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Series Preview: Mariners (52-50) at Diamondbacks (55-48)

The Mariners head to the desert to face the Snakes this weekend.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners are making it hard to give up on 2023, despite their record; they hover 4.5 games out of the Wild Card race after a rollercoaster series win against the Twins. It’s not a hot streak, per se, but two series of consistently competitive baseball does make me start to want it again (the postseason). Today, Seattle heads to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks for the only time this year. After Dylan Moore’s two-homer game on Wednesday, I’ll be paying attention to his at-bats this weekend. Given his rocky recovery from the injury that caused him to miss the start of the season, and a very short rehab stint when he did return in May, I’m hoping he’s still been returning to full strength these last two months and this week was just the start of an uptick in production. I’m also looking forward to watching our hometown rookie All-Star Corbin Carroll on the D-Backs! What will you be watching for this weekend?

At a Glance

Mariners Diamondbacks
Mariners Diamondbacks
Game 1 Friday, July 28 | 6:40 pm
RHP Logan Gilbert LHP Tommy Henry
53% 47%
Game 2 Saturday, July 29 | 5:10 pm
RHP Bryan Woo RHP Brandon Pfaadt
49% 51%
Game 3 Sunday, July 30 | 1:10 pm
RHP Luis Castillo RHP Merrill Kelly
53% 47%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Diamondbacks Mariners Edge
Overview Diamondbacks Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 104 (4th in NL) 101 (9th in AL) Diamondbacks
Fielding (OAA) 16 (2nd) 10 (4th) Diamondbacks
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 107 (11th) 94 (3rd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 103 (13th) 90 (2nd) Mariners

The Diamondbacks are a young team with a bright future who have slumped in July after starting the year dramatically exceeding expectations. Before the season started, FanGraphs projected them for fourth in the NL West and a losing record overall, but they spent the first half of the season as one of the top two teams in the division and with a record in the high .500s. After going 17-10 in May and 16-11 in June, they’ve struggled in July, getting swept by both the Blue Jays and the Reds since the All-Star Break and posting a lousy 6-14 record this month so far. Arizona is now third in the West, behind both the Dodgers and the Giants, and half a game out of the NL Wild Card spots. General Manager Mike Hazen has asserted that the team is still in it, and vows that he’s looking to improve the team as the trade deadline nears. Pitching, especially in the bullpen, has been the biggest hole all year for the D-Backs, but the starting rotation and even the bats are looking like they could use a boost as well.

The team’s July struggles have put a damper of recency bias on what is unquestionably a promising team still outperforming expectations. Arizona is 7th in the majors in team offensive fWAR, and they strike out less frequently than all other teams but two. They have the starting pitcher with the third best fWAR in MLB (Zac Gallen, 3.6, who luckily the Mariners miss this weekend), and several up-and-coming stars promising an exciting window of contention in the years to come.

Diamondbacks Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Geraldo Perdomo SS S 315 15.2% 14.0% 0.141 125
Ketel Marte 2B S 422 16.1% 10.2% 0.224 137
Corbin Carroll LF L 400 20.5% 9.3% 0.268 145
Christian Walker 1B R 424 18.4% 9.9% 0.260 130
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. DH R 376 16.5% 5.6% 0.203 99
Emmanuel Rivera 3B R 208 19.7% 6.3% 0.124 101
Jake McCarthy RF L 248 20.6% 8.5% 0.100 90
Carson Kelly C R 69 30.4% 2.9% 0.061 7
Alek Thomas CF L 223 22.9% 4.5% 0.166 79

Four players are carrying Arizona’s lineup this season, and leading them all is Seattle’s own, Lakeside graduate, runaway NL Rookie of the Year favorite, Corbin Carroll. Left fielder Carroll leads the team in many offensive categories and also sits in the top ten in baseball in fWAR (4.3), wRC+ (145), and stolen bases (30). He’s got exciting speed as well as power, with 21 homers on the season. Another of the Diamondbacks’ under-24 trio, shortstop Geraldo Perdomo, joined Carroll at the All-Star Game; Perdomo is defensively excellent, walks a lot, and boasts a 125 wRC+. The third player under age 24 is center fielder Alek Thomas, who debuted to some hype but not much success last season. Thomas is hitting well below league average this year, to the disappointment of those hoping for a bounceback sophomore season.

Joining Carroll and Perdomo in the top echelon of AZ hitters is a face familiar to Mariners fans, second baseman Ketel Marte. Marte’s year looks to return to his 2021 levels of success after a down year in 2022; current fun fact is that he’s tied with Shohei Ohtani for the most triples in MLB (7)! Rounding out the top four is veteran first baseman Christian Walker. Walker had a 4.0 fWAR year in 160 games last season and is on pace to surpass that this year.

The rest of the lineup hovers around league average, with designated hitter Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. bringing additional power. The biggest hole in the D-Backs’ lineup is at catcher: primary catcher Carson Kelly is having a dismal season at the plate, with single-digit wRC+. Top-25 prospect Gabriel Moreno was serving as backup catcher before hitting the injured list with shoulder inflammation on Sunday. Moreno and Gurriel came to Arizona as the return for Daulton Varsho last winter from the Blue Jays. Moreno had only an 82 wRC+ before his injury, however, it sounds like the shoulder had been bothering him for some time, and Moreno will remain part of the young core prophesied to carry the team to future success.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Tommy Henry

83 16.3% 9.6% 10.5% 36.8% 4.01 5.14
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 49.3% 90.7 72 73 81 0.404
Changeup 20.2% 84.0 91 111 88 0.279
Curveball 19.0% 79.1 96 69 136 0.263
Slider 11.6% 83.2 94 85 139 0.215

A college-arm drafted in the second round of the 2019 draft, Tommy Henry has moved quickly through Arizona’s system. He made his debut last year and has served as a serviceable back-end starter for them this season. He’s overly reliant on a mediocre fastball despite possessing three pretty decent secondary offerings. His changeup is the best of that trio, earning plenty of whiffs and groundballs. His two breaking balls don’t miss as many bats as he’d like, but both generate tons of weak contact when put in play. It certainly seems like he’d be able to find a lot more success if he cut the usage of his heater, but until he does that, he’s prone to getting lit up if opposing batters can successfully hunt for his fastball.

RHP Brandon Pfaadt

31 2/3 18.5% 6.8% 24.0% 28.0% 8.81 7.64
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 52.3% 93.7 98 74 77 0.400
Sinker 4.1% 93.2
Changeup 15.7% 86.9 87 136 147 0.467
Curveball 5.4% 78.8
Sweeper 22.5% 83.4 126 91 74 0.305

Brandon Pfaadt was the top ranked pitching prospect in Arizona’s system and ranked 16th overall on FanGraphs’ preseason top 100 prospect list. After rushing through the minors over the last two years, he made his major league debut earlier this season in May. Things haven’t exactly gone to plan at the highest level. He’s really struggled to translate his swing-and-miss stuff in the big leagues and opposing batters have simply crushed his fastball and changeup. The talent is still there but he’s still figuring out which adjustments he needs to make to find success against the best hitters in the world.

RHP Merrill Kelly

101 25.4% 9.6% 11.5% 45.2% 3.12 3.78
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 28.8% 92.4 80 135 88 0.334
Sinker 13.8% 92.4 88 83 98 0.375
Cutter 16.0% 91.3 87 91 86 0.289
Changeup 23.2% 88.9 105 108 85 0.266
Curveball 13.5% 82.4 125 91 105 0.367
Slider 4.7% 86.1 107

Ever since returning to the US in 2019 after a four year stint in Korea, Merrill Kelly has been a solid mid-rotation starter for the Diamondbacks. Over the last two years, he’s taken a pretty big step forward; his combined FIP during the last two seasons is 3.69, more than 60 points lower than what he accomplished over his previous three seasons in Arizona. The biggest difference for him has been an increasing reliance on his excellent changeup while continuing to keep batters off balance with five other pitches in his arsenal. He’s increased his strikeout rate by more than three points this year, up to a career high, but it’s come with a corresponding increase in walk rate. He’s throwing his pitches out of the zone more often than ever, and it’s led to a huge jump in chase rate, but the additional free passes have sort of negated the benefits of the added swings and misses.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 60-43 0.583 -- L-W-L-L-W
Astros 58-45 0.563 2.0 L-W-W-W-L
Angels 54-49 0.524 6.0 L-W-W-W-W
Mariners 52-50 0.510 7.5 W-L-L-W-W
Athletics 28-76 0.269 32.5 L-W-L-L-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tampa Bay 62-43 0.590 +4.0 W-L-L-W-L
Astros 58-45 0.563 +1.0 L-W-W-W-L
Blue Jays 57-46 0.553 -- L-W-W-L-W
Red Sox 55-47 0.539 1.5 L-W-W-W-W
Yankees 54-48 0.529 2.5 W-W-W-L-W
Angels 54-49 0.524 3.0 L-W-W-W-W
Mariners 52-50 0.510 4.5 W-L-L-W-W

Ho, hum, more of the same. Nothing consequential has changed since last we checked on the standings… the Mariners are still hanging off the bottom of the division race and one-foot-in, one-foot-out on the Wild Card. The AL-West-leading Rangers lost two of three to Houston this week and will spend the weekend in San Diego. Four Wild Card contenders face off with one another (Tampa Bay at Houston and the Angels at Toronto), so those standings might shuffle a bit by Monday. The Angels, by the way, swept the Tigers in three this week, including a doubleheader that featured Ohtani’s first MLB one-hit shutout in the first game and two home runs in the second game. Meanwhile, Oakland’s free fall continued with a sweep at the hands of the Giants; the A’s play their counterparts at the bottom of the NL West in Colorado starting today.