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Series Preview: Mariners (22-24) vs. Athletics (10-38)

The Mariners return to Seattle for long homestand, beginning with four games against the A’s.

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Having gone 4-5 on the road these past ten days, the M’s come home today to face the best get-right crew in baseball: the Oakland Athletics. Mariners starters reliably keep games winnable; it’s up to the batters now to actually win them. I’m looking forward to José Caballero continuing to give the team reasons to start him at second – what are you looking forward to in this series?

At a Glance

Athletics Mariners
Athletics Mariners
Game 1 Monday, May 22 | 6:40 pm
LHP Kyle Muller RHP Luis Castillo
33% 67%
Game 2 Tuesday, May 23 | 6:40 pm
RHP Luis Medina LHP Marco Gonzales
41% 59%
Game 3 Wednesday, May 24 | 6:40 pm
LHP Ken Waldichuk RHP Bryce Miller
36% 64%
Game 4 Thursday, May 25 | 6:40 pm
LHP JP Sears RHP Logan Gilbert
38% 62%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Overview Athletics Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 94 (10th in AL) 94 (9th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) -6 (13th) 10 (1st) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 148 (15th) 82 (2nd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 139 (15th) 74 (1st) Mariners

Since the Mariners visited the Colosseum at the start of this month, Oakland has continued to plummet. They’ve lost four of five series in that span, two via sweep. Their run differential is -168! As a reminder from the previous series preview: 2023 is not an opportunity to focus on future promise for Oakland fans, however, since the team has officially announced an agreement to purchase land in Las Vegas for a new stadium, with the team intending to begin playing there in 2027. While the deal is far from done, this is a crushing betrayal for many fans, whose devotion has gone unrewarded for many years.

Athletics Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Esteury Ruiz CF R 211 17.5% 3.8% 0.095 111
Ryan Noda 1B L 148 32.4% 20.9% 0.204 139
Brent Rooker DH R 169 24.9% 13.6% 0.284 166
Shea Langeliers C R 160 28.1% 8.1% 0.189 94
Jace Peterson 3B L 145 25.5% 12.4% 0.104 85
Ramón Laureano RF R 134 30.6% 3.7% 0.205 81
JJ Bleday LF L 54 25.9% 7.4% 0.240 116
Jordan Diaz 2B R 72 23.6% 2.8% 0.188 82
Nick Allen SS R 75 17.3% 5.3% 0.059 47

Not much has changed overall since last we saw the A’s in Oakland, but there could be lineup changes this series with Seth Brown’s impending return from the IL. The outfielder, one of only two good hitters for the A’s in 2022, will rejoin the team in Seattle after missing a month and a half with an oblique strain. Brown’s return is likely to improve the team’s performance, but it will also mean reduced playing time for younger, developing players. The two young players showing the most promise, who will certainly keep their playing time even with Brown’s return, are Esteury Ruiz and Brent Rooker. 24-year-old center fielder Ruiz leads the majors with 24 stolen bases, and has a 112 wRC+. 28-year-old Rooker is having a breakout start to the season, leading Oakland in all major offensive categories, including posting a 173 wRC+. Shea Langaliers (the A’s primary catcher since Sean Murphy was traded last winter) has cooled off considerably over the last month, though he’ll likely heat up again at some point in the year.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Arizona Diamondbacks v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

LHP Kyle Muller

42 14.6% 10.2% 16.3% 47.7% 7.71 5.75
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 48.6% 92.7 79 66 111 0.487
Changeup 8.0% 87 84
Curveball 13.8% 80.6 97 83 76 0.273
Slider 29.7% 86.6 87 75 95 0.351

Along with Ruiz, Kyle Muller was the other big prospect that came back in the Sean Murphy trade. He had a couple of stints in the majors with the Braves, but a walk rate that cleared 13% indicated he had a lot of development left before he was ready for the big leagues. He’s lowered his walk rate to just above 10% this year but his strikeout rate has completely cratered. He’s locating his pitches in the zone more often but that’s only led to a huge jump in contact rate allowed. His stuff just isn’t good enough to induce enough whiffs in the zone so batters are spitting on his pitches off the plate while crushing everything that’s left in the strike zone.

RHP Luis Medina

17 20.5% 6.8% 29.4% 49.1% 6.88 6.24

Three pitching prospects came over from the Yankees in the Frankie Montas trade and all three have now made it to the majors — and all three are scheduled to take the mound against the Mariners in this series. The first is Luis Medina who got his call up in late-April. His first start in the majors was an ugly, eight-run blowout but he was a bit better in his two outings after that. Issues with command have limited his upside as a prospect despite a plus fastball and a good breaking ball. The lack of a third pitch in his repertoire likely points to his future as a flame-throwing reliever, but it’s in Oakland’s best interest to help him develop his changeup and hope he sticks in the rotation.

LHP Ken Waldichuk

46 17.7% 12.7% 20.6% 35.6% 6.85 7.30
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 56.0% 92.8 85 75 117 0.400
Changeup 14.7% 83.6 101 111 96 0.413
Sweeper 26.1% 80.2 96 66 97 0.333

Ken Waldichuk also came over to the Bay Area in the Montas trade and quickly made his major league debut for the A’s last summer. He enjoyed a breakout season in the minors before getting shipped off, fueled by a good, sweeping slider and a developing changeup. The knock against him — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — is his command, particularly with his fastball. He’s often forced to use his breaking ball, which he can locate with precision, as an in-zone option to cover for his wild heater. That’s certainly not the best usage of his slider since he’s not getting many whiffs on it when it’s over the plate.

LHP JP Sears

48 2/3 25.1% 4.9% 14.1% 26.8% 4.99 5.01
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 52.4% 92.8 96 119 63 0.333
Changeup 10.8% 83.0 96 89 59 0.521
Slider 31.6% 80.5 90 71 116 0.298

From a previous series preview:

JP Sears made his major league debut last year and was involved in the big Frankie Montas trade last summer. His best pitch is a flat, four-seam fastball that he can command at the top of the zone to get plenty of whiffs. Unfortunately, he’s also prone to allowing tons of loud contact off that pitch when he misses his spots. He’s transformed his breaking ball from a slurvy slider into a true sweeper this year. That’s given him a second weapon in his arsenal to play off his heater. Unfortunately, his changeup is still a work-in-progress which means he’s struggling to keep right-handed batters at bay.

Sears held the Mariners scoreless across six innings in his last outing against them, allowing six baserunners while striking out seven. It was the best start this season by any Oakland starter.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 29-17 0.630 -- W-L-W-W-W
Astros 27-19 0.587 2.0 W-W-W-W-W
Angels 25-23 0.521 5.0 L-W-W-L-W
Mariners 22-24 0.478 7.0 L-L-L-W-L
Athletics 10-38 0.208 20.0 W-L-L-L-L

The Mariners are starting to slip further behind in the AL West, as the Rangers hold on to first with Houston close behind. The Rangers walloped the Rockies three games in a row over the weekend, while Houston swept the A’s in a more subdued manner. The Angels took two of three from the Twins, and hope for similar results as Boston comes to town. Both Texas teams head north for interleague play this week, with Houston going to Milwaukee and the Rangers to Pittsburgh.