5/11-5/13 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

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(Abelimages/Getty Images)

The Yankees have won 11 of 19 games against the Mariners over the last two seasons, though I don’t think any club has caused New York as much off-the-field grief as Seattle. A series of trades and non-trades have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, and it’s not anything that will be easily forgotten. A sweep of this three-game weekend series would be a nice first step, however.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners wrapped up a seven-game losing streak about a week ago and have since gone on to win four of their last five games, including two of three against the Tigers earlier this week. They’re 15-18 with a -4 run differential this year and the massively underachieving Angels are the only thing keeping Seattle out of the AL West cellar.

Offense

MLB Rules: Leave the Yankees, grow terrible facial hair. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Unsurprisingly, the Mariners are bad offensively. They average just 3.79 runs per game and are a bottom five club in batting average (.234), OBP (.289), and SLG (.368). They don’t hit many homers (27) or steal many bases (16), so they need a sustained rally and a total team effort to score runs. Their 85 wRC+ is ahead of only the Athletics among the 14 AL clubs.

Seattle has just three hitters with 100+ plate appearances who qualify as better than league average. Third baseman Kyle Seager (137 wRC+) hits for power (.212 ISO) but doesn’t reach base (2.8 BB%), so there’s a good chance his performance will come back to Earth as the season progresses. Like Derek Jeter, Ichiro (115 wRC+) is enjoying a bounceback season after being declared done a year ago, and now he’s hitting third rather than leadoff. Michael Saunders (116 wRC+) has changed his approach and is hitting for power now (.214), so the improvement may be real. He can still swing and miss with the best of them though (30.0 K%).

Dustin Ackley (81 wRC+) has been pretty awful to start the season, ditto Justin Smoak (39 wRC+), Brendan Ryan (48 wRC+), and Chone Figgins (61 wRC+). Figgins is going to get released at some point this summer, it’s inevitable. Part-timers John Jason (139 wRC+ in 44 PA), Munenori Kawasaki (38 wRC+ in 32 PA), Alex Liddi (108 wRC+ in 55 PA), and Casper Wells (84 wRC+ in 31 PA) have produced mix results as part-time players tend to do. Mike Carp (40 wRC+ in 25 PA) spent some time on the DL with a shoulder problem and was just re-added to the roster.

And then there’s Jesus Montero. The former Yankees wunderkind is hitting .268/.282/.420 (91 wRC+) in 117 plate appearances, which really isn’t what I expected when I predicted he’d win the Rookie of the Year award. Lots of season left though. Montero has been batting cleanup lately and he’s hit four homers so far, tied with Seager and Saunders for the team lead. He’s only drawn three walks (2.6 BB%) but isn’t striking out a ton either (20.5 K%). Miguel Olivo’s injury has Montero catching almost everyday at the moment, though he spent most of his time at DH earlier this season. I hope he hits about five homers this series and the Yankees win all three games. Can that be arranged?

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Felix Hernandez
The Yankees just can’t escape Felix. They managed to hit him pretty hard last September, but otherwise he’s completely shut them down over the years. There’s actually been some concern in Seattle because his fastball velocity is down noticeably, but it hasn’t mattered. Hernandez is still amazing. He strikes people out (8.77 K/9 and 25.0 K%), doesn’t walk anyone (2.41 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%), and gets ground balls (47.7%) with a diminished fastball or otherwise. Felix now sits in the low-90s with his heat, but his array of offspeed pitches is unmatched: high-80s changeup, mid-80s slider, low-80s curveball. He carves hitters up when ahead in the count, and unfortunately his 66.2% first pitch strike rate is one of the best marks in baseball. With all due respect to Justin Verlander, I don’t think there’s a tougher assignment in the AL than King Felix.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Saturday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Hector Noesi
The other guy in the Montero-Michael Pineda trade, Noesi’s career a full-time starting pitcher in the big leagues is off to a rocky start. His ERA (6.30) and FIP (5.65) are both unsightly and they’d be worse if it wasn’t for a pair of gems against the lowly Athletics (8 IP, 0 R) and Twins (7 IP, 1 R). Noesi hasn’t missed bats (5.40 K/9 and 14.0 K%), hasn’t limited walks (3.90 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%), and hasn’t gotten ground balls (33.0% and 1.90 HR/9). Just as he did in New York, Hector uses five pitches — low-90s two and four-seamers, mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, upper-70s curve — but will rely most heavily on the two-seamer and changeup.

Sunday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Blake Beavan
This has trap game written all over it. Everything about Beavan says the Yankees should pound him. He doesn’t miss bats (3.78 K/9 and 9.8 K%) and doesn’t get ground balls (33.3%), two traits that are very problematic despite a fantastic walk rate (1.08 BB/9 and 2.8 BB%). Beavan’s two and four-seamers sit right at 90, and he backs them up with a mid-70s curveball. His upper-70s slider and low-80s changeup are rarely used third and fourth pitches, so think of him as an approximation of 2011 Hughes. If someone is going to allow the Yankees to put the ball in the air that often, they shouldn’t make it out of the third inning. But like I said, trap game.

Part of the Cliff Lee trade, Beavan is actually a little questionable for this start after getting hit by a Miguel Cabrera line drive in his pitching elbow last time out. If he’s unable to pitch, the start will likely go to Japanese import Hisashi Iwakuma (6.75 ERA and 4.70 FIP). This one promises to be a blast with Andy returning.

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)

Bullpen Status
The Mariners were off on Thursday for travel, so their bullpen is fresh. Michael Kay will surely drool over closer Brandon League’s power sinker-splitter combination, and he’s performed quite well this season (3.14 FIP). Setup man Tom Wilhelmsen (3.63 FIP) is one of the best keep secrets in baseball, a great back story will dominant power stuff. Lefty specialist and Rule 5 Draft pick Lucas Luetge has pitched well overall (2.73 FIP) and has manhandled lefties, holding them to two singles in 25 plate appearances. The six walks (one intentional) kinda stinks though.

The hard-throwing right-hander Shawn Kelley (9.85 FIP in 3 IP) is just getting back in the swing of things after having what amounts to his second Tommy John surgery in 2010. He originally had it back in 2003, but the latest procedure technically “re-secured the Tommy John graft to the bone,” whatever that means. Righty Steve Delabar (4.64 FIP) has some serious strikeout (11.25 K/9 and 31.8 K%) and walk (1.13 BB/9 and 3.2 BB%) rates, but he’s surrendered four homers in 16 IP. Iwakuma and the left-handed Charlie Furbush (4.05 FIP) both serve as multi-inning/long man types.

The Yankees did not have the luxury of an off day yesterday, but CC Sabathia gave them eight innings. Rafael Soriano will definitely be unavailable tonight after appearing in each of the last three games, but check out our Bullpen Workload page to see how the rest of the relief corps is holding up. There are quite a few good Mariners blogs out there, but make sure you check out USS Mariner and Lookout Landing.

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  • ADam

    Over/Under on how many hits Mark Teixeira has this series?

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      2?

  • DERP

    I’m kind of hoping Jesus doesn’t do anything this series. People here have been lauding him a fair amount, and he’s been terrible so far. I’m scared as to what might happen if he does well.

    • GardnergoesYardner

      The Bronx might spontaniously combust.

    • forensic

      Not so great, sure, but much better than the guy the Yankees are employing instead of him at catcher. Hell, even better than 1B where they could’ve put him (I know that’s not realistic, just saying…).

      • DERP

        Jesus hasn’t been much better than Martin at hitting this year. When you factor in all the other stuff, Martin has probably been the better player (although neither have been particularly good).

        • forensic

          I disagree. Montero has been doing his in a pitcher’s paradise while Martin is doing his in a hitter’s paradise. Montero is .317/.306/.433 outside of Safeco. Not awesome, but certainly a good start for a rookie making the minimum salary. Martin is actually also hitting better on the road (hasn’t shown up at home yet). Considering my opinion of Martin’s defense, I know which one I’d rather have.

        • herby

          I’d say give him a couple months and see where he’s at when the All-Star break comes around…it’s a pretty small sample size to start evaluating a rookie thrown into a new situation, put into basically being the starting catcher. Given the situation, less than 50 games into his career, learning all new pitchers, new city, new team, I’d say his numbers are pretty good and a lot of rookies would be happy to have them.

          • jsbrendog

            jesus montero is by no means the starting catcher for the mariners

            http://www.baseball-reference......ield.shtml

            he has caught 12 and dh’ed 18.

            please know what you are talking about before pulling stuff out of your cornhole

            • jsbrendog

              which means he has mostly had to worry about….hitting.

  • mt

    I think Montero will do well this series (sure he is very motivated); it’s Yanks bats shutting down against Noesi that will really drive me crazy.

    I would like to win 2 out of three even with Felix starting one game.

    With short starts due to his pitching and (mainly) bad Yankee offense, Yanks have only scored twelve runs when Kuroda has been in the game in his 6 starts and that includes the five runs they scored in the 5-0 home opener win. Must remind him of playing for Dodgers. Tonight it shouldn’t get much better with Felix on mound.

    However, bld prediction: we beat Felix somehow and win slugfest on Sunday (Pettite pitches poorly). Noesi shuts us down unfortunately.

    • mt

      That’s “bold” prediction.

  • http://twitter.com/aradmarkowitz Arad

    I’m going to the Hughes and Noesi game on saturday. Let’s hope Hughes can continue from his last couple starts while the Yankee hitters “welcome” home Noesi with a blowout.

  • forensic

    So, if Pettitte gets hit around a bit I guess we can just chalk it up to the wind blowing out again, right?

  • forensic

    I was hoping I remembered correctly them facing Beavan last season, but alas I was wrong. That means 2 of the 3 they haven’t faced before (though they should know a little something about Noesi at least).

    This series has danger written all over it, to the point where it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see a sad sweep.

    • jsbrendog

      jesus, wtf is wrong with yankee fans?! are we met fans now? predicting a sweep by a bad team? come on, jesus effing christ

      • DT

        Lol seriously. we just beat the Rays and were 3 outs away from sweeping them…yet they expect us to get swept by the mariners…smh

        • jsbrendog

          AND i was at the game weds and teixeira hit 2 balls on the screws but right at people.

          but bis bat looked slow

          /brian’d

          • jjyank

            Agreed. What’s the fun of sports when you predict sweeps at the hands of bad teams. Yanks are gonna kill it this series.

      • forensic

        Yeah really, it’s almost like…

        Oh wait, that’s right, nowhere in my comment did I predict a sweep, but I guess you have a different thesaurus than me which says that surprising is the same as predicting.

        I don’t expect a sweep, but being realistic, but it’s certainly possible given some of the trends of the Yankees. But, that would require taking off the pinstriped glasses for a second and considering possibilities other than a Yankees sweep where they win each game 20-0, which unfortunately is too much for some fans here to do sometimes.

  • A.D.

    Third baseman Kyle Seager (137 wRC+) hits for power (.212 ISO) but doesn’t reach base (2.8 BB%), so there’s a good chance his performance will come back to Earth as the season progresses.

    Seager walked in the minors so decent chance that starts coming

  • GardnergoesYardner

    I’m interested to see Jesus again, as I think I speak for most of us on the East Coast when I say that we don’t typically stay up until midnight watching Seattle games. Hopefully he’ll get a nice ovation from the crowd.

    Prediction: Yankees lose a close game on Friday, then are baffled by Noesi before coming back to beat the Seattle bullpen in walk off fashion. Pettitte provides five unspectacular innings on Sunday, but the offense explodes and Andy gets his first win since 2010.

    Jesus will hit at least one homer. but Pineda will make a suprise appearance on Saturday, becoming the winning pitcher for his first Yankees win as he pitches a scoreless 14th before Nunez (in a comedic turn of events) legs out a inside the park homer helped by multiple throwing errors to win the game.

    Tex will also hit the highest pop out in the history of baseball.

    Did I miss anything?

    • jsbrendog

      you forgot something about stewart getting a single and everyone claiming he should replace martin last yr.

      and you can’t go wrong with something bad about andruw jones and how he smiles too much or something

  • 28 this year

    So psyched. Scored some bleacher tickets to take my mom and I to the game Sunday. Gonna be a fun one.

    • jjyank

      Awesome. Hope Andy is the Andy of old for ya!

    • jsbrendog

      i got tickets as soon as i read he was pitching and was dreading a rainout to push it back. but i got em cheap so win win

  • JohnC

    Are they using the pink bats again Sunday for Mothers Day?

  • OldYanksFan

    Wunderkind Smoak ain’t doing none too good either.
    We REALLY need to take at least 2 of 3 here.

    • jjyank

      Yeah, I kinda LOLed a bit has his wRC+ number. That’s sad.

      • Brian S.

        I’d still trade Teixeira for him. And then find a new first basemen that doesn’t cost 23.125 mil a year.

  • Monterowasnotdinero

    The Mariners have lots of woeful bats. Too bad for Montero there is no one to protect him as he has been asked to protect Ichiro. He’d have better offensive #’s for us with our lineup and our ballpark. Watch out this summer-he will heat up-hopefully against the rest of the AL east.

  • Manny’s BanWagon

    I wish Mike would filter out all posts this weekend that contain the word “Montero”

    • Fernando

      and those with all the words “Jesus”.

    • jjyank

      I would like that for all the other threads. This is the one series (and other M’s series) that I’m cool with it.

      And when I say that, I mean I’m cool with his named being mentioned, as long as its in context of the game. I am NOT cool, however, with relentless comments about how amazing Montero is (he of the sub .300 OBP) and how much of an idiot Cashman is. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a filter for that.

  • Duh Innings

    Montero “hasn’t struck out a ton” – HUH?

    The dude has struck out 24 times, EIGHT TIMES as much as he’s walked, and has only 6 more hits than strikeouts.

    If he manages not to strike out in his next three at-bats, he’ll have a strikeout rate of once every five at-bats.

    So far the kid has been a strikeout machine who has 20 HR in 585 AB pop (the pace he’s on for HR) but can’t draw a walk (a 15 BB in 585 AB pace.)

    Anyone who tells me “But he’s making the rookie minimum”, well, Ibanez and Stewart are making only $1.1M and $482,500 respectively this season and producing way more than they should be for their paychecks. Stewart is Sabathia’s unwritten/unofficial-official personal catcher and not doing too badly with the bat. Of course this could stop any time but so far they’re holding their own.

    Again I say trade Martin midseason, call up Cervelli and start Stewart the rest of the way, and re-sign Stewart for six possible bargain starter-backup catching tandems for 2013 (Stewart-Cervelli, Stewart-Romine, Cervelli-Romine, and the names switched for each tandem.)

    • Manny’s BanWagon

      A Cervelli-Stewart catching tandem would be truly frightening.

    • jsbrendog

      anything you say from now on will be hard for me to take seriously based on how you feel about stewart. as i said previously he has never been good anywhere he has gone, minors, ml, etc. russel martin is doing poorly and is doing better than chris stewart did last yr in all 68 games for th giants.

      please fr god sakes take the next few plays off, slugger.

      • jjyank

        Yeah, for real. Stewart has impressed as a defense first BUC, for sure, but to say he should start, in the face of his career numbers, is absurd.

        • jsbrendog

          and i didn’t say anything cause it isnt perfectly clear, but did he just advocate for signing stewart to a six yr deal? or did he just leave out the word “figure?” cause both are bad but years, sweet lou….

          • forensic

            He said re-sign him and then choose between the 6 different catching tandems he listed…

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    I’m going to the game tonight, and of course it’s the felix game. I’m 1-2 so far this year, better than my 4-12 last year. I used to be good luck.

    • JohnC

      Kuroda will need to pitch like he did against the Angels, going up again the King

      • Manny’s BanWagon

        The Mariners AAAA lineup should be just what the doctor ordered.

    • jjyank

      I actually don’t mind it when that happens to me. I’d rather go to a game knowing that even if the Yankees lose, watching Felix is still pretty cool from a baseball fan perspective. What annoys me is going to the no-name soft tosser game and the Yankees get shut out.

      • jsbrendog

        or the game where you lead from the first inning and lose it on a 3r hr in the 9th where the batter cant even run to 1b cause he rolled his ankle….sigh. at least i got my garden gnome

  • LiterallyFigurative

    Just hope Montero doesn’t throw out a baserunner or make a great defensive play. RAB servers might overload.

    • jjyank

      I’m not worried about that one.

  • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

    OT (sorry) but man oh man have you guys seen the latest Beckett/golf dust up in bean town? I love this stuff :)