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Series Preview: Mariners (81-65) vs. Dodgers (88-57)

The Mariners play host to the Dodgers this weekend.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Listen, we’re not gonna beat around the bush here; the Dodgers are a very good team. You know that, I know that, we all know that. The question is whether or not the Mariners can beat them in a three-game set, and honestly, I feel like the answer is yes. The M’s hope to continue their winning ways right into a Wild Card spot and possibly even first place in the division. Seattle is only a game and a half behind Houston but only a game and a half ahead of the Blue Jays in the Wild Card race. Needless to say, wins in the coming days will be desperately needed, even if that means taking a couple of games off of a World Series contender.

At a Glance

Dodgers Mariners
Dodgers Mariners
Game 1 Friday, September 15 | 7:10 pm
RHP Bobby Miller RHP George Kirby
50% 50%
Game 2 Saturday, September 16 | 6:40 pm
LHP Clayton Kershaw RHP Bryce Miller
53% 47%
Game 3 Sunday, September 17 | 1:10 pm
RHP Emmet Sheehan RHP Logan Gilbert
46% 54%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Dodgers Mariners Edge
Overview Dodgers Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 118 (2nd in NL) 108 (4th in AL) Dodgers
Fielding (OAA) 2 (8th) 11 (4th) Mariners
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 105 (11th) 91 (3rd) Mariners
Bullpen (FIP-) 86 (1st) 90 (2nd) Dodgers

Despite all the pressure on the Mariners, there may still be an opportunity to steal a couple of games here. The Dodgers just dropped two out of three to the Padres and currently have not announced a starting pitcher for Sunday’s game. This could be the perfect time for the Mariners to turn it on and get some much-needed wins. The Dodgers offense is certainly high-powered, second only to the Braves in run differential with +173 and currently fielding two MVP contenders in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. It would be a mistake to enter this series and think the recent slide makes them less dangerous.

However, Los Angeles’s pitching has been hit by injuries a lot this year. Like the Mariners, they’ve had to make do with a plethora of prospects, and as we’ve seen first-hand, these prospects can get exhausted in the later parts of the season. If the Mariners can get past the Dodgers thin starting pitching early in the game, they may just be able to grab two games in this series. As a team, the Dodgers are sitting 15th in earned runs, 17th in innings pitched, and 16th in ERA. Knocking out the starters early may be the key to the Mariners’ success.

Dodgers Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Mookie Betts 2B R 628 15.6% 13.7% 0.295 174
Freddie Freeman 1B L 659 16.7% 10.3% 0.238 166
Will Smith C R 504 16.1% 12.1% 0.182 125
Max Muncy 3B L 515 26.6% 14.8% 0.283 121
J.D. Martinez DH R 413 31.2% 7.5% 0.286 128
David Peralta LF L 378 17.2% 5.0% 0.123 88
Jason Heyward RF L 325 17.2% 10.2% 0.212 125
James Outman CF L 507 32.0% 12.6% 0.180 118
Miguel Rojas SS R 387 11.6% 6.7% 0.077 67

There really is no other way to say it than that the Dodgers are dangerous. They are second in every meaningful category in MLB, second in home runs, RBIs, OBP, OPS, and Slugging. Not to mention, this is a lineup that contains Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts, both of whom are top 3 MVP candidates. Freeman is slashing a monstrous .337/.414/.576 and leading the league in doubles with 55, setting a new team record for doubles in a season. Betts is slashing an obscene .312/.412/.607 and leading the league in OPS and OPS+ with an OPS of just a smidge over 1.000 (1.019). On top of both of those two, you have to face Will Smith and his 120 OPS+, James Outman, who is well on his way to a top 3 Rookie of the Year finish, and J.D. Martinez, who, despite being recently injured, is still well within striking distance of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Let’s see if the best pitching rotation in the league can hold down the second-best offense in the league.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

RHP Bobby Miller

101 2/3 22.0% 6.7% 10.3% 47.8% 3.98 3.70
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 26.4% 99.1 130 95 79 0.345
Sinker 21.3% 98.8 105 114 102 0.343
Changeup 14.8% 88.7 109 129 128 0.216
Curveball 18.4% 80.7 119 111 87 0.218
Slider 18.2% 90.1 154 78 100 0.300

Injuries to Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin and the legal troubles of Julio Urías have forced the Dodgers to call on their considerable minor league depth to fill out their rotation this season. Bobby Miller was Los Angeles’s top ranked pitching prospect in their organization’s preseason list and ranked 33rd overall by FanGraphs. He made his major league debut in late May and has been a linchpin on their pitching staff ever since. He has a plus fastball with elite velocity and real bat-missing characteristics; it’s velocity sits just under triple-digits and he’s able to maintain that velocity throughout long starts. He also has three above average to plus secondary pitches to round out his deep repertoire.

LHP Clayton Kershaw

117 1/3 26.3% 7.3% 17.5% 47.2% 2.61 4.10
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 37.2% 90.9 98 46 105 0.364
Changeup 1.6% 84.8
Curveball 17.6% 73.5 94 108 105 0.214
Slider 43.3% 86.7 114 104 113 0.287

At this point, Clayton Kershaw’s Hall of Fame trajectory is all but assured. He’s arguably the best pitcher of his generation and he’s hardly slowed down as he’s advanced in age. He’s just 70 strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career and just passed the 200 career wins milestone earlier this season. Despite a pristine 2.61 ERA, things under the hood aren’t as rosy; his FIP is at a career high 4.10 thanks to a spike in walk rate and home runs allowed. Even more concerning is a shoulder injury that sidelined him for more than a month earlier this year. That injury has flared up again recently; his fastball velocity has dropped precipitously over his last two starts and his start on Saturday is the result of his schedule being pushed back to help him recover.

RHP Emmet Sheehan

46 2/3 20.3% 11.2% 12.3% 31.9% 5.79 5.46
Pitch Frequency Velocity Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+ xwOBA
Four-seam 63.2% 95.5 106 86 89 0.368
Changeup 15.8% 83.0 67 129 44 0.220
Slider 17.1% 87.3 118 99 121 0.199
Sweeper 3.9% 79.4

Emmet Sheehan is another one of Los Angeles’s prospects that has been forced into frontline duty this year. He has a good fastball that he leans on pretty heavily, throwing it more than 60% of the time. His heater has some pretty good physical characteristics that point to future success, but he throws it so often that batters are able to figure it out after they’ve seen it a bunch. His best secondary pitch is a parachute changeup that has a 11.5 mph velocity differential off his fastball. His slider is also developing nicely and provides another solid weapon against right-handed batters. Right now, his pitch mix is far too fastball dependent but his two solid secondary offerings indicate a bright future if he’s able to make the necessary adjustments to feature them.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Astros 83-64 0.565 -- W-W-L-L-W
Rangers 82-64 0.562 0.5 W-W-W-W-W
Mariners 81-65 0.555 1.5 L-L-L-W-W
Angels 68-79 0.463 15.0 W-W-W-L-L
Athletics 46-100 0.315 36.5 L-L-W-W-L

The Wild Card Race

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Tampa Bay 91-57 0.615 +9.0 W-W-L-W-W
Rangers 82-64 0.562 +1.0 W-W-W-W-W
Mariners 81-65 0.555 -- L-L-L-W-W
Blue Jays 80-67 0.544 1.5 W-L-L-L-L

The Rangers emphatically and thoroughly dismantled the Blue Jays in a four-game sweep in Toronto this week. That helped Texas build a one game lead over the M’s in the Wild Card race and pushed the Blue Jays to 1.5 games back. The Jays will hope to salvage their homestand this weekend in a three-game series against the Red Sox while the Rangers travel to Cleveland to face the Guardians. The A’s were able to play spoiler this week, winning two of three from the Astros in Houston; the ‘Stros will travel to Kansas City this weekend. At the top of the Wild Card race, the Rays and Orioles began a huge four-game series yesterday that should go a long way towards determining which of those two teams will earn a first-round bye in the playoffs as the AL East division leader. Tampa struck first with a win yesterday and they’re now just a game behind Baltimore.