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Series Preview: Mariners (2-5) at Guardians (5-2)

After a rough opening homestand, the Mariners embark on their first road trip of the season.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Well that didn’t go as planned. It would be easy to overreact to the Mariners slow start, but it’s important to remember they’ve played less than 5% of their season so far. Last year, they were 10 games under .500 as late into the season as June 19. It does hurt a little that these first seven games came against likely playoff aspirants, but the M’s have an opportunity for some quick revenge against one of them this weekend.

At a Glance

Mariners Guardians
Mariners Guardians
Game 1 Friday, April 7 | 1:10 pm
RHP Logan Gilbert RHP Aaron Civale
47% 53%
Game 2 Saturday, April 8 | 3:10 pm
LHP Marco Gonzales RHP Cal Quantrill
42% 58%
Game 3 Sunday, April 9 | 10:40 am
RHP George Kirby RHP Zach Plesac
52% 48%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Guardians Mariners Edge
Overview Guardians Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 99 (8th in AL) 107 (4th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 15 (3rd) 1 (10th) Guardians
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 101 (7th) 106 (8th) Guardians
Bullpen (FIP-) 86 (3rd) 95 (7th) Guardians
2022 stats

Yep, the Mariners and Guardians will get all seven of their games against each other out of the way within the first 10 games of the season. Nothing has really changed with Cleveland since that first series of the year so I’ll just run back what I wrote a week ago:

The Guardians surprised a lot of people by making a late season run into the playoffs last year with the youngest roster in baseball. Not only did they make it to October baseball, but they were a win away from knocking off the Yankees and advancing to the Championship Series. With a roster filled with youngsters, they didn’t have much work to do this offseason, adding Josh Bell to serve as first baseman and designated hitter and Mike Zunino to knock dingers. With a lineup that excels at making contact, adding some power was a real concern that they addressed with those two moves.

Cleveland has been hard at work handing out contract extensions to key members of their young core, signing Andrés Giménez to a seven-year deal and Trevor Stephan to a four-year deal. They’re also in “advanced negotiations” with a number of other players. With an excellent farm system and a proven development program that continues to spit out homegrown talent, the Guardians are poised to stick atop the AL Central for years to come.

Guardians Lineup

Player Position Bats K% BB% ISO wRC+ BsR
Player Position Bats K% BB% ISO wRC+ BsR
Steven Kwan LF L 9.4% 9.7% 0.101 124 4.9
Amed Rosario SS R 16.6% 3.7% 0.121 103 1.5
José Ramírez 3B S 12.0% 10.1% 0.235 139 6.0
Josh Bell DH S 15.8% 12.5% 0.156 123 -5.6
Josh Naylor 1B L 16.1% 7.6% 0.196 117 -3.6
Oscar Gonzalez RF R 19.6% 3.9% 0.166 122 -1.3
Andrés Giménez 2B L 20.1% 6.1% 0.169 140 3.4
Mike Zunino C R 37.4% 4.9% 0.157 43 0.0
Myles Straw CF R 14.6% 9.1% 0.052 64 7.6
2022 stats

The Guardians lineup is built around José Ramírez. He’s the engine that drives the train. He played through a hand injury for the entire second half of the season, causing his production to drop to a 107 wRC+ after sustaining the injury in mid-June. Now that he’s fully healthy, he should regain his place as the most dangerous hitter in their lineup. Cleveland posted the lowest team strikeout rate in baseball last year to go along with the second lowest isolated power in the American League. No one exemplified that team-wide approach more than Steven Kwan. He batted nearly .300 in his rookie campaign with absolutely no power to speak of, but managed to post a 124 wRC+ thanks to a strong penchant for getting on-base by any means possible. The Guardians rewarded Giménez’s breakout season last year with a big payday. He had always shown excellent bat-to-ball skills throughout his career but figured out a way to add some power to his profile, slugging 17 home runs and posting a 140 wRC+.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Aaron Civale

97 24.1% 5.4% 13.1% 41.2% 4.92 3.87
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 8.8% 90.7 2354 68 51 72
Sinker 21.9% 91.3 2312 81 48 77
Cutter 34.8% 86.3 2612 101 88 95
Splitter 3.6% 85.5 1843 18
Curveball 27.5% 75.9 2971 143 142 102
Slider 1.8% 81.6 2781
2022 stats

From a previous series preview:

Aaron Civale wasn’t healthy last year; two separate trips to the IL forced him to miss almost two months of the season and held him to just 20 starts. When he was on the mound, the results just didn’t go his way. His ERA outpaced his FIP by more than a full run thanks to an extremely low strand rate and a high BABIP allowed. His underlying metrics were actually pretty decent; he posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career and finally honed his deep repertoire down to his best three pitches. Never content with his pitches, he introduced a sweeping slider to his pitch mix late in the season, a pitch that could give him a second swing-and-miss weapon to pair with his excellent curveball.

Civale was brilliant against the Mariners in his first start of the season. He threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out three. He didn’t throw that sweeper that was introduced last year, instead relying on his cutter and curveball to generate plenty of weak contact.

RHP Cal Quantrill

186 1/3 16.6% 6.1% 9.6% 42.1% 3.38 4.12
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 2.7% 93.4 2165 86
Sinker 45.2% 93.6 2105 81 88 123
Cutter 36.0% 88.5 2238 101 97 102
Changeup 11.8% 85.3 1532 87 74 97
Curveball 4.20% 82.7 2449 103 74 123
2022 stats

From a previous series preview:

The Guardians have a penchant for developing valuable starters out of pitchers with subpar raw stuff. Cal Quantrill is the latest example of this development pipeline. He doesn’t find success through big swing-and-miss stuff, he simply has a knack for generating weak contact. That pitch-to-contact approach means that his actual results will always outpace his peripherals. The margin for error is razor thin, however. He doesn’t possess a bowling ball sinker like Framber Valdez and doesn’t strikeout enough batters to sneak his way out jams when the batted balls start falling for hits. Cleveland’s excellent defense behind him certainly helps, and eating innings will always be an undervalued skill on a competitive roster, it’s just not the most exciting profile for a pitcher.

The Mariners roughed up Quantrill in his start in Seattle, collecting eight hits and two walks off him.

RHP Zach Plesac

131 2/3 17.6% 6.7% 11.7% 40.0% 4.31 4.45
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 42.7% 91.9 2151 76 70 104
Changeup 22.4% 85.7 1628 87 53 79
Curveball 10.4% 79.3 2182 96 76 105
Slider 24.3% 85.4 2125 118 107 88
2022 stats

Zach Plesac is still searching for the magic that led to a breakout season back in 2020. He hasn’t come close to repeating his elite 9.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio from that year and his overall results have suffered. His slider and changeup were the two pitches that drove his success three years ago and neither of them have been as good as they were during the pandemic-shortened season. The pitch shape of those two secondary offerings has changed for the worse since then; neither pitch is dropping as much, leading to a pretty significant loss of effectiveness. Without those two weapons, he’s settled in as a back-end, innings-eating starter with a 4.59 FIP across the last two years.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Angels 4-2 0.667 -- W-W-W-L-W
Rangers 4-2 0.667 -- W-W-L-L-W
Astros 3-4 0.429 1.5 W-L-L-L-W
Athletics 2-4 0.333 2.0 L-L-L-W-L
Mariners 2-5 0.286 2.5 L-L-L-W-L

If it’s any consolation, the Astros have struggled to start the season too. They lost their three-game series against the Tigers earlier this week and travel to Minnesota to face the Twins this weekend. The Angels will host the Blue Jays and the Rangers head to Chicago to take on the Cubs.