Writing a series preview for one involving the Seattle Mariners is a pretty risky proposition given the fact that they could have traded the whole team by the time it publishes. But we press on anyway. The Mariners have turned over a way bigger chunk of the roster than you’d expect from an 89-win team, but still have some quality big leaguers and have started the season 9-2 with 85 runs scored and a ridiculous 27 home runs hit. Between trades and injuries, they only have one player currently leading the team in plate appearances by position who also led the team last season and that’s probably their best player in Mitch Haniger. This certainly won’t continue all season long, but for now, they’re hitting well, their starting staff has been mostly very good (and ridiculously stingy with walks) and their bullpen has had ups and downs, but has had some solid performances. They may or may not be good, but they’re definitely hot right now.
Meet the Mariners
Royals vs. Mariners Tale of the Tape - 2018 Stats
|Highest fWAR||Whit Merrifield, 5.2||Mitch Haniger, 4.6|
Mariners Projected Lineup - 2018 Stats
Mariners Projected Bench - 2018 Stats
|Dylan Moore (AAA)||INF/OF||363||.280||.346||.492||7.7%||14.3%||115||---|
Mariners Key Relievers - 2018 Stats
|Brandon Brennan (AA)||40||69.2||4||3||24.6%||7.4%||3.10||3.19||---|
Probable Pitching Matchups
Monday, April 8th - 7:15pm
The demise of Felix Hernandez has been swift and actually a little bit hard to watch as his velocity has dropped pretty significantly over the last few years. He was throwing a touch harder in his first start of 2019 than he did in 2018, so maybe there’s a little more left in the tank. He also could very easily figure out how to pitch with less, so we shouldn’t write the obituary on his career just yet. Still, this is a different King Felix. He doesn’t really have a swing and miss pitch, but if he follows suit from his start against the Angels from last week, he’ll be right around the zone too, which basically means either the Royals have a field day against him with their free swinging ways or they get shut down and he throws an 82-pitch complete game. Your guess is as good as mine.
Homer Bailey gets his second start with the Royals, and he was surprisingly competent in his first. Yes, the 5.40 ERA is a little bloated, but he struck out eight in five innings and actually looked to me like a guy who just hadn’t pitched enough. That could very well end up being his best start, but I was pleasantly surprised with how his stuff looked. He got 16 swinging strikes, including 11 with his splitter on just 17 swings. That’s seriously stupid. He averaged 93 on his fastball and hit 95 and also flashed a very good curve. I’m not going to sit here and say that Bailey will have a good season or even another good start, but I’m at least not dreading this start. Now, having said that, the Mariners offense is rocking right now and a well below average pitcher on the back side of his career isn’t exactly the perfect solution for that, so I’m not hopeful for the Royals or Bailey here.
Tuesday, April 9th - 7:15pm
With Felix’s role changing, the Mariners new ace is an unlikely one in Marco Gonzales. He’s your classic crafty lefty, relying heavily on a lot of pitches that dream of cracking 90 MPH. He uses a sinker, cutter and a changeup to righties with a curve mixing in. In three starts this year, he’s walked just three batters and struck out 11, so this is another game where the Royals will be making contact. It’s just a matter of if they can get the ball through the Mariners infield really. One thing he’s done a great job of is limiting hard contact with a hard hit rate of just 25 percent this season. At some point, he’s going to get hit. This profile just doesn’t work for 30+ starts in 2019 and the Royals have hit him hard in the past, so maybe this is the day regression hits.
The Royals counter with Jakob Junis, who has upped his strikeout game in his first two starts of the season with 14 in 11.2 innings. And hey, he’s only allowed one home run! He seemed to struggle a bit with the cold at the start of his outing against Detroit, walking two of the four hitters he’s walked in his two starts in the first two batters he faced. He’s had very favorable conditions to pitch in during his first two starts, but this one is going to be much more like a summer game, so a hot hitting Mariners lineup could be an issue for him. The big concern here is that many Mariners have been fantastic against sliders. If that pitch isn’t getting it done for him, it could be a very long night for Junis.
Wednesday, April 10th - 7:15pm
|Yusei Kikuchi (2019 Stats)||3||15.2||0||0||18.5%||3.1%||4.06||3.59||0.2|
|Heath Fillmyer (2018 Stats)||17||82.1||4||2||23.1%||4.6%||4.26||3.63||0.2|
The Royals get an early look at Yusei Kikuchi who has been pretty good in his first three big league starts. You might notice he has 2019 stats listed. Everyone will have that soon, but he’s special because the stats reported from Japan aren’t quite as robust as what we see for him this year. Anyway, he’s had excellent control, but hasn’t posted the strikeout numbers I at least expected of him, though I guess he didn’t get a ton of strikeouts in Japan but was above average for the league. While the numbers look like he might be another Gonzales, he averages 92-93 on his fastball and can reach higher. But the fastball has been a problem for him as it’s been hit very hard over his first three starts. He doesn’t get many whiffs on it and he’s allowed an average exit velocity on it of 92.6 MPH. That’s rough. The curve and the slider have been very good, but if he can’t get outs with his fastball, it’s going to be a long year for the rookie.
Okay, so this one is a little different. We still don’t know who is starting, but after the move to promote Heath Fillmyer (along with Richard Lovelady), he seems to be the guy. They could still use Scott Barlow as an opener and Glenn Sparkman for the start, but that’s less likely after Barlow threw a couple innings in game one of the series. Sparkman could still go, I suppose, but I’m going to bet on Fillmyer at this point. He was surprising last year and his slider was better than I expected. My guess is because the fastball isn’t anything special that he would be better in a middle relief role, but this team needs innings and he gave some of them last season, so he’ll get a chance in this one. Ultimately, he doesn’t strike out enough hitters and walks too many to be successful, but in short bursts, his slider might help him get good start here and there. I will say that going a day after Junis isn’t great for him since hitters will have gotten a taste of a good slider, but we’ll see how it goes.
Thursday, April 11th - 12:15pm
The series wraps up with the Royals getting a look at a guy they coveted in the draft years ago, Mike Leake. He’s yet another Mariners starter who just isn’t walking anyone so far this year. He has, however, given up 16 hits over his 12.1 innings and his strikeout rate of 23.6 percent isn’t likely to maintain given that his career rate is just 16.2 percent. Plus, his 92 percent strand rate just doesn’t seem so sustainable. Hitter/pitcher splits are meaningless, even if they’re extreme, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that Lucas Duda is 8 for 12 with three home runs against Leake in his career, which is pretty exreme and fun regardless of meaning. Billy Hamilton also has a career homer against Leake, his former teammate, if you’re wondering how likely it is for this to keep up for Leake.
Jorge Lopez gets a chance to build on his solid start against the Tigers. The thing that can be so frustrating about Lopez is how inconsistent he can be, both from start to start and from inning to inning. One day he might flash a curve that can get any team out and the next, he can’t get it over and can’t get out of the third inning. But if his curve is on, he can be nearly unhittable. Walks are always going to be an issue for him and this is a Mariners lineup that, even once regression starts, will work a walk. My guess is this is a tough matchup for him and he struggles, but I guess that’s why they play the games.
The Mariners are on fire and the Royals are as cold as can be unless they can get a complete game from their starter. Still, baseball is weird and a four-game set tends to even out, so I’m going to take what I’m guessing is a super optimistic view and say the two teams split. What say you?
How does this series go?
This poll is closed
Royals Win 3/4
Mariners Win 3/4