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Series Preview: Mariners (22-25) vs. Giants (23-24)

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Let’s play two more (in San Francisco!)

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners - Game Two Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

I swear I just wrote one of these. Oh wait, I did. Fresh off of a “series” split with the A’s yesterday, the Mariners face the Giants for a two game set. That, uh, that’s exactly what they did last week, I promise you aren’t stuck in Groundhog Day, but if you were, it would explain a lot about 2020 somehow, right? The Giants have been in San Diego, where a four-game set turned into three thanks to a false positive COVID test by OF Alex Dickerson. The Giants and Padres still managed to get in three games, unlike the A’s, who cancelled the entire series with Seattle earlier this month for what proved to be a false positive, resulting in two games played in—oh forget it you know. Anyway, the Giants dropped all three of the games played against the Padres, and now come to town looking to boost their slim 1 game lead over the surging Reds for the final NL playoff spot.

It should be noted that both teams have a scheduled off day on Thursday. The current smoke forecast isn’t favorable, but it might be prudent for MLB to begin discussing alternatives to playing in such hazardous conditions. Whether that’s pushing these two games to Thursday or finding a neutral site for the remainder of the Mariners homestand, some directive from MLB needs to be made.

Update: MLB has listened to reason and has rescheduled this two-game series to be played in San Francisco on Wednesday and Thursday.

At a Glance

Giants Mariners
Giants Mariners
Game 1 Wednesday, September 16 | TBD
LHP Tyler Anderson RHP Ljay Newsome
51% 49%
Game 2 Thursday, September 17 | TBD
LHP Drew Smyly LHP Nick Margevicius
55% 45%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Giants Mariners Edge
Overview Giants Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 111 (5th in NL) 95 (11th in AL) Giants
Fielding (DRS) 12 (5th) 6 (7th) Giants
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 101 (10th) 95 (5th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 120 (13th) 127 (15th) Giants

From a previous series preview:

Just two games in this series and we aren’t particularly favored in either, which is likely in large part due to facing the weakest part of our rotation. However, while projection systems may not like Ljay and Nicky Marge, it’s undeniable that they have (in a small sample) performed. If they can keep that up, we should look a good bit better than the odds in these games.

It’s kind of funny that a mere week later I get to use the exact same text because exactly the same thing is true. We’ll face Tyler Anderson again, but also swap out Logan Webb for Drew Smyly, whose name always makes me twitch a little involuntarily. The sog. THE SOG!

Of course, that will also require cooling down a red-hot Giants lineup, which has thumped its way through the season to date. Like the Mariners, since the Giants weren’t really planning to contend this year (OR WERE THEY?! - Farhan Zaidi), they did the baseball equivalent of just ignoring your garden bed for two months from April to June. You might get a watermelon here and there by chance but mostly it’s just a mess. While the offense has flourished, the pitching staff has struggled a bit, particularly the bullpen. The result is a beautiful mess that might prove to be just enough to compete in the National League, but a mess none-the-less.

Giants Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Mike Yastrzemski RF L 204 0.356 153 0.7
Alex Dickerson LF L 131 0.271 127 -0.7
Donovan Solano 2B R 160 0.412 147 0.8
Brandon Belt 1B L 132 0.360 164 -0.5
Wilmer Flores DH R 168 0.297 132 0.2
Evan Longoria 3B R 155 0.304 101 -1.0
Brandon Crawford SS L 144 0.326 107 -0.9
Joey Bart C R 72 0.425 90 0.2
Mauricio Dubón CF R 127 0.349 94 0.1

Here’s the engine that drives the Giants’ success. Mike Yastrzemski has a nice name, of course, and took til he was 28 to break into the majors, which might lead you to believe he’s more of a journeyman. Not so: in 596 career PA he has a 134 wRC+, and while his defense is iffy, that sort of hitting covers a lot of ills. Donovan Solano, meanwhile, was a journeyman, but since departing the East Coast he has remade himself into something that sure looks like a real good big-league player over the last two season with the Giants. This lineup is really filled with surprises top to bottom, whether it’s Brandon Belt’s stretch as the literal hottest hitter in baseball or Evan Longoria’s resurgence that gives him (he’s still just 34!) a solid case at the Hall of Fame someday if he can stretch a few more years out of his career.

Not much has changed, here, as you’d expect. Mostly they’ve sat in about the same place as last week—Brandon Belt cooled off a fair amount, but otherwise, a powerful lineup remains powerful.

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

Seattle Mariners v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

LHP Tyler Anderson

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
46 15.2% 8.6% 7.6% 27.1% 4.50 4.56
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 40.0% 90.4 2295 87 83 99
Sinker 4.7% 89.7 2253 53
Cutter 19.8% 85.0 2417 60 104 123
Changeup 33.3% 81.0 1990 117 114 84
Curveball 2.1% 72.0 2360 47
Anderson’s sinker and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

Tyler Anderson escaped the altitude of Colorado for the marine layer of San Francisco but his results really haven’t improved. He’s allowed far fewer home runs while pitching at sea level, but a career low strikeout rate has erased any gains he’s seen on batted ball outcomes. He’s relying on his changeup far more often this year, and it has a decent whiff rate, so the drop in strikeouts is a little baffling. But the improvement in batted ball profile is definitely real and something he can lean into now that he doesn’t have to worry about fly balls leaving the park at ridiculous rates. He’s running one of the highest popup rates in baseball this year.

Anderson stymied the Mariners a week ago, holding them scoreless over six innings. He allowed just four baserunners and struck out four.


LHP Drew Smyly

IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
IP K% BB% HR/FB% GB% ERA FIP
114 23.4% 10.7% 21.5% 33.2% 6.24 6.26
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 47.5% 91.2 2086 72 96 91
Cutter 18.6% 86.7 2041 89 82 71
Changeup 4.7% 82.3 1209 88 110 93
Curveball 29.2% 77.4 1950 48 127 91
2019 stats

Drew Smyly was finally healthy enough to pitch again after missing nearly two years due to a variety of arm injuries. A “soggy arm” (officially a flexor strain) erased his 2017 season with the Mariners and that led to Tommy John surgery which sidelined him for all but one rehab inning in 2018. He returned for a mostly healthy season split between the Rangers and the Phillies last year. The rust really showed in Texas with a FIP over eight in 13 appearances but he was much better after his midseason trade. He lowered his FIP to 4.79 in 12 starts with Philadelphia. He signed with the Giants this offseason and has made a couple of starts for them but has been recovering from a strained finger for most of the season. All of the skills that made him an intriguing acquisition for the Mariners all those years ago look to be intact — a high strikeout rate, okay command, and a batted ball profile that skews heavily towards fly ball contact.


The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 30-18 0.625 -- L-W-L-L-W
Astros 23-24 0.489 6.5 W-L-L-W-L
Mariners 22-26 0.458 8.0 L-W-W-W-L
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 22-26 0.458 4.5 L-W-W-W-L
Orioles 21-26 0.447 5.0 L-L-L-L-W
Tigers 20-26 0.435 5.5 L-W-L-L-L

A week ago in this series preview we included wild card standings for the first time. Since then it’s been a mixed bag, really, for the Mariners. They’ve made up half a game since then on the Astros, sitting 1.5 back, while dropping well back of the Yankees as I mentioned yesterday. If the Mariners can hold their ground through the weekend, they’ll welcome the Astros to town on Monday for a shot at breaking through like they couldn’t in 2014, ‘16, or ‘18. Wait, is playing the Giants a chance to steal their even year devil magic?!