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Series Preview: Mariners (38-36) vs. Rockies (30-43)

After a much needed off day, the Mariners host the Rockies for two games.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the series against the Rays last weekend, a split felt like the best-case scenario, but somehow, the Mariners were able to grind out a four-game sweep of one of the best teams in the American League. Credit to the bullpen for keeping all four games close enough to win; the relief corps threw 17 innings in that series and allowed six runs, five of which came in Thursday’s unplanned bullpen day. An off day after such a dramatic and uplifting series is kind of a let down, but the team really needed it. They’ve played the most games of any team in the AL so far. They have three more off days between now and the All-Star break giving them some flexibility to run with five starters in their rotation for the first time this season. After such a tough matchup with the Rays and the White Sox and Blue Jays on the upcoming schedule, the Mariners get a tiny reprieve with this two-game set against the Rockies.

At a Glance

Rockies Mariners
Rockies Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, June 22 | 7:10 pm
LHP Kyle Freeland RHP Chris Flexen
40% 60%
Game 2 Wednesday, June 23 | 1:10 pm
RHP Germán Márquez LHP Justus Sheffield
47% 53%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Rockies Mariners Edge
Overview Rockies Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 87 (14th in NL) 89 (12th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 3 (8th) -5 (10th) Rockies
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 105 (9th) 114 (13th) Rockies
Bullpen (FIP-) 113 (13th) 89 (5th) Mariners

For as much dysfunction the Mariners front office has suffered through the past few years, the Rockies are one of the few teams who can claim to be even more dysfunctional. Nothing exemplifies that more than their trade of Nolan Arenado this offseason. They signed him to a massive, nine-year extension back in 2019, and alienated him so quickly, he was asking for a trade just two years later. The Rockies received some middling talent in return and sent roughly $50 million in cash to the Cardinals to cover some of Arenado’s salary. It was a total disaster of a move for the Rockies and they’re probably set to trade Trevor Story this summer before he hits free agency at the end of the season. That’s two generational stars that are likely gone in the span of a single year. With a farm system that’s extremely thin and a player development group that’s struggled to churn out any positive results, they’re staring at a long rebuild in the face.

Rockies Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Raimel Tapia LF L 293 0.342 100 1.8
Yonathan Daza CF R 203 0.399 105 1.7
Charlie Blackmon RF L 261 0.299 98 0.7
Trevor Story SS R 254 0.313 93 2.7
Ryan McMahon 3B L 279 0.290 104 1.6
C.J. Cron 1B R 210 0.333 121 -0.5
Brendan Rodgers 2B R 92 0.283 87 0.1
Elias Díaz C R 128 0.182 22 -1.0

The two remaining pieces from the core that produced two playoff appearances in 2017 and 2019 have really struggled this year. Both Charlie Blackmon and Story should be interesting trade chips for the Rockies this summer but they haven’t done much to entice potential buyers. Story’s issues are a lot more concerning. His plate discipline looks intact but the quality of his contact looks worrisome. His power output has fallen to a career low and his hard hit rate and barrel rate are both significantly down. One of the few bright spots this season has been the long overdue development of Ryan McMahon. A former top prospect, he’s had trouble translating his talent to the majors. Part of that is certainly the way the Rockies have treated their prospects in recent years, never really committing to giving them regular playing time. But he’s finally tapped into the prodigious power he displayed in the minors and has cut his strikeout rate to a career low.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Cincinnati Reds Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Kyle Freeland

20 2/3 11.3% 10.4% 34.6% 45.6% 9.58 9.56
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 26.4% 91.6 2467 62 53 160
Sinker 14.1% 91.7 2418 70
Changeup 25.4% 86.1 1468 49 66 51
Curveball 10.0% 78.5 2427
Slider 24.1% 85.2 2444 105 55 72
Freeland’s sinker and curveball do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Back in 2018, Kyle Freeland put together a phenomenal season, especially considering his home park of Coors Field. But much of his success that year was based on an extremely low home run rate that he simply couldn’t maintain. The rest of his peripherals were uninspiring, and the next year, everything fell apart. Without elite velocity and just a single pitch with an above average whiff rate in his repertoire, he needed precise command to continue suppressing hard contact. Last year, he was a bit better than his disastrous 2019 season, but his strikeout rate continued to plummet. He’s dealt with a shoulder injury this year and missed most of the first two months of the season. He’s really struggled with the command of all his secondary offerings across his five starts this year.

Germán Márquez

82 1/3 23.2% 11.0% 10.7% 54.2% 4.26 3.58
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 46.7% 94.9 2084 80 67 136
Sinker 5.3% 94.4 2062 90
Changeup 2.2% 86.5 1720
Curveball 19.7% 84.9 2669 87 129 96
Slider 26.0% 86.2 2439 103 116 87
Márquez’s sinker and changeup do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

Germán Márquez is one of the few pitchers to ever actually thrive while pitching in Coors Field. His two breaking balls provide him with two weapons to prop up his excellent strikeout rate and his fastball has been good enough to avoid getting knocked around much. Last year, he posted the lowest home run rate of his career and enjoyed career-bests in ERA and FIP. His home run rate is nearly the same this year, but his walk rate has suddenly ballooned up to 11%. The shape of his fastball also looks considerably different this year. It’s now dropping by more than three inches than it had been — almost as much as his sinker but without the armside break. It’s helped him post the highest groundball rate of his career but I wonder if the different movement profile of his heater has affected his command of the pitch.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 44-28 0.611 -- W-W-W-W-W
Athletics 44-30 0.595 1.0 W-W-L-L-L
Mariners 38-36 0.514 7.0 L-W-W-W-W
Angels 36-36 0.500 8.0 L-W-W-W-L
Rangers 26-46 0.361 18.0 L-L-L-L-W

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Athletics 44-30 0.595 +0.5 W-W-L-L-L
Rays 43-30 0.589 -- L-L-L-L-L
Cleveland 40-30 0.571 1.5 W-L-L-W-W
Yankees 38-33 0.535 4.0 W-W-L-W-W
Mariners 38-36 0.514 5.5 L-W-W-W-W

It’s been a while since I’ve included the Wild Card standings in a series preview, but the Mariners moved past the Blue Jays in the standings and are now just 5.5 games back in the Wild Card race. They’re still a long shot, but they’re now as close as they’ve been to a playoff spot since the end of April.

The Astros absolutely dominated the White Sox over the weekend, outscoring them 27-8 in a four-game sweep. Houston has won eight straight and hasn’t lost a series since getting swept by the Rangers on May 21–23. They have six games against the Orioles and four against the Tigers on their upcoming schedule and moved past the A’s for the top spot in the division with a win last night. Oakland lost their weekend series against the Yankees and lost the first game of their series against the Rangers last night. The Angels won their four-game series against the Tigers over the weekend and got their record back to .500. They host the best team in the majors, the Giants, for two-games this week.