Time for the Yankees’ first west coast swing of the season. The Yankees are in Seattle for a three-game series against the upstart Mariners. It’s an important series, too. The Yankees are chasing (!?) Seattle in the Wild Card hunt.
With a couple of 10:05pm starts forthcoming, I’m sure a bunch of you won’t watch, for better or worse. Possibly for the better! Especially given how the Yanks have played this season. But as usual, we’ll have all the coverage of this series over the next few days. So with that said, let’s get to know the 2021 Mariners.
Their story so far
Believe it or not, the Yankees are looking up at the Mariners in the Wild Card standings. Seattle’s a surprising 45-40 and 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Now, there’s surely a bit of luck in there as the Mariners have a -42 run differential and are 10-1 (!) in extra innings. I doubt their fans are complaining, of course. The Mariners have MLB’s longest playoff drought (2001). Being in contention past the midpoint of the regular season isn’t too usual for them.
Seattle enters this series playing well of late, having won 12 of their last 17 games. They haven’t lost a series since dropping two-of-three in Cleveland from June 11 to 13. There have been some good opponents in there, too, including the Rays, Blue Jays, and White Sox.
Niceties aside, the Mariners aren’t a very good team on paper. They score 4.14 runs per game, well below the 4.44 league average (above the Yankees’ 4.11 mark though, because of course). Seattle’s pitching staff and defense surrender 4.64 runs per game. That said, they do have a good bullpen, which explains how they’ve been so successful in extra innings (again, 10-1) and one-run games (19-7).
Mariners’ relievers have the 10th-best Win Probability Added and 7th-most shutdowns in the league. They have a pretty average ERA as a group (99 ERA-), but clearly, things have gone well for them situationally. And if you want to look at underlying numbers, their 87 FIP- is third-best in the majors. It’s not like their ‘pen is full of big name guys like the Yankees, by the way. The likes of Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider, and Kendall Graveman have been terrific in the late innings.
|Player||Position||Injury||Roster Status||Estimated Return|
|Evan White||1B||Strained hip flexor||60-day IL||Late July|
|Sam Haggerty||INF/OF||Shoulder inflammation||60-day IL||Late July|
|Kyle Lewis||OF||Knee surgery||60-day IL||August|
|Justin Dunn||RHP||Strained shoulder||10-day IL||Late July|
|Ljay Newsome||RHP||Elbow inflammation||60-day IL||Late July|
|Nick Margevicius||LHP||Thoracic Outlet Syndrome||60-day IL||Late July|
|James Paxton||LHP||Tommy John surgery||60-day IL||2022|
|Ken Giles||RHP||Tommy John surgery||60-day IL||2022|
|Andrés Muñoz||RHP||Tommy John surgery||60-day IL||Unknown|
|Casey Sadler||RHP||Shoulder inflammation||60-day IL||Next week|
|Erik Swanson||RHP||Strained groin||10-day IL||Next week|
Spotlight: Justus Sheffield
Former Yankees prospect Justus Sheffield will get the ball for the Mariners to kick off this week’s series. As you likely remember, the Yankees acquired Sheffield from Cleveland as part of the return for Andrew Miller in 2016. Two years later, the Yankees shipped Sheffield to his current club for James Paxton, who coincidentally became Sheffield’s teammate this season. Paxton signed with the Mariners after a couple of seasons in pinstripes, but unfortunately, had Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the year.
Sheffield, now 25, appeared to break out last summer for the Mariners. In ten starts and 55.1 innings, the southpaw pitched to a 3.58 ERA and 3.17 FIP. He’s taken a big step backwards this season though, and perhaps we should have seen it coming. His DRA was 4.54, for one. Sheffield gave up just two homers last year and posted a microscopic 4.4 percent HR/FB rate. Pretty amazing that he kept the ball in the yard in spite of ranking in the 12th and 8th percentiles in average exit velocity against and hard hit percentage, respectively. Now, he was in the 89th percentile in barrel rate, but the sheer amount of well struck balls should have resulted in worse results than his 3.58 ERA indicated.
The lefty’s home run luck has run out in 2021: he’s allowed 13 homers in 72 innings pitches this year. As a result, his ERA (5.88) and FIP (6.42) have skyrocketed. He’s been particularly bad of late, giving up 21 runs in his last five starts (23 innings), including 8 home runs. The Yankees’ righty-heavy lineup should feast on someone like Sheffield, but as we know from watching this year’s Bombers, the opposite is very possible.
Although the Yankees may have wished for Sheffield back last year, I don’t think they have too many regrets about trading the young lefty. There’s still time for Sheffield to live up to his prospect hype, but at the end of the day, the Yankees got a good 2019 out of Paxton (and a strong performance in Game 5 of the ALCS). Not a horrible result in spite of a lost 2020 for Big Maple. The one regret the front office may have about trading Sheffield is the opportunity cost: who else could they have acquired for him?
Here’s Roster Resource’s projected lineup for Scott Servais’s Mariners:
- JP Crawford, SS (.289/.348/.406, 113 wRC+) — Plays a really good shortstop too. If the Mariners ever want to move him, the Yankees should call.
- Mitch Haniger, RF (.252/.304/.479, 116 wRC+) — Finally healthy and producing after not playing a full year since 2018. Has 18 homers.
- Kyle Seager, 3B (.218/.285/.416, 94 wRC+) — Longtime Mariner has 15 home runs.
- Ty France, DH (.265/.351/.426, 120 wRC+) — Came over from San Diego in a midseason trade last summer.
- Jake Fraley, LF (.263/.437/.505, 164 wRC+) — Big production in 126 plate appearances
- Jake Bauers, 1B (.222/.293/.300, 67 wRC+) — Has an 84 wRC+ since acquisition from Cleveland.
- Dylan Moore, 2B (.183/.271/.355, 77 wRC+) — Will run if he gets above, 13-of-15 in stolen base attempts.
- Luis Torrens, C (.209/.267/.455, 96 wRC+) — Remember him? Form Yankees prospect has hit for a ton of power (.246 ISO, 9 homers) in 146 PA.
- Taylor Trammell, CF (.163/.260/.366, 77 wRC+) — Joined Mariners last summer in same trade as Ty France.
- Tom Murphy, C (.186/.259/.346, 70 wRC+) — Was very good in 2019, but lost the job to Torrens due to poor play.
- Shed Long, 2B/LF (.209/.243/.463, 91 wRC+) — Yankees acquired him for Sonny Gray, but immediately sent him to Seattle for Kyle Stowers. Stowers was part of the Rougned Odor deal this year.
Tonight, 10:05pm eastern
RHP Jameson Taillon
There’s no more time for patience with Taillon. The Yankees’ bet on the righty hasn’t paid off whatsoever (5.43 ERA in 15 starts), and while he’s made some adjustments in recent starts, the results continue to be inconsistent at best. (Stats vs. Mariners)
LHP Justus Sheffield
Gary Sánchez and ex-Yank Mike Ford homered against Sheffield in his lone appearance against the Bombers on August 28th, 2019. Not much else to add here given that Sheffield was the subject of this series preview’s spotlight. (Stats vs. Yankees)
Tomorrow, 10:05pm eastern
RHP Domingo Germán
Germán hasn’t completed five innings in any of his previous four starts (9.98 ERA). The strong start to his season is a distant memory at this point. (Stats vs. Mariners)
LHP Yusei Kikuchi
Kikuchi’s spin rates have deteriorated since the foreign substance crackdown, but that hasn’t hurt him. The lefty has a 1.01 ERA in his last four starts (26.2 innings) and a very good 3.18 ERA on the season. (Stats vs. Yankees)
Thursday, 4:05pm eastern
LHP Jordan Montgomery
Monty is in the midst of a solid campaign (4.17 ERA, 3.49 FIP in 86.1 innings) and has become a pretty sturdy back-end starter. The problem: the Yankees rotational depth has forced him into the number two role of late. (No stats vs. Mariners)
RHP Logan Gilbert
Gilbert is a consensus league-w top-40 prospect, and so far, has held his own in the majors. The righty was Seattle’s first round pick in 2018 (14th overall) and has a 4.10 ERA (3.49 FIP) in nine big league starts thus far. Obviously, this will be the first time the Yankees see him.
|Anthony Misiewicz (L)||20|
|Héctor Santiago (L)||19|
Yesterday’s day off was a boon to Seattle’s bullpen, who worked fairly hard over the weekend.