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Series Preview: Mariners (28-25) vs. Yankees (32-23)

The Yankees are in town for a three-game series that wraps up the homestand.

San Diego Padres v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It was a good weekend at T-Mobile Park, as the Mariners’ series win against the Pirates guarantees them a winning record for both this homestand and the month of May. Excitement and relief went hand in hand as several players who’d been struggling showed signs of a return to form; Luis Castillo looked like his dominant self again Saturday and Julio Rodríguez surged to the tune of six hits and two home runs in the series. The M’s have an opportunity this week to prove that their recent success is sustainable against a better opponent and in slightly more hostile conditions: the New York Yankees come to town, which means power hitters and a plethora of Yankees fans in our house. Luckily, the vibes are good coming off yesterday’s walkoff win, so bring on the Bronx Bombers.

At a Glance

Yankees Mariners
Yankees Mariners
Game 1 Monday, May 29 | 6:40 pm
RHP Domingo Germán RHP Bryce Miller
44% 56%
Game 2 Tuesday, May 30 | 6:40 pm
LHP Nestor Cortes RHP Logan Gilbert
46% 54%
Game 3 Wednesday, May 31 | 6:40 pm
RHP Clarke Schmidt RHP George Kirby
44% 56%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Overview Yankees Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 100 (8th in AL) 99 (9th in AL) Yankees
Fielding (OAA) 2 (7th) 9 (1st) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 102 (7th) 83 (2nd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 90 (6th) 74 (1st) Mariners

The 2023 Yankees are a very similar team to the one that won the NL East in 2022 before being swept out of the ALCS by the Astros. Nearly all of the big names remain the same, headlined by the mighty Aaron Judge. The competition in their division, however, has been cement mixed and spat back out, with the Rays starting the season red hot and last year’s Wild Card Blue Jays in last place. New York is right in the middle of their division and has been plagued by injury so far. From starters Carlos Rodón and Frankie Montas to Giancarlo Stanton’s current hamstring strain to Judge’s hip injury earlier this month, and on and on, the Yankees haven’t yet had a chance to field the team they promised. They have a perfectly average team wRC+ (just ahead of Seattle at 100), but sit fourth in home runs with 79… them’s the Yankees. Their pitching ranks 13th in team FIP (4.19), while the M’s are still number one. New York has swept two bad teams (the Reds and Athletics) and haven’t been swept yet. Most recently, they lost two of three to the Orioles and then took two of three from the Padres.

Yankees Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Gleyber Torres 2B R 227 12.3% 11.0% 0.187 121
Aaron Judge RF R 191 29.8% 15.7% 0.342 177
Anthony Rizzo 1B L 229 23.1% 7.9% 0.201 147
DJ LeMahieu 3B R 194 26.3% 8.2% 0.166 104
Harrison Bader CF R 93 14.0% 3.2% 0.250 110
Willie Calhoun DH L 103 13.6% 10.7% 0.143 95
Isiah Kiner-Falefa LF R 109 14.7% 5.5% 0.139 67
Kyle Higashioka C R 85 34.1% 7.1% 0.177 75
Anthony Volpe SS R 215 30.2% 9.8% 0.156 77

If you were paying attention last year, most of the names in the Yankees lineup will be familiar to you. Even if you weren’t paying attention last year, one name will be: Aaron Judge broke the American League single season home run record last season, was voted AL Most Valuable Player and TIME’s athlete of the year, and in December he signed a nine-year contract to remain with the Yankees. Though he spent ten days on the injured list earlier this month with a hip strain, Judge remains definitively the Yankees’ best hitter, with a 177 wRC+ and 15 home runs in 44 games. Right behind Judge in offensive stats sits first baseman Anthony Rizzo, with a 148 wRC+ and eleven home runs. Rizzo left the game after hurting his neck in a collision on Sunday but the team says he is fine; he is day to day and may be able to start all three games this series. Giancarlo Stanton shows as much power as ever this year, but the Mariners won’t see him, as he is yet to return from a hamstring injury sustained in mid-April.

The rest of the Yankees lineup consists mainly of familiar veterans and a key rookie. Some of those veterans, like Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu, are playing well above replacement level, while others like Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Willie Calhoun are very much not. The aforementioned rookie is 22-year-old shortstop Anthony Volpe, who was a top ten MLB prospect who crushed in in Spring Training to make the Opening Day roster. His first two months in the majors haven’t been smooth– he’s striking out a full 30% of the time, has a 77 wRC+, and he’s batting under .200. That said, he leads his team with 13 stolen bases and looks like many a rookie who eventually became successful; if you’re interested, here’s our partner site Pinstripe Alley breaking down the positive signs in Volpe’s season so far.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

RHP Domingo Germán

48 26.1% 8.0% 13.7% 38.8% 3.75 4.20
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 28.2% 92.4 88 97 87 0.486
Sinker 9.9% 92.4 75
Changeup 21.3% 85.7 94 108 111 0.284
Curveball 40.5% 82.7 105 120 124 0.227

Once a promising young starter for the Yankees, Domingo Germán has had a troubled six-year career in the Bronx. He was suspended in 2019 for a domestic violence incident and missed the entire 2020 season as a result. A recurring shoulder injury cut into his 2021 and ‘22 seasons and he was suspended for violating the league’s sticky substance policy earlier this month. On the mound, he’s run some very high strikeout rates thanks to a fantastic curveball that has a whiff rate around 40%. Unfortunately, his fastball gets hit really hard, leading to a significant home run problem throughout his career.

LHP Nestor Cortes

54 1/3 23.2% 7.0% 11.4% 25.8% 5.30 4.78
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 51.9% 91.5 101 110 89 0.251
Cutter 29.8% 86.4 108 85 118 0.353
Changeup 2.5% 83.1 91
Sweeper 13.0% 76.1 91 43 174 0.340

Nestor Cortes truly broke out last year after a tantalizing glimpse of what he was capable of in 2021. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff or a particularly nasty breaking ball; instead, he has a ton of funk and deception in his mechanics along with a four-seam fastball that has some of the highest ride in baseball. He’s able to play his cutter off that heater, creating a pretty tough pitch pair for opposing batters to identify. Add to that a sweeping slider to steal strikes and he’s got an arsenal built to keep batters off balance while throwing from various arm slots with quick pitches and hesitations all built into his delivery.

RHP Clarke Schmidt

50 25.3% 7.9% 14.3% 44.0% 5.58 4.25
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Sinker 25.6% 94.6 92 53 92 0.386
Cutter 23.7% 92.0 98 118 94 0.379
Curveball 18.6% 83.8 147 97 99 0.268
Sweeper 29.6% 86.5 121 81 98 0.321

Clarke Schmidt was really good out of the Yankees bullpen last year with a brand-new sweeper taking his repertoire from okay to really good. He now has two outstanding breaking balls and introduced a cutter to his arsenal to try and keep left-handed batters at bay. He’s been a full-time starter this year and his peripherals look pretty good but the actual run prevention has been pretty ugly. His home run rate is up, his BABIP is way up, and his strand rate is abnormally low. The result is an ERA that is more than a full run higher than his FIP and xFIP.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 33-19 0.635 -- W-W-W-W-L
Astros 31-21 0.596 2.0 L-L-W-W-W
Mariners 28-25 0.528 5.5 W-W-L-W-W
Angels 28-26 0.519 6.0 W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 10-45 0.182 24.5 L-L-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Orioles 34-19 0.642 +3.0 W-W-L-L-W
Astros 31-21 0.596 +0.5 L-L-W-W-W
Yankees 32-23 0.582 -- L-L-L-W-W
Red Sox 28-25 0.528 3.0 L-L-W-W-L
Mariners 28-25 0.528 3.0 W-W-L-W-W
Angels 28-26 0.519 3.5 W-W-L-L-L

Since our last series preview, the Mariners have overtaken the Angels in the AL West standings! Granted, that’s going from half a game behind them to half a game in front, but a journey of a thousand miles, etc., etc. Texas took two of three from Baltimore over the weekend, holding on to the division lead, and will head to Detroit for three games before the Mariners arrive in Texas on Friday. Houston unsurprisingly swept the A’s and face the Twins in Minnesota this week. The Athletics hope to halt their freefall as they host the Braves this week, and the Angels hope to get right against the White Sox after being swept by the Marlins.