Series Preview: Mariners (71-58) vs Rangers (50-79)

Jake Mailhot
SB Nation

The Mariners return home to start a three-game series with the cellar-dwelling Rangers.

At a Glance:

Date

First Pitch

Away Team

Probable Pitcher

Home Team

Probable Pitcher

Monday, August 25

7:10pm

Rangers

RHP Miles Mikolas

Mariners

LHP Roenis Elias

Tuesday, August 26

7:10pm

Rangers

RHP Nick Martinez

Mariners

LHP James Paxton

Wednesday, August 27

12:40pm

Rangers

RHP Colby Lewis

Mariners

RHP Felix Hernandez

Mariners

Rangers

Edge

Batting (wRC+)

91 (13th in AL)

89 (15th in AL)

MARINERS

Fielding (FanGraphs Defense)

19.3 (5th)

-14.7 (10th)

MARINERS

Starting Pitching (FIP-)

98 (5th)

111 (14th)

MARINERS

Bullpen (FIP-)

81 (1st)

94 (8th)

MARINERS

The Mariners return home to face the cellar-dwelling Rangers. If the Red Sox represented everything that could have gone wrong for the Mariners, the Rangers represent a further level of failure, complete and utter collapse. This black hole has been so decimated by injuries and ineffectiveness that they find themselves at the bottom of the AL West with the worst record in baseball. Name a player on the Rangers and the odds are they've either spent some time on the disabled list or they're replacing someone who was placed on the disabled list.

I'm sure you've all heard by now, but the Mariners have won the same amount of games this year as they won last year. It's late August. During their last homestand, the Mariners went 8-1 which pushed their overall record at home above .500 (34-32). They have a good chance of pushing that record even higher above .500 with the Rangers and the Nationals coming to town this week.

The Rangers:

Back in 2011, the Rangers seemed to be poised to dominate the AL West for years after two straight World Series appearances (no championships though). A Wild Card loss in 2012 and playoff-less year later and the Rangers found themselves at a crossroads this offseason. From the moves they made, it seemed like they were ready to reclaim the top of the AL West.

Derek Holland, Prince Fielder, Jurickson Profar, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, Alexi Ogando. They, among others, have been lost for the entire year with various injuries. It's not that they're all stars, it's just that the sheer number of injuries have tested the depth of the Rangers and that depth has come up lacking. The Rangers just lost two of three to the Royals over the weekend and are in the midst of a seventeen-game stretch without an off day.

Key Players

3B Adrian Beltre - Adrian Beltre is perhaps the lone bright spot on the Rangers team even though he's spent some time on the disabled list (albeit briefly). After five years of league average offense on the Mariners, Beltre has taken his play to a completely new level. In the five years since leaving Seattle, he has averaged a 138 wRC+ and almost 6 WAR per year. His elite defense has slipped a bit and the advanced defensive metrics are calling him just above average this year. Still, his 4.4 WAR this year is far and away the best mark on the team.

RF Alex Rios - At the trade deadline, there were many pundits who thought the Mariners would make a move for Alex Rios. Instead, they acquired Austin Jackson and it turns out, they're running almost identical batting lines this year. Rios has dealt with a myriad of minor injuries this year but hasn't spent any time on the disabled list. These injuries have taken their toll on every aspect of his play, batting, base running, and fielding. It all adds up to replacement level play from a player who was supposed to be part of the core of the team.

LF Shin-Soo Choo - The Rangers spent $130 million on Choo this past offseason and he's been a huge disappointment. You really get a feel for how bad things are for the Rangers when two of the key players listed here have a cumulative WAR of -0.1 (Choo, -0.2 and Rios, 0.1). Choo, for his part, has fallen back to earth after his incredible 151 wRC+ last year. His batted ball and plate discipline profile are all right in line with his career averages but he's only running a league average 98 wRC+ this year. The main culprits seem to be his lack of power (.132 ISO) and a low (for him) .308 batting average on balls on play. He just turned 32. The Rangers just might have another albatross of a contract on their books.

Probable Pitchers

RHP Miles Mikolas

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

49 1/3

14.4%

7.4%

12.5%

40.8%

7.48

5.18

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

92.1 mph;

40.4%

92.5 mph;

27.8%

86.1 mph;

12.4%

74.6 mph;

11.4%

84.8 mph;

7.5%

Miles Mikolas was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. He made his major league debut in 2012 and was traded twice this last offseason, from the Padres to the Pirates to the Rangers. He mainly relies on his two fastballs, both of which can reach up to the mid-90s in velocity. His slider is his out pitch and he uses his curveball and changeup mainly against opposite handed batters. He's been the victim of some bad luck (.317 BABIP, 55% LOB) but that doesn't cover up his mediocre stuff and poor peripherals.

RHP Nick Martinez

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

100

12.8%

9.7%

9.6%

33.8%

5.13

5.26

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

91.1 mph;

58.7%

90.6 mph;

8.7%

84.5 mph;

13.5%

75.9 mph;

7.6%

82.7 mph;

11.4%

Nick Martinez was drafted in 2011 in the eighteenth round and here he is in 2014, a member of the Rangers rotation. If the Rangers hadn't been decimated by injuries, Martinez's ascent might have made for an amazing story. As it is, he's simply organizational depth that the Rangers are tossing out there every five days. He leans heavily on his four-seam fastball as it's his only decent offering. His slider and changeup usage follow the standard platoon routines and he almost exclusively uses his curveball against lefties when he's ahead in the count.

RHP Colby Lewis

IP

K%

BB%

HR/FB%

GB%

ERA

FIP

128 1/3

17.9%

6.6%

9.4%

33.6%

5.54

4.32

Pitches

Four-seam

Two-seam

Slider

Curveball

Changeup

88.7 mph;

55.8%

88.0 mph;

5.0%

82.8 mph;

20.9%

76.8 mph;

8.5%

83.8 mph;

9.3%

Colby Lewis has been a serviceable mid-rotation starter since making his triumphant return to Major League Baseball in 2010. He missed the end of 2012 and all of last year with an injury to his flexor tendons (they're in your fingers) and a hip issue. He's returned this year to make 23 healthy starts but he hasn't been the same pitcher. His strikeout rate has dropped way under 20% and his once pinpoint control has eluded him. He too has been the victim of some bad luck as his batting average on balls in play against him is a whopping .365! That's largely been driven by a spike in his line drive rate -- hitters are making sharp contact against him almost a quarter of the time they put the ball in play. It all adds up to a pretty disappointing year for Lewis.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form (Recent on right)

Angels

77-52

.597

-

W-W-L-L-W

Athletics

76-53

.589

1.0

W-L-W-W-L

Mariners

71-58

.550

6.0

W-L-W-W-W

Astros

55-76

.420

23.0

W-L-W-L-L

Rangers

50-79

.388

27.0

L-W-L-L-W

The Angels and the Athletics battled for the AL West title over the weekend and the A's put up a good fight, taking two of three at home. They sit just a game behind the Angels and take a brief hiatus from the battle with a series against the Astros before carrying on with the fight this coming weekend. The Angels will host the Marlins in the interim. After the sweep in Boston, the Mariners find themselves just six games behind in the West.

The Wild Card Race

Team

W-L

W%

Games Behind

Recent Form (Recent on right)

Athletics

76-53

.589

+5.0

W-L-W-W-L

Mariners

71-58

.550

-

W-L-W-W-W

Tigers

70-59

.543

1.0

L-L-L-W-W

Yankees

67-61

.523

3.5

L-W-W-W-W

Indians

66-63

.512

5.0

W-L-L-W-W

The Mariners have reclaimed the second Wild Card spot and sit a game ahead of the Tigers. Detroit managed to salvage a series split with the Twins, even after allowing 32 runs in the first two games of the series. The have a much needed off day today and then start a three-game series against the Yankees. The Blue Jays have fallen all the way off the table above after losing two of three against the Rays over the weekend. They're replaced by the Indians who have won their last three series. Cleveland travels to the Southside of Chicago on Tuesday for a three-game series against the White Sox.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league tonight, and you can win up to $2,000. Join today!

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