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Series Preview: Mariners (63-54) at Royals (38-81)

The Mariners head to Kansas City for a four-game set with the Royals.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners had their hot streak squelched after two heartbreaking losses over the weekend to the Orioles. Seattle outscored Baltimore 12-8 in that three game series — and 31-18 in their six-game season series — but walked away with just a single win. Luckily, their schedule significantly eases up for the rest of the month. The only team they’ll play with a record over .500 until September 4 is the Astros this weekend; they’ve a pair of series against the Royals, and sets against the White Sox, A’s, and Mets on the docket. This is a huge opportunity to gain some ground in the standings before the schedule gets a little more difficult down the stretch.

At a Glance

Mariners Royals
Mariners Royals
Game 1 Monday, August 14 | 5:10 pm
RHP Logan Gilbert RHP Brady Singer
55% 45%
Game 2 Tuesday, August 15 | 5:10 pm
RHP Emerson Hancock RHP Jordan Lyles
56% 44%
Game 3 Wednesday, August 16 | 5:10 pm
RHP Luis Castillo RHP Alec Marsh
64% 36%
Game 4 Thursday, August 17 | 11:10 am
RHP George Kirby LHP Angel Zerpa
60% 40%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Royals Mariners Edge
Overview Royals Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 86 (14th in AL) 103 (9th in AL) Mariners
Fielding (OAA) 18 (1st) 12 (3rd) Royals
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 114 (14th) 92 (3rd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 106 (14th) 87 (2nd) Mariners

While the Royals aren’t having as poor a season as the A’s, at least Oakland has some sort of direction for their future (even if it’s out of town and a long way off). Kansas City is floundering in the worst way, seemingly stuck in a rebuilding cycle that shows no signs of ending anytime soon. They graduated a trio of offensive prospects last year but only Bobby Witt Jr. has shown any signs of positive development this year; Vinnie Pasquantino is out for the season with a shoulder injury and MJ Melendez has been frustratingly inconsistent. They currently have the 28th ranked farm system per FanGraphs with exactly zero prospects in the Top 100. Their pitching staff is an even worse mess. Organizational failures have squandered all the talent they had added through the draft over the last few years. It really feels like they’re starting this rebuild from scratch despite this cycle starting half a decade ago.

Royals Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Maikel Garcia 3B R 349 20.6% 6.9% 0.098 94
Bobby Witt Jr. SS R 506 19.4% 5.1% 0.210 112
Michael Massey 2B L 317 23.0% 6.3% 0.148 72
Salvador Perez C R 436 23.9% 3.7% 0.180 91
MJ Melendez LF L 453 28.3% 9.3% 0.158 85
Freddy Fermin DH R 174 21.3% 5.2% 0.227 135
Matt Beaty 1B L 33 15.2% 6.1% 0.100 76
Drew Waters RF S 209 35.4% 6.2% 0.168 89
Kyle Isbel CF L 218 19.3% 3.7% 0.150 73

If there’s one thing to provide Royals fans with some amount of hope, it’s the development of Bobby Witt Jr. this year. Through June, he was posting an 87 wRC+, a pretty disappointing follow up to his uneven rookie campaign. He’s really come on strong since the calendar flipped to July, posting a .336/.370/.636 slash line (a 169 wRC+) over the last month and a half and he’s now tied for second in fWAR (4.2) among all MLB shortstops. Maikel Garcia has also been a bright spot for Kansas City this year. Their top ranked prospect in the preseason, he’s produced a .286/.330/.384 slash line (a 94 wRC+) across 84 games while providing a spark at the top of the lineup. And then there’s Salvador Perez, a fixture in their lineup for more than a decade, continuing to provide veteran leadership and a bit of power as their everyday catcher.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Brady Singer

128 1/3 19.4% 7.2% 10.7% 48.9% 5.05 4.00
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Sinker 51.6% 92.3 90 78 93 0.369
Changeup 6.2% 87.8 51 21 75 0.307
Slider 41.6% 84.2 87 93 98 0.319

Brady Singer seemingly broke out last year after making some key adjustments to his sinker while dropping his walk rate to just 5.6%. Well, his walk rate is back up again, his strikeout rate has fallen by more than five points, and he’s suffered from some poor batted ball luck this year. The result is an ERA that sits more than a run above his FIP, a frustratingly inconsistent season after his big step forward last year. His biggest issue continues to be a lack of a third pitch. He’s worked on developing a changeup but it’s clearly not an effective big league weapon yet. His slider is a wipeout pitch but one plus offering can only take him so far.

RHP Jordan Lyles

126 1/3 16.4% 6.5% 12.4% 33.9% 6.13 5.24
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 33.8% 91.2 76 69 112 0.345
Sinker 10.4% 90.5 79 127 99 0.387
Cutter 6.7% 86.6 93 66 62 0.440
Changeup 9.5% 85.6 66 81 80 0.337
Curveball 15.9% 79.3 93 69 102 0.294
Sweeper 23.7% 80.2 100 69 85 0.308

Jordan Lyles is performing that often overlooked and underappreciated role of innings eater for a rebuilding club. His ERA is up over six and he has a 3-13 record, but the Royals continue to throw him out there every five days. Kansas City is his third rebuilding club he’s thrown for over the last four seasons and he’s reliably thrown nearly 550 innings during that span. He doesn’t strike out that many batters but he also doesn’t walk that many either. He actually has pretty decent contact management peripherals with a hard hit rate allowed in the top 20% in the majors. He does allow a lot of fly ball contact and far too many barrels leading to a big home run problem which is the source of all of his woes.

RHP Alec Marsh

33 22.9% 12.4% 23.3% 30.9% 6.27 7.17
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 43.6% 94.5 96 98 73 0.354
Changeup 14.6% 87.1 79 70 54 0.468
Curveball 17.8% 80.9 99 122 89 0.344
Slider 23.9% 87.1 104 103 77 0.338

Alec Marsh entered this season as the third ranked prospect and best pitching prospect in the Royals organization. He saw a huge velocity jump after putting in a ton of off field work during the lost 2020 pandemic season. Even with the added oomph behind his fastball, it’s really weird shape and spin characteristics make it surprisingly hittable. Rather than using his heater to establish the count early in an at-bat, Marsh will often pitch backwards, using his secondary offerings early and finishing off batters with his fastball. It’s an odd approach that worked in the minors but he’s had trouble translating to the big leagues across his first six starts.

LHP Angel Zerpa

34 2/3 20.3% 10.8% 13.5% 38.4% 3.89 5.33
Combined Double-A and Triple-A stats

Angel Zerpa was a J2 international signing back in 2016 as a 16-year-old and quickly made his way through the Royals organization once making his stateside minor league debut in 2018. He was added to the 40-man roster after the 2020 season but a series of injuries have prevented him from pitching in a full season since then. Zerpa fills the zone with strikes, though that’s often worked against him since his fastball is so hittable. He also possesses a slider and a changeup to round out his arsenal with the latter more developed than the former. He’s made four appearances as a bulk reliever for the Royals this year and will be making his first traditional start of the season on Thursday.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 70-48 0.593 -- W-L-W-W-L
Astros 68-51 0.571 2.5 W-L-W-W-L
Mariners 63-54 0.538 6.5 W-W-W-L-L
Angels 59-60 0.496 11.5 W-W-L-L-W
Athletics 33-85 0.280 37.0 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 71-49 0.592 +5.0 L-L-W-W-L
Astros 68-51 0.571 +2.5 W-L-W-W-L
Blue Jays 66-54 0.550 -- W-L-L-L-W
Mariners 63-54 0.538 1.5 W-W-W-L-L
Red Sox 62-56 0.525 3.0 W-W-W-L-W
Yankees 60-58 0.508 5.0 W-L-W-L-L

Despite losing their series to the Orioles, the Mariners kept pace with the Blue Jays after Toronto fell to the Cubs over the weekend. The Jays are off today and have a brief two-game series against the Phillies lined up this week. The other AL Wild Card contenders won their series last weekend; the Rays took two of three from the Guardians while the Red Sox beat up the Tigers. Tampa Bay travels to San Francisco this week while Boston heads to Washington. In the AL West, the Rangers continued their red hot August with a series win over the Giants and the Astros demolished the Angels. Texas plays host to the reeling Halos while Houston travels to Miami.