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Series Preview: Mariners (15-22) vs. Rangers (13-23)

The Mariners start their season back up with a four-game set against the Rangers.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Man, I thought the last few days of the offseason were unpleasantly slow. It turns out it has nothing on 3+ days without baseball while we wait impatiently to see two new big-ticket acquisitions on the MLB roster. But at least, Francemas is here, and there’s a positive Torrens of gifts under the tre—(is clobbered by a giant pile of rotten tomatoes).

For as much neat scheduling stuff as there is in this shortened season—extra games against NL teams we don’t see all that often have proven pretty fun and engaging!—there’s an equal amount of drudgery. The Rangers, again? Yep. A fully rested Mariners squad that has been able to spend a surprise 3 days at home with families (or on the golf course, congrats to Chambers Bay on the surge in greens fees) welcomes a slightly battered Rangers squad that just dropped 2 of 3 to Houston and 7 of 10 overall. The Mariners, to remind you, have won 7 of 10 off the Angels, Padres, and Rangers.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Friday, September 4 | 6:10 pm
RHP Kyle Cody LHP Yusei Kikuchi
50% 50%
Game 2 Saturday, September 5 | 6:10 pm
RHP Kyle Gibson LHP Justus Sheffield
47% 53%
Game 3 Sunday, September 6 | 1:10 pm
RHP Jordan Lyles RHP Justin Dunn
46% 54%
Game 4 Monday, September 7 | 1:10 pm
LHP Kolby Allard LHP Marco Gonzales
46% 54%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 64 (15th in AL) 92 (12th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (DRS) 6 (5th) 1 (11th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 105 (9th) 95 (4th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 97 (9th) 141 (15th) Rangers

FiveThirtyEight is coming around on the Mariners or just really hates the Rangers. Or both. Both is good. And boy, when you look at that Ranger lineup, you can really see why. While they’re passable in most areas, this is a team that just can’t hit or score. That Rangers wRC+ has netted them a collective -2.4 fWAR for their position players. Suffice to say, while it certainly wouldn’t be bad to see our starters perform really well the next four days, I’m not sure I’m going to believe it’s primarily about their talents.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Leody Taveras CF S 36 0.294 61 0.4
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 3B R 131 0.323 91 -1.0
Shin-Soo Choo DH L 113 0.250 66 0.1
Nick Solak 2B R 143 0.330 98 1.3
Joey Gallo RF L 140 0.217 89 1.6
Jose Trevino C R 61 0.319 107 0.0
Ronald Guzmán 1B L 21 0.636 218 0.1
Elvis Andrus SS R 93 0.203 34 -0.2
Eli White LF R -- -- -- --
Eli White has played just 3 games in 2020 (7 PAs, 0 hits)

Oh. Oh dear. Just to give you a comp on that 64 wRC+: The incredibly bad 2010 Mariners had a 79 team wRC+. This is so, so much worse than that. The only pleasant numbers at all are from players who have played much less than the Rangers’ core. I don’t even know if you can call it a core any more. Nick Solak looks at least passable, but not like someone you want headlining your team’s lineup, and as it stands he’s pretty much the best bat they have right now. The only bat they have right now? I’m trying to find something to say that doesn’t just seem excessively mean. They have new callup Eli White, but he’s never really shown much of a bat in the minors, either. There isn’t much on the farm, either: their 21st-ranked farm system has a serious lack of upside, with just two 50 FV talents, both sitting in the lower levels.

Probable Pitchers

Stuff+ Explainer

Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

RHP Kyle Cody

126 26.1% 8.2% 3.7% 46.1% 2.64 2.94
2017 minor league stats, combined Single-A and High-A

Kyle Cody was a sixth-round draft pick back in 2016 out of the University of Kentucky and had impressed with good, if inconsistent, stuff out of college. His professional career got off to a good start in 2017, with a 2.94 FIP across two minor league levels, but a nagging elbow injury eventually led to Tommy John surgery in 2018. Because of the timing of his surgery, he’s only thrown five innings in affiliated ball over the last three years and yet the Rangers have called him up to the big league club to give him an opportunity to show what he’s capable of. His fastball velocity has crept up since his surgery and he’s shown good feel for his two above average breaking balls. He’s made three appearances out of the bullpen for the Rangers but they’re giving him a spot in the rotation to see if he can stick.

RHP Kyle Gibson

38 19.8% 9.3% 34.6% 50.4% 6.16 6.00
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 18.2% 92.3 2248 85 30 97
Sinker 31.8% 92.1 2117 68 113 99
Changeup 19.7% 84.2 1640 129 110 94
Curveball 7.7% 78.5 2393 112
Slider 22.6% 82.8 2483 89 110 85
2020 stats; Gibson’s curveball does not have a large enough sample size for pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

Kyle Gibson was a product of the old Twins pitching development program that emphasized sinking fastballs and pitching to contact. Through the first six years of his career in Minnesota, he ran a 17.2% strikeout rate paired with a 51.5% groundball rate. It was a solid, if unspectacular profile, but it resulted in a 4.30 FIP. Last year, after a regime change in the Twins organization, Gibson started to throw his slider and his changeup a little more often. Both pitches generate above average whiff rates and his strikeout rate rose to a career high as a result.

Through seven starts with the Rangers, Gibson has compiled a 6.16 ERA that is backed up by an equally bad 6.00 FIP. It’s tough to say what exactly has gone wrong. He’s throwing his slider and changeup more than ever — both are excellent pitches — but batters seem unfazed. Instead, they’re just crushing his other three pitches.

RHP Jordan Lyles

29 1/3 12.9% 10.0% 11.6% 39.0% 8.59 5.66
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 49.3% 92.3 2139 95 43 79
Changeup 11.8% 86.6 1430 52
Curveball 30.2% 80.0 2519 143 78 119
Slider 7.0% 86.5 2319 107
2020 stats; Lyles’ changeup and slider do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

Jordan Lyles was beneficiary of a change in pitch mix last season. After joining the Brewers in late July, he focused his repertoire to feature his riding four-seam fastball and his diving curveball, while sprinkling in his slider against right-handed batters. The result was 10 of 11 starts down the stretch in which he allowed two or fewer runs. He’s maintained that same pitch mix that he established in Milwaukee but the results haven’t followed in Texas. His whiff rates are down across the board and he’s walked nearly as many batters as he’s struck out.

LHP Kolby Allard

25 21.5% 11.2% 5.4% 32.4% 5.40 3.78
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 43.7% 91.4 2198 62 134 69
Cutter 34.2% 86.6 2288 57 85 113
Changeup 11.8% 82.6 1764 117
Curveball 10.4% 76.9 2060 44
2020 stats; Allard’s changeup and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

From a previous series preview:

A former first-round pick and top prospect with the Braves, Kolby Allard didn’t really get his major league career off the ground until he was acquired by the Rangers just before the trade deadline last year. He made nine solid starts for Texas in August and September posting a 4.01 FIP that was marred by an ugly 4.96 ERA. Across six starts this year, he’s lowered his FIP by a quarter of a run but his ERA is even higher at 5.40. The biggest reason his FIP is so much lower than his ERA is that he really struggles once runners reach base. His strand rate last year was well below average and it’s fallen even further this year. His pitching motion is quite deliberate so it’s possible that when he’s forced to pitch out of the stretch, he loses some of his effectiveness.

Allard has started to tinker with his pitch mix this season. In his last two starts, he’s increased the usage of his changeup to around 20%, and it’s given him a strong third pitch to help him get through the batting order multiple times effectively.

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 22-12 0.647 -- L-W-W-L-L
Astros 21-15 0.583 2.0 W-W-L-W-W
Mariners 15-22 0.405 8.5 W-L-L-W-W
Rangers 13-23 0.361 10.0 L-L-W-L-L
Angels 13-25 0.342 11.0 W-L-L-L-W

2020 Draft Order

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Pirates 11-24 0.314 -- W-L-L-L-W
Red Sox 12-26 0.316 -- W-L-L-L-L
Angels 13-25 0.342 1.0 W-L-L-L-W
Nationals 12-23 0.343 1.5 L-L-L-L-L
Rangers 13-23 0.361 2.0 L-L-W-L-L

While the Mariners sat at home eating cheeseburgers, no one was able to push them back towards the AL West cellar. Unfortunately (?) for them, they did slide a little in the draft standings, now sitting in the 8th slot and a little further from the clubs ahead of them, thanks to days off and some unpleasant play by those teams (Washington, Texas, Kansas City, and Arizona are all sliding and sliding fast right now.) A bright (?) spot for Seattle’s efforts is their 10th-ranked SOS the rest of the way, but we’ll see how much that can really help when they’re doing silly things like nearly sweeping the Padres.