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Series Preview: Mariners (5-5) vs. Rangers (2-7)

The Mariners play host to the Rangers as they continue their opening homestand.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

An emphatic series win over the Astros erased any lingering bad vibes from the opening Midwest road trip. The last time the Mariners posted a winning record against Houston was back in 2018; in the three years since, they’ve won just 25% of their games against the class of the AL West. If Seattle wants to prove they belong in the conversation with the other contenders in the American League, they’ll need to continue to play well against the Astros all season long. Last weekend was a good start. With the best teams in the AL Central and the Astros in the rear view mirror, the Mariners schedule lightens up a bit with home series against the Rangers and Royals.

At a Glance

Rangers Mariners
Rangers Mariners
Game 1 Tuesday, April 19 | 6:40 pm
RHP Jon Gray LHP Robbie Ray
42% 58%
Game 2 Wednesday, April 20 | 6:40 pm
RHP Dane Dunning RHP Logan Gilbert
43% 57%
Game 3 Thursday, April 21 | 6:40 pm
LHP Taylor Hearn LHP Marco Gonzales
43% 57%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Overview Rangers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 84 (15th in AL) 94 (10th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 25 (3rd) -6 (8th) Rangers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 121 (15th) 111 (12th) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 98 (8th) 89 (4th) Mariners
2021 stats

Two weeks is far too early to start panicking, but the Rangers have to be seriously disappointed with a 2-7 start to the season. After spending more than half a billion dollars on new free agents during the offseason, I’m sure there were more than a few fans who expected their results to magically swing towards the positive in 2022. What these first few weeks have exposed are some serious flaws on Texas’s roster that were easy to spot heading into the season. Adding Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to their lineup raises their ability to score runs — they scored 12 and 10 in their only two wins this season — but a pitching staff bereft of top end talent just isn’t good enough to keep their opponents off the board. Spending all that money certainly accelerated their timeline, but they’re still at least a year or two away from truly contending.

Rangers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats PA BABIP wRC+ BsR
Marcus Semien 2B R 724 0.276 131 4.0
Corey Seager SS L 409 0.336 147 -1.9
Mitch Garver C R 243 0.320 137 -0.1
Adolis García CF R 622 0.306 100 -1.4
Nathaniel Lowe 1B L 642 0.339 115 -2.2
Andy Ibáñez 3B R 272 0.297 107 -0.8
Kole Calhoun RF L 182 0.281 79 0.0
Nick Solak DH R 511 0.292 89 0.4
Charlie Culberson LF R 271 0.307 85 1.9
2021 stats

Of the two big acquisitions the Rangers made during the offseason, Seager is having the better start to the year. He’s slashing a neat .294/.351/.412 in eight games. His power hasn’t really shown up yet, but that will come. On the other hand, Semien has really struggled as a Ranger. He’s collected just five hits so far and his underlying contact metrics are a bit concerning. His average exit velocity is down to 83.1 mph and just 19.4% of his batted balls have been hard hit. It’s way too early to draw any conclusions from those numbers, but it’s something to monitor.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

RHP Jon Gray

149 24.4% 9.0% 15.1% 48.4% 4.59 4.22
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 47.6% 94.9 2152 114 80 112
Changeup 8.0% 87.6 1453 68 62 71
Curveball 6.3% 76.0 2587 83 95 116
Slider 38.1% 86.7 2413 105 111 98
2021 stats

A former first round draft pick of the Rockies, Jon Gray’s results in Colorado never really reached his lofty draft status. Across seven seasons in the rarified air of Coors Field, Gray posted a 4.59 ERA and a 3.91 FIP, perfectly acceptable when considering the run environment. It was all the more baffling when, upon reaching free agency, the Rockies did very little to attempt to retain his services or recoup any value from him signing elsewhere. They didn’t trade him for a haul of prospects last summer, they made no real attempt to sign him to an extension, and then didn’t attach a qualifying offer to him once the offseason had started. He wound up signing a four-year deal with the Rangers during their spending spree. He has made one start for Texas but was sidelined for the last 10 days with a blister on his throwing hand. It will be interesting to see how his stuff holds up out of the thin air in Colorado. He was able to rack up plenty of strikeouts with his slider but his fastball and curveball were both affected more by the altitude.

RHP Dane Dunning

117 2/3 22.3% 8.4% 14.3% 53.9% 4.51 3.94
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 54.9% 90.4 2035 88 82 88
Cutter 8.4% 85.8 2213 93 74 115
Changeup 13.8% 84.5 1935 101 106 127
Curveball 4.7% 78.2 2061 101
Slider 22.8% 79.7 2076 54 109 120
2021 stats

Dane Dunning has had a turbulent start to his career. He was involved in two major trades before even making his major league debut and lost a season and a half to a torn UCL. Acquired in the Lance Lynn deal prior to the 2021 season, the Rangers handled Dunning extremely carefully in his first full major league season. He averaged under five innings per start and threw more than 80 pitches in a game just four times. His approach is pretty simple: pound the zone with an average sinker and hope to get batters to chase his secondary offerings out of the zone. His slider and changeup have shown some promise but if he’s locating them off the plate so often, it becomes easier and easier for batters to just watch them go by. Four of his five pitches generate elite vertical movement, which explains how he’s able to run such a high groundball rate.

LHP Taylor Hearn

104 1/3 20.9% 9.5% 13.7% 39.4% 4.66 4.82
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 46.2% 95.1 2273 136 108 90
Sinker 21.6% 93.8 2168 102 112 81
Changeup 12.1% 86.8 1725 83 63 76
Slider 20.1% 84.3 2207 66 87 117
2021 stats

A lengthy injury history delayed much of Taylor Hearn’s development as a prospect. He debuted in the majors as a 24-year-old in 2019 in a disaster of a start against the Mariners. Working out of the bullpen for all of 2020 and the first half of last year, he was finally added to the rotation in late July. It wasn’t the smoothest transition but there were some positive signs. In particular, his two fastballs had great results. His four-seamer has plenty of ride and he can consistently locate it up in the zone for whiffs. He added his sinker mid-season last year and it’s been a positive addition to his arsenal. With excellent movement in both directions, it’s become another pitch he can use to keep batters off balance. His changeup and slider lag behind the hard stuff but both graded out above average while he was a prospect.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 6-4 0.600 -- L-L-W-L-W
Angels 6-5 0.545 0.5 L-W-W-W-L
Athletics 6-5 0.545 0.5 W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 5-5 0.500 1.0 L-W-W-L-W
Rangers 2-7 0.222 3.5 L-W-L-L-L

The Astros won their home opener last night against the Angels. Los Angeles had won three of four against the Rangers over the weekend but a minor injury to Mike Trout has held him out of the lineup over the last few days. The A’s lost two of three to the Blue Jays over the weekend but won the first game of their series against the Orioles yesterday. Their early season success has been one of the biggest surprises of the year so far.