Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

2011 Draft: Yankees sign fourth rounder Matt Duran
The Yankees unclutch hitting
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

This one has trap series written all over it folks, and I’ll explain why in a second. The Yankees and Mariners have met once before this season, in Seattle back at the end of May. The Yankees lost two of three but had leads in all three games, they just couldn’t close things out.

What Have The Mariners Done Lately?

Losing. Lots and lots of losing. As in a franchise-record 15 losses in a row. Seriously. The Mariners haven’t won a game since July 5th, when they beat the Athletics 4-2. They’ve been outscored 87-40 during the losing streak, and eight of those 40 runs came yesterday. All told, the Mariners are 43-58 with a -50 run differential, the third worst record and run differential in the AL. It seems inevitable that they’ll end that ugly losing streak in the Bronx, if not win the series.

Mariners On Offense

(Photo Credit: Flickr user hj_west via Creative Commons license)

Seattle scored just 513 runs last season, the worst run production in the DH era. They’re on pace for 533 this season, so I guess that’s improvement. For comparison’s sake, the Yankees have already scored 513 runs on the season. Think about that. The Mariners are hitting .226/.289/.334 with a .279 wOBA as a team, MLB worsts in everything but SLG. They’re one point ahead of the Padres in that department.

It all starts at the top, where Ichiro Suzuki is going through the same kind of painful-to-watch age-related decline as Derek Jeter. He went 2-for-5 yesterday and that raised his season line to .268/.315/.318. Brutal. Brendan Ryan was a pain the last two times these two clubs met, and he’s hitting .264/.324/.342 as the regular two-hitter. He did go 2-for-4 yesterday and is on a nice little .305/.362/.436 tear over the last 30 days though. Dustin Ackley was called up a little more than a month ago and has already emerged as the team’s best hitter. He’s up to .297/.347/.505 on the season following yesterday’s 2-for-5. Everything kinda goes downhill from there.

When these two clubs met in May, Justin Smoak was at .263/.365/.461 on the season and making the Mariners looking very smart for taking him over Jesus Montero last July. He’s hitting just .190/.278/.341 since then, and we’re talking about 205 plate appearances. That’s dragged Smoak’s season line down to .244/.319/.396. Miguel Olivo has been hitting cleanup with his .223/.260/.395 batting line, and both Adam Kennedy (.251/.297/.382) and Jack Cust (.214/.347/.332) are getting regular at-bats. Franklin Gutierrez catches everything hit in the air and between the lines, but he’s all the way down to .192/.230/.231. Mike Carp (.263/.344/.439 in limited action) is now the regular left fielder, but it’s just 64 PA. That’s their regular lineup, though Chone Figgins (.182/.236/.240), Greg Halman (.256/.284/.385), Jack Wilson (.229/.259/.252), and Josh Bard (.222/.243/.417) almost might make appearances. It’s an ugly offense, as ugly as it gets.

Mariners On The Mound

Monday, LHP Jason Vargas (vs. Freddy Garcia): The Yankees tagged Vargas for six runs in three innings back in May, and he’s coming off back-to-back five-run outings. His 3.94 ERA lines right up with his 3.96 FIP, and his peripheral stats aren’t anything to write home about: 5.80 K/9, 2.35 uIBB/9, and 37.3% grounders. Vargas throws four pitches regularly but will mix in two others; his high-80’s four and two-seamers set up his low-80’s changeup, and he’ll also throw some mid-80’s cutters. Every once in a while you’ll see a curveball or slider. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split because of the changeup, but Vargas is a fly ball pitcher that doesn’t miss bats. Handedness shouldn’t matter much.

Tuesday, RHP Doug Fister (vs. CC Sabathia): The Yankees drafted Fister once upon a time, back in the sixth round of 2005. He didn’t sign and went back to Fresno State for another year, then the Mariners grabbed him in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. Fister has developed into a very nice starting pitcher in his second full-season, backing up his 3.30 ERA with a 3.19 FIP. His strikeout rate sucks (5.44 K/9), but he’s even stingier with the walks than Vargas (1.88 uIBB/9) and does a much better job of keeping the ball on the ground (45.5%). He gets good downhill plane from his 6-foot-8 frame and pounds the zone with his high-80’s four and two-seamers. A mid-70’s curveball and a mid-80s slider are his go-to secondary offerings, but we’ll also see a low-80’s change on occasion. The Yankees have not faced Fister this season or last, so the only experience they have against him is a pair of starts in 2009 (7 IP, 3 R and 4 IP, 6 R).

(Photo Credit: Flickr user Mark Sobba via Creative Commons license)

Wednesday, RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. Phil Hughes): Long live the king. Felix won the Cy Young Award with a 3.04 FIP and a 3.14 xFIP last season, and this year he’s at 3.11 and 3.11, respectively. Don’t be fooled by the 3.47 ERA, blame that on a low (for him) 72.0% strand rate. It had been north of 76% in the past. His .299 BABIP is also his highest in three years. Hernandez’s peripherals are still as good as it gets (8.43 K/9, 2.73 uIBB/9, 48.9% grounders), and his stuff is world class: mid-90’s with both the four and two-seamers, a high-80’s changeup, a mid-80’s slider, and a low-80’s curve. There are few better than Felix, who has made a habit of wrecking the Yankees in recent years. Yeah, they got to him for four runs in seven innings earlier this year, but that was a minor miracle. When it comes to pitchers of this caliber, history doesn’t matter.

Bullpen: The Red Sox did the Yankees a favor by taxing Seattle’s bullpen yesterday, forcing four relievers to throw 72 pitches across 3.2 IP. One of those four relievers was lefty Aaron Laffey (4.65 FIP), who recorded zero outs but gave up four hits and three runs on a dozen pitches. He also threw 18 pitches on Saturday, so he might not be an option tonight. He’s their only lefty in the ‘pen.

Closer Brandon League (2.69 FIP) threw 18 pitches, but he was just getting work in the blowout. Sometimes setup guy Jamey Wright (4.76 FIP) threw 28 pitches, and garbage time reliever Josh Lueke (4.54 FIP in limiting time) threw 14 pitches. David Pauley (3.36) is the Mariners’ relief ace, and you’ve also got some guy named Jeff Gray (3.42 FIP) and Yankees’ punching bag Chris Ray (3.54 FIP). They typically get the job done, though most of these guys are no names.

Recommended Mariners Reading: U.S.S. Mariner and Lookout Landing. Remember that RAB Tickets can get you to any of the three games for cheap.

2011 Draft: Yankees sign fourth rounder Matt Duran
The Yankees unclutch hitting
  • nsalem

    Predicting that the Mariners will win this series is bring pessimism to a new high. Or maybe we should say a new low. You must think The King is a sure thing and that they will steal another. I hope and believe you are wrong.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      No. Just no.

  • Jim S

    Jack Wilson has some of the most awkward looking highlights ever.

  • Joel Willstein

    Baseball is all about stats. But stats don’t win ball games. Any team can beat any other team, even if the stats say it’s nearly impossible.

    What scares me is that the Mariners have now lost 15 straight, and sooner or later they’ll end that streak, and win a few. I’m just hoping that the Yanks can extend that streak for them.

  • Monteroisdinero

    8 runs and 13 hits yesterday. That should be enough for a week for them.

  • Pat D

    So Felix looked disinterested and unfocused on Friday? Please let that carry over for one more game.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Loss of interest? Hmm.. How bout he just outright demands a trade across the field while he’s here?

      • Pat D

        Re-quoting this again from David Schoenfield.

        “The Mariners have lost 15 straight. I was at Friday’s game at Fenway when Felix Hernandez pitched. The King was alternately frustrated and unfocused, but mostly he displayed an alarming amount of bad body language throughout the game. When the Mariners scored a run in the first and then the Red Sox tied it in the bottom of the inning on a Kevin Youkilis RBI single, Hernandez waited to cross paths with Youk after getting out of the inning. Both players smiled and laughed, as Hernandez probably said something to the extent of “Well, there’s the ballgame.” When Felix departed, not one player met him at the top of the dugout to shake his good or give him a pat on the back. It’s a bad situation in Seattle and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mariners shop Hernandez around in the offseason.”

        • The Fallen Phoenix

          The Mariners would sooner trade the 24 other guys on the ML roster (except maybe Ackley) before they traded Hernandez to settle clubhouse issues, I’d wager.

          • CP

            Everyone keeps arguing this, but starting next year he’ll be making about 1/5th of their total payroll – and probably at that level for the final 3 seasons of his deal. Unless the Mariners have some miraculous plan to turn around the team in the next year or two, they should trade him for the boatload (and then some) of top prospects they can get for him now.

            •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

              I was only kidding with my original comment and I, of course, don’t expect him to be dealt, but I think it would be pure stubbornness to not at least consider it if you’re the M’s. I believe he’s owed something in the areas on 60 mil over the next 3 seasons on a team that always appears to think they’re a contender when they’re really not. They should at least mull over the idea of bringing in a monster package for him now, while saving big.

            • Louis

              If Ackley and Smoak become impact bats (which could happen in the next 2 years), The Mariners have a chance to contend soon, despite what the team looks like now. Their pitching right now is better than bad, and even with the lack of credentials in the rotation, theres still 5 guys there with sub 4 eras (albeit Beavans only had 4 starts). If the Ms can get impact bats in the near future, which is quite possible, they have a chance to turn it around quickly.

  • Anders360

    I bet they win the series. Hate teams like this, lose 20 straight and when they face the Yanks all of the sudden get their stuff right but when they play the RS they just roll over and wiggle their tails.

    • Zack

      All teams play harder against the Yanks. The Red Sox are slowly working their way up to being a hated baseball team but for all involved..the Yankees are the evil empire.

    • CP

      I agree. They’ll definitely win this series. The last game is going to be difficult to complete the sweep (Hughes vs Felix puts the Yankees at a disadvantage), but the first two should be safe wins.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        There’s no safe wins at all.

      • Zack

        The funny thing is,they’ve gotten two grand slams in a game against Toronto and Boston..but by that time, it didn’t count.
        King Felix is the only game I’m truly worried about, but we even got to him earlier in the year.

  • Bronx Byte

    The Yankees can’t play up to the level of Seattle. Go full throttle looking for a sweep. Just keep Posada out of the lineup.

  • Hester Prynne

    If we split the first two we will lose on Wednesday and lose the series. We cannot beat King Felix and certainly not with a middle in 90 mph fastball with no movement.

    • Zack

      We DID beat King Felix last time. It’s just that AJ couldn’t hold a 4-0 lead.

      • first time lawng time

        No. Nova started that game, and Rivera blew it in the 12th inning

  • CMP

    Hopefully Hughes can turn things around against a lousy hitting team, though you could have said the same thing about the A’s.

  • ultimate913

    Damn. I just noticed the article on U.S.S. Mariner. It’s on Fangraphs too. Best of luck to Mr. Cameron. I will most definitely be praying for him.

    • Rich in NJ

      I echo this post.

      As for the Mariners, just win the series.

  • first time lawng time

    Well, the odds favor the Yankees because they’re the better team. So, the losing streak should be irrelevant when predicting who will win.

    That said, could you imagine if Seattle cam in and swept the Yankees after coming off a 15 game lose streak? Oh, people would go insane.

  • Dirty Pena

    Did I miss something? I didn’t see any reasons why Seattle would win this series.

    • JAG

      It’s a trap series b/c if the Yankees do anything but sweep, everyone will be crying failure. And by everyone, I mean the media and mainstream fans.

  • first time lawng time

    You know, Wednesday isn’t an automatic loss.

    Although, to be honest, I have more confidnce in the Yankees scoring off Felix than Hughes pitching well.