Two Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Let’s be up front: the air in Seattle was supposed to be better today. It isn’t. Currently, the AQI in the T-Mobile zip code is parked at a very-unhealthy 237. The recommendations for healthy people in those conditions?

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities.
  • Keep outdoor activities short.
  • Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them.

I don’t think erecting a giant metal canopy over the field counts as indoors, sorry to the Mariners. So we’ll see what happens. I’ve read, but not confirmed, that MLB and the MLBPA have no air quality standards to determine when they play or do not play, meaning they’ll have to come to some kind of an agreement today. Where that leaves us is anyone’s guess, but given the way I and a variety of other reasonable people have felt in this air, it seems misguided at the absolute best to play baseball in Seattle today. Which is extremely frustrating, given that these games were rescheduled to begin with and one of them likely could have been played on the original schedule except the A’s didn’t seem to want to come to Seattle to play a single game at the beginning of the month. If today’s games are cancelled, that puts the M’s in a real crunch to get in a full 60 in a season where they may need every game possible to chase down Houston. Frustrating.

In other news, they took two of three off the Diamondbacks this weekend. With no starter announced for game 2, they’ll need an A+ effort from Marco Gonzales in game 1 to hopefully spot them a game and then cobble something together in game 2. If it all goes right, they could find themselves a whisker from a very pleasant position by tonight.

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Monday, September 14 | 2:10 pm
LHP Jesús Luzardo LHP Marco Gonzales
56% 44%
Game 2 Monday, September 14 | TBD
LHP Mike Minor TBD
62% 38%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 104 (7th in AL) 94 (11th in AL) Athletics
Fielding (DRS) -8 (12th) 6 (6th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 103 (7th) 93 (4th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 75 (1st) 133 (15th) Athletics

Well, these odds look a lot like the Diamondbacks odds over the weekend, which mostly worked out OK for us. We all know Oakland is the only real talent in the AL West this year (results-based, anyway), and they’re pretty good at everything — the only area where they don’t look as great is DRS, which, you know, we’re talking about like 45 games here, come on. The bullpen is the best in baseball, not just the AL, and it isn’t especially close. The Mariners will need to jump on the starters, because it’s not going to look great in the later innings, and that’s before we even talk about our bullpen.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Tommy La Stella 2B L 173 0.263 129 -1.3
Marcus Semien SS R 182 0.263 86 0.6
Stephen Piscotty RF R 140 0.326 94 0.9
Matt Olson 1B L 194 0.206 115 0.2
Robbie Grossman LF S 152 0.287 137 1.6
Mark Canha DH R 188 0.324 125 1.9
Ramón Laureano CF R 175 0.274 107 0.8
Vimael Machín 3B L 62 0.244 62 -0.5
Sean Murphy C R 107 0.309 132 -1.0

True to Oakland form, there’s no superstar hitter here, but a broad array of competence. Matt Chapman went down over the weekend with a season-ending hip injury, depriving the A’s of his otherworldly defense and 115 wRC+ bat. Replacement Vimael Machín is a 26 year old Puerto Rican and the A’s #17 prospect per FanGraphs — he can play all over the infield, which may allow him to have a nice MLB career in some form, but as a Chapman replacement the A’s likely don’t expect much from him. They did sign former-Diamondback, and Seattle-area native Jake Lamb over the weekend but he’ll likely serve as infield depth rather than provide any real impact for the A’s. Sean Murphy is having a nice rookie campaign as well and might get some AL ROY consideration were it not for Kyle Lewis and Luis Robert. Too bad. (It is not too bad.)

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

San Diego Padres v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

LHP Jesús Luzardo

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
45 1/3 23.9% 7.4% 17.6% 46.0% 3.97 4.00
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 12.7% 96.1 2388 147
Sinker 39.4% 95.5 2387 148 72 87
Changeup 23.7% 87.7 1929 139 157 108
Curveball 24.2% 83.8 2529 85 146 121
Luzardo’s four-seamer does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

Jesús Luzardo is one of the most exciting pitching prospects in baseball, ranking #1 in the Athletics organization and #6 in all of baseball according to FanGraphs. He made his debut last year as a high-leverage reliever for the A’s during their playoff run but has a tremendous ceiling as a starter. A positive COVID-19 test in July delayed his arrival for Summer Camp and so he spent the first few weeks of the season getting stretched out. He’s made seven starts so far and has shown tons of promise while still acclimatizing to the rigors of the major leagues. His slider — Statcast classifies it as a curveball; it’s somewhere in between — and his changeup both possess excellent whiff rates but an overreliance on his sinker rather than his four-seamer has deflated some of his strikeout upside.


LHP Mike Minor

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
39 2/3 22.3% 8.6% 18.4% 39.2% 6.35 5.40
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 45.9% 90.5 2588 54 89 108
Changeup 23.4% 85.2 2266 58 125 77
Curveball 6.1% 79.7 2561 130
Slider 24.6% 85.6 2792 142 72 99
Minor’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

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 Athletics acquired Minor just prior to the August 31 trade deadline, shipping just a couple of low-level prospects to the Rangers. It was a rather disappointing return for Minor who was the subject of plenty of trade rumors a year ago, but befitting the level of performance he’s shown to-date. His strikeout-to-walk ratio hasn’t changed much but he’s lost the ability to induce weak contact. That’s led to a huge increase in home run rate. He’s made one start and one relief appearance for the A’s and neither went very well.


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 29-17 0.630 -- W-W-L-W-L
Astros 23-24 0.489 6.5 W-L-L-W-L
Mariners 21-25 0.457 8.0 L-L-L-W-W
Angels 20-28 0.417 10.0 L-W-L-W-W
Rangers 17-30 0.362 12.5 L-L-W-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Cleveland 26-21 0.553 -- L-L-L-L-L
Yankees 26-21 0.553 -- W-W-W-W-W
Mariners 21-25 0.457 4.5 L-L-L-W-W
Orioles 20-26 0.435 5.5 L-L-L-L-L
Tigers 20-26 0.435 5.5 L-W-L-L-L

The Yankees evidently remembered just what sort of team they are, catching fire. The Astros have remembered what sort of team they are all along, but as it turns out, whereas the answer for the Yankees is “a very good one”, the answer for Houston is “a cheating one”, so Houston continues to scuffle along. After losing a four-game set to the Athletics, they split games over the weekend with the Dodgers. They’re off today before starting a homestand against Texas and Arizona. That means the Mariners have a real opportunity, if they play, to close the gap to a mere half game. Given that they’re playing the A’s, if they manage that, they’ll have earned it.