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Series Preview: Mariners (45-40) vs. Yankees (42-41)

The Mariners host another long-shot Wild Card card contender.

MLB: Game Two-New York Mets at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

With nearly every other AL Wild Card contender struggling right now, the Mariners have picked a great time to put together their strongest stretch of play this season. They’ve moved ahead of Toronto after their series win in Buffalo last week and leapfrogged Cleveland over the weekend. They’re now just 3.5 games behind the A’s for the second Wild Card spot. Is this success sustainable? None of the playoff odds models think it is; FiveThirtyEight is the most bullish, giving the M’s a 9% chance of making the playoffs; FanGraphs (2.4%) and Baseball Prospectus (1.8%) are much more skeptical. Still, if the results keep coming, the Mariners could find themselves in the odd position of being buyers before the trade deadline.

At a Glance

Yankees Mariners
Yankees Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, July 6 | 7:10 pm
RHP Jameson Taillon LHP Justus Sheffield
55% 45%
Game 2 Wednesday, July 7 | 7:10 pm
RHP Domingo Germán LHP Yusei Kikuchi
50% 50%
Game 3 Thursday, July 8 | 1:10 pm
LHP Jordan Montgomery RHP Logan Gilbert
53% 47%
*Game odds courtesy of FiveThirtyEight (Explainer)

Team Overview

Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 99 (9th in AL) 91 (11th in AL) Yankees
Fielding (OAA) -7 (10th) -6 (9th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 91 (3rd) 112 (13th) Yankees
Bullpen (FIP-) 86 (1st) 87 (2nd) Yankees

After a fantastic month of May where they went 17-10, the Yankees looked like they were starting to make some noise in the AL East. Nearly every projection system had pegged them as the best team in the league heading into the season but they had started the year off really slow. It turns out that strong stretch in May was just an illusion; they’ve slid backwards hard in June and July. They’ve won just three times in their last ten games and now sit in fourth place in their division. Their problems are many: outside of Gerrit Cole, their starting rotation has been a mess; Aroldis Chapman and the rest of the relief corps have really struggled in June; and their offense has been surprisingly punchless given the star power populating their lineup.

Yankees Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
DJ LeMahieu 2B R 357 0.307 102 0.0
Aaron Judge RF R 330 0.341 147 -1.4
Gary Sánchez C R 243 0.262 122 -1.8
Giancarlo Stanton DH R 264 0.331 131 -3.0
Luke Voit 1B R 100 0.263 70 -0.7
Gleyber Torres SS R 297 0.298 82 1.0
Gio Urshela 3B R 288 0.337 110 -5.5
Miguel Andújar LF R 157 0.267 81 -2.1
Tim Locastro CF R 135 0.215 42 -0.2

Aaron Judge is the only player in the Yankees lineup playing up to his lofty expectations. He’s continued to crush baseballs with ease and has continued to cut his strikeout rate from it’s high point in 2019. The most surprising struggles belong to Gleyber Torres. He’s hit just three home runs this year and has collected just 12 extra-base hits, a huge drop in power production for the 24-year-old shortstop. In 2019, his isolated power was an excellent .256; it’s now dropped to just .069 and his OBP is sitting higher than his SLG. New York’s lineup has also really struggled with some baserunning issues. They don’t have much speed in their lineup, they’ve run into far too many outs on the base paths, and they’ve grounded into the most double-plays of any team in baseball this year.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Jameson Taillon

69 2/3 24.1% 6.9% 15.1% 32.4% 5.43 4.75
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 50.7% 93.8 2426 109 135 99
Sinker 3.6% 94.3 2283 89
Changeup 5.0% 87.8 1928 49
Curveball 19.9% 80.8 2772 121 68 82
Slider 20.8% 87.3 2543 130 55 86
Taillon’s sinker and changeup do not have large enough sample sizes for pitch arsenal scores.

After two Tommy John surgeries and a host of other less severe injuries, Jameson Taillon is finally healthy enough to be contributing regularly. His most recent surgery kept him off the mound for the majority of the 2019 season and all of last year. He made some big adjustments to his throwing mechanics during his rehab in an effort to stay healthier. His short arm action has helped him add a bunch of ride to his four-seam fastball, a pitch he’s throwing more often as a Yankee. Opposing batters are swinging and missing over 30% of the time they offer at his heater, helping him push his strikeout rate up to a career high. Unfortunately, he’s also allowed seven home runs off his four-seamer too which has led to an high ERA and FIP.

RHP Domingo Germán

76 21.1% 5.9% 15.0% 42.7% 4.50 4.76
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 29.0% 93.2 2464 83 93 101
Sinker 15.1% 93.6 2368 115 134 95
Changeup 22.8% 86.3 2274 91 83 61
Curveball 33.1% 80.9 2600 85 116 104

Towards the end of the 2019, Domingo Germán was suspended 81 games for violating the league’s domestic violence policy. At the time, it was the longest suspension MLB had issued for an incident of domestic violence. Because the season was shortened to just 60 games last year, he ended up missing the entire season. He’s back on the mound this year after serving his suspension. His strikeout rate has fallen by nearly five points from where it was a few years ago as all four of his pitches have seen a dramatic drop in whiff rate. Without the elite strikeout rates he enjoyed earlier in his career, his gaudy home run rate has really hurt his overall production.

LHP Jordan Montgomery

86 1/3 23.8% 7.2% 9.6% 41.9% 4.17 3.49
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 14.5% 92.7 2274 68 97 76
Sinker 22.5% 92.6 2177 102 92 95
Cutter 14.9% 87.7 2393 84 65 88
Changeup 24.9% 82.7 1706 108 114 114
Curveball 23.1% 80.0 2239 77 116 98

Jordan Montgomery returned from Tommy John surgery last year throwing harder than he ever had before. After averaging just under 92 mph on his heater during his rookie season, his fastball is now sitting at 92.7 mph. That added velocity has helped him improve his strikeout rate by over two points over where it was during his debut season. Last year, an extremely high home run rate led to an ERA that outpaced his FIP by 1.24 runs. He’s managed to curtail those dingers significantly this year, and that’s helped him lower his ERA by almost a full run.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 52-33 0.612 -- L-W-W-W-W
Athletics 49-37 0.570 3.5 W-L-L-W-L
Mariners 45-40 0.529 7.0 W-W-W-L-W
Angels 42-42 0.500 9.5 W-W-W-W-L
Rangers 33-52 0.388 19.0 W-L-W-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rays 49-36 0.576 +0.5 L-L-L-W-W
Athletics 49-37 0.570 -- W-L-L-W-L
Mariners 45-40 0.529 3.5 W-W-W-L-W
Blue Jays 43-39 0.524 4.0 L-L-W-W-L
Cleveland 42-40 0.512 5.0 L-L-L-L-L
Yankees 42-41 0.506 5.5 W-L-L-L-W

The Astros bounced back from their four-game losing streak by sweeping Cleveland in four games over the weekend. They head into the All-Star break with big series against the A’s and Yankees at home. Oakland has been limping through the end of last month and into the break; they haven’t won a series since sweeping the Angels from June 14-16. The A’s lost their series to the Red Sox last weekend and travel to Houston and Arlington this week. The Angels roller coaster of a season has continued with another upswing to push them back to .500. They swept the Orioles, including two exciting walk-off wins on Friday and Sunday, but lost the first game of their series against the Red Sox yesterday.

The Rays extended Cleveland’s losing streak with a come-from-behind, walk-off win yesterday. Tropical Storm Elsa has already caused a postponement of the second game of that series and the two teams will hope to play a double-header on Wednesday. The Blue Jays won their series against the Rays last weekend and will travel to Baltimore this week before wrapping up the first half of the season with another series against the Rays.