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Series Preview: Mariners (8-8) vs. Brewers (11-5)

The Mariners continue their long stretch of interleague play with a three-game series against the Brewers.

Milwaukee Brewers v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

After sweeping away the hapless Rockies, the Mariners enter into the third part of their five-part tour of the National League facing off against the Brew Crew. Like the Rockies, the Brewers aren’t a complete black box, as the two organizations share the Cactus League as well as the Arizona Complex League, although familiarity with the Brewers’ minor-league system might be of limited assistance as, since 2019, they’ve consistently ranked among the worst farm systems in baseball in Baseball America’s organizational lists (this year they do climb all the way up to 13). This year’s Brewers look a lot like the Brewers who made the playoffs for four consecutive playoff appearances before just missing in 2023: heavy on the pitching, anchored by Christian Yelich and company, although this year that company is bolstered by the arrival of 2018 first-rounder Brice Turang and 2020 first-rounder Garrett Mitchell.

At a Glance

Brewers Mariners
Brewers Mariners
Game 1 Monday, April 17 | 6:40 pm
RHP Corbin Burnes RHP Chris Flexen
58% 42%
Game 2 Tuesday, April 18 | 6:40 pm
RHP Colin Rea RHP Logan Gilbert
43% 57%
Game 3 Wednesday, April 19 | 1:10 pm
LHP Eric Lauer LHP Marco Gonzales
48% 52%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Brewers Mariners Edge
Overview Brewers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 104 (6th in NL) 107 (4th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 4 (6th) 1 (10th) Brewers
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 96 (6th) 106 (8th) Brewers
Bullpen (FIP-) 101 (9th) 95 (7th) Mariners
2022 stats

The anti-Mariners, the Brewers were able to take advantage over a weak NL Central and make the playoffs consecutively between 2017 - 2021. Must. Be. Nice. They narrowly missed qualifying again in 2022, missing a Wild Card spot by one game to the eventual NL champs in Philadelphia, but have started 2023 out with a vengeance, leaping to first place in the NL Central with an 11-5 record, second only in win percentage to Atlanta. That’s not a smoke and mirrors start, either—by ESPN’s RPI (Relative Power Index), the Brew Crew are the best team in baseball, essentially replicating their expected win-loss record in the standings.

Brewers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Christian Yelich LF L 671 24.1% 13.1% 0.130 111
Jesse Winker DH L 547 18.8% 15.4% 0.125 108
Willy Adames SS R 617 26.9% 7.9% 0.220 109
Rowdy Tellez 1B L 599 20.2% 10.4% 0.242 110
William Contreras C R 376 27.7% 10.4% 0.228 138
Garrett Mitchell CF L 289 25.6% 10.4% 0.139 118
Brian Anderson 3B R 383 26.4% 9.7% 0.124 90
Brice Turang 2B L 603 19.6% 10.8% 0.126 108
Joey Wiemer RF R 548 26.8% 10.0% 0.209 109
2022 stats

The Brewers and Mariners swung a series of off-season trades, but the most remarked-upon was definitely the Kolten Wong for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro trade, which so far looks like a pretty rough exchange for the Mariners. While Wong has scuffled in Seattle, Winker has been off to a solid early start in Milwaukee, hitting in the two-hole for his new club (Toro is with the team’s Triple-A club). However, Winker has missed some time recently with an illness and was scratched from Sunday’s game with what was described as “oblique tightness,” so it’s unclear if he’ll play in the series opener today or at all. Outside of Winker, the Brewers continue to be anchored by leadoff man Christian Yelich, so far off to a slow start, and shortstop Willy Adames. Catcher William Contreras and Beef Boy Rowdy Tellez are the power hitters in the cleanup-adjacent spot, and the club’s two youngsters, Garrett Mitchell and Brice Turang, try to keep things rolling from there. But the Milwaukee Brewers are not, and have never been, about the lineup scoring double-digit runs a night. Their strength, like the Mariners, is in a powerful starting rotation and a lights-out bullpen.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Milwaukee Brewers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

RHP Corbin Burnes

202 30.5% 6.4% 14.1% 47.0% 2.94 3.14
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 6.7% 96.3 2495 86 177 71
Cutter 55.4% 95.0 2626 137 113 103
Changeup 9.8% 90.3 2045 87 153 100
Curveball 18.4% 81.6 2761 126 150 96
Slider 9.2% 88.2 2801 139 142 106
2022 stats

After struggling to establish himself during the first two years of his major league career, Corbin Burns made the leap to elite status during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Since then, he’s been the most valuable pitcher in the National League and won the Cy Young award in 2021 behind a 1.63 FIP in 28 starts. He struggled to follow up that brilliant campaign last year, though he was still among the league’s best. His strikeout rate fell a bit, a few more batted balls flew over the fence, and his FIP jumped up to 3.14. He did manage to cross the 200 innings pitched threshold, an important marker for him as he continues to grow into an elite workhorse.

RHP Colin Rea

111 20.4% 7.5% 3.57 4.00
2022 NPB stats

Colin Rea was a big time Padres prospect all the way back in 2015, but his ascent was halted when he underwent Tommy John surgery the next year. He bounced around the minor leagues after that, making it back to the majors for brief spurts in 2020 and 2021. He pitched in Japan last year and then re-signed with the Brewers during the offseason. With Brandon Woodruff on the IL, Rea has been called on to fill that spot in the rotation. He throws a variety of fastballs with his cutter grading out the best of the trio. He’s also added a sweeper to his arsenal to go along with a splitter and curveball as secondary offerings.

LHP Eric Lauer

158 2/3 23.8% 8.9% 14.1% 33.6% 3.69 4.50
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 43.9% 93.3 2290 94 140 86
Cutter 19.4% 89.8 2269 86 63 96
Changeup 3.1% 87.2 1745 79
Curveball 16.0% 78.2 2399 93 54 69
Slider 17.5% 86.7 2285 102 71 120
2022 stats

Over the last two seasons, Eric Lauer has enjoyed the benefits of a fastball that’s averaged over 92 mph for the first time in his career. That added oomph has helped his heater earn a whiff more than a quarter of the time a batter offers at it. His best secondary offering is his slider, though it’s not the swing-and-miss weapon he’s needed to pair with his four-seamer. That’s left him pretty vulnerable if his fastball is off just a little. That’s exactly what’s happened this year, as his velocity is down three miles per hour and his results have really stunk through his first three starts.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 9-6 0.600 -- W-L-W-L-W
Mariners 8-8 0.500 1.5 L-W-W-W-W
Angels 7-8 0.467 2.0 W-W-L-L-L
Astros 7-9 0.438 2.5 L-W-L-W-L
Athletics 3-13 0.188 6.5 W-L-L-L-L

It’s still so early to talk about standings so instead let’s all have a laugh at this Angels fan who decided to look at the standings a week in and talk some smack:

I (Kate) will say this, even as someone who is constantly fearful the Angels will awaken like a sleeping giant and stomp all over the AL West, bro??? Pride, goeth, fall, things of that nature.