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Seattle Mariners Series Preview: They did a lot in the hopes of ending their playoff drought

The Mariners had a good record last year, but may not have been a good team. They addressed most of their issues.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Seattle Mariners won 90 games, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who believed they had 90-win talent on their roster. No, they weren’t bad, but their offense was and their pitching was generally fine. They won a lot of close games, going a ridiculous 33-19 in one-run games and were 11-28 in blowouts. For whatever it’s worth, if you want to see a path to 90 wins for the Royals in 2022, last year’s Mariners are probably it. Their defense wasn’t nearly as good, but their bullpen was quite solid and gave them a chance in close games.

But what I appreciate is that the Mariners looked at a roster than won 90 games and realized it likely wouldn’t happen again. So they signed the AL Cy Young winner. They picked up a new bat for the top of the lineup. They made a big trade after the lockout for one of the best hitters in baseball and a third baseman with big-time power who made a late-season adjustment. And they ended up breaking camp with a fifth starter who hadn’t thrown a pitch above AA, but looked ready and an outfielder who hadn’t played above AA but also looked ready. I don’t know if they’ll win 90 games again, but they certainly look the part much more than they did at the end of last season.

Note: All stats are from 2021 until after the road trip.

Royals vs. Mariners Matchup Stats

Category Royals Mariners
Category Royals Mariners
Winning % .457 .556
H2H Wins 4 3
Team wRC+ 89 93
Team xFIP 4.52 4.47
Run Differential -102 -51
Highest Returning fWAR Nicky Lopez, 6.0 J.P. Crawford, 3.2

Mariners Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Adam Frazier 2B 639 .305 .368 .411 7.5% 10.8% 114 3.7
Ty France 1B 650 .291 .368 .445 7.1% 16.3% 129 3.1
Jesse Winker LF 485 .305 .394 .556 10.9% 15.5% 148 2.9
Eugenio Suarez 3B 574 .198 .286 .428 9.8% 29.8% 85 -0.1
J.P. Crawford SS 687 .273 .338 .376 8.4% 16.6% 103 3.2
Julio Rodriguez (minors) CF 340 .347 .441 .560 12.6% 19.4% 169 ---
Jarred Kelenic RF 377 .181 .265 .350 9.5% 28.1% 73 -0.2
Abraham Toro DH 375 .239 .315 .373 8.3% 14.4% 95 0.8
Cal Raleigh C 148 .180 .223 .309 4.7% 35.1% 47 0.1

Mariners Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Tom Murphy C 325 .202 .304 .350 12.3% 30.5% 87 1.0
Mike Ford 1B 72 .133 .278 .283 15.3% 31.9% 59 -0.2
Dylan Moore INF/OF 377 .181 .276 .334 10.6% 29.4% 74 1.1
Donovan Walton INF/OF 69 .206 .254 .354 5.8% 21.7% 71 -0.4

Mariners Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Drew Steckenrider 62 67.2 5 2 21.7% 6.4% 2.00 4.37 1.3
Diego Castillo 61 58.1 5 5 32.2% 7.3% 2.78 3.15 0.7
Andres Muñoz 1 0.2 0 0 25.0% 50.0% 0.00 9.17 0.0

Royals vs. Mariners Pitching Matchups

April 22 - Brad Keller vs. Chris Flexen, 8:40pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 26 133.2 8 12 19.6% 10.4% 5.39 4.57 1.1
Chris Flexen 31 179.2 14 6 16.9% 5.4% 3.61 4.56 3.0

What the Royals have gotten from Brad Keller to start the season has been pretty incredible. He’s gone 13 innings, given up just two runs and he’s limited walks. He’s back to limiting barrels but what I love is that he’s using his slider even a little more than last year and he’s backed off his sinker and replaced it with four-seamers and a few additional changeups. I think what this means is that he will give up the occasional hard contact because those pitches can get left in a bad spot, but he’s also trading them for some swings and misses. His slider has been outstanding and when he gets his four-seamer at the top of the zone, it’s been great too. I think I’ve said this before, but we’re seeing kind of a combination of his last couple months of 2021 and what he showed from 2018 to 2020. If he can keep it up, he’s likely looking at a big payday in the form of an extension.

Career vs. SEA: 4 G, 3 GS, 18.0 IP, 0-2, 5.00 ERA


The Mariners brought Chris Flexen back from Korea where he was very good in 2020 and he was very good in 2021. He does it differently than most starters, though sort of similarly to his opponent in this one. He relies on getting weak contact, which has its drawbacks, but it’s worked for him since coming back, though he’s sort of been just okay in his first two starts this season and has actually been hit quite hard. He works primarily with a four-seam fastball, a cutter and a changeup. Last year he threw his curve and his changeup equally, but that hasn’t been the case so far this year. While both fastballs get hit a bit, the changeup was the equalizer last season, so the Royals will need to be prepared for that.

Career vs. KC: 1 GS, 5.2 IP, 1-0, 1.59 ERA

April 23 - Kris Bubic vs. Matt Brash, 8:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 29 130.0 6 7 21.6% 4.8% 4.43 4.57 0.3
Matt Brash (minors) 20 97.1 6 4 35.1% 11.9% 2.31 3.58 ----

If Kris Bubic is going to follow a pattern that he started from his first start to his second, this third one is the one where he cuts down on the walks. After not being able to escape the first in his first start, he got pulled in the fifth of his second start. He only allowed the one run, but walked a career-high six and the Royals just had to get him out of there. It’s pretty easy to see where the control issues are coming from, which is generally a good thing for the long-term because they should be pretty fixable. And hopefully a return to some command can bring back some swing and miss because he hasn’t had much of that in his first two starts. The Mariners have struggled some with lefties and specifically changeups from lefties, so that’s going to be a key pitch for Bubic in this one.

Career vs. SEA: 2 GS, 10.2 IP, 1-0, 5.06 ERA


Matt Brash is fun to watch, though I feel he’ll be less fun to watch facing the Royals, just because it’ll be very frustrating. He’s dazzled people with his ridiculous slider movement, but his fastball has done the hard work for him. It comes in 95-98 and even though it’s been hit pretty hard this season, hitters are pounding it into the ground. That sets up the slider to do its magic, but as is the case with a slider, sometimes he doesn’t get all the way around it and it ends up spinning in the middle. He’s a guy you can’t miss a mistake because the stuff is so good that if you do, you’ll likely pay for it. His curve has also been great. For a Royals lineup struggling with a lot of things, including timing, this seems like a tough matchup for them.

Career vs. KC: First Appearance

April 24 - Carlos Hernandez vs. Robbie Ray, 3:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Carlos Hernandez 24 85.2 6 2 20.7% 11.5% 3.68 5.00 1.0
Robbie Ray 32 193.1 13 7 32.1% 6.7% 2.84 3.36 3.9

It’s been a bit of a tough go to start the year for Carlos Hernandez, who was the best of the bunch last year in terms of results. He’s just not getting the swings and misses he should be given the quality of his stuff. His fastball velocity is also down from last season, which is a concern because it’s getting hit around pretty hard in his first two starts of the season. Also, it’s early but he hasn’t gotten a single swing and miss on his curve (29.7 percent whiff rate last year) or his changeup (22.9 percent). The Royals have talked some about his mechanics, so I wonder if there isn’t a pretty quick fix here for him, but if they don’t make it soon, he might find himself watching Jon Heasley making his starts in the rotation as they lined up for Heasley’s last start at least. You might recall Hernandez pitching brilliantly in relief in Seattle last season in an extra inning game, so he’s at least had some success on the T-Mobile Park mound.

Career vs. SEA: 1 G, 5.2 IP, 0-0, 0.00 ERA


Every single pitcher struggling can look to Robbie Ray. He had a 17.9 percent walk rate in 2020 and turned it around in 2021 to win the Cy Young with a 6.7 percent walk rate. Not everyone has Ray’s stuff obviously, but the point is that a turnaround is possible. He always threw mostly four-seam fastballs and sliders, but last year, he took it to another level and he’s still doing that, having thrown just eight curves to start the season. While he’s a lesson that a career can be turned around, he’s also not the norm that a pitcher can get by without a third offering. I would guess there’s slight concern in Seattle over his slider being more hittable this year than last, but the odds are that it’s simply small sample noise as the pitch has a similar shape. Still, though, his strikeout rate is down to Royals starter levels, so that’s something they’ll hope pops up here soon. If the Royals game against Tarik Skubal last week is any indication, Ray should be able to get going against this club.

Career vs. KC: 2 GS, 6.2 IP, 0-0, 1.35 ERA

Royals vs. Mariners Prediction

The Royals have won some games, but they’re still not playing especially well. I worry a bit about the Mariners pitching making the Royals offense look even worse than it has and the Royals two biggest wild cards are pitching in this series, so I’m going to predict one win for them in this series before the head on to Chicago.

Poll

How many wins for the Royals this weekend in Seattle?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    3
    (15 votes)
  • 26%
    2
    (38 votes)
  • 42%
    1
    (62 votes)
  • 21%
    0
    (31 votes)
146 votes total Vote Now