Seattle Mariners Series Preview: July 6 to July 8

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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.

Seattle’s playoff odds haven’t budged in spite of recent success.

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.

Injury Report

PlayerPositionInjuryRoster StatusEstimated Return
Evan White1BStrained hip flexor60-day ILLate July
Sam HaggertyINF/OFShoulder inflammation60-day ILLate July
Kyle LewisOFKnee surgery60-day ILAugust
Justin DunnRHPStrained shoulder10-day ILLate July
Ljay NewsomeRHPElbow inflammation60-day ILLate July
Nick MargeviciusLHPThoracic Outlet Syndrome60-day ILLate July
James PaxtonLHPTommy John surgery60-day IL2022
Ken GilesRHPTommy John surgery60-day IL2022
Andrés MuñozRHPTommy John surgery60-day ILUnknown
Casey SadlerRHPShoulder inflammation60-day ILNext week
Erik SwansonRHPStrained groin10-day ILNext 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?

Projected Lineup

Here’s Roster Resource’s projected lineup for Scott Servais’s Mariners:

  1. 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.
  2. Mitch Haniger, RF (.252/.304/.479, 116 wRC+) — Finally healthy and producing after not playing a full year since 2018. Has 18 homers.
  3. Kyle Seager, 3B (.218/.285/.416, 94 wRC+) — Longtime Mariner has 15 home runs.
  4. Ty France, DH (.265/.351/.426, 120 wRC+) — Came over from San Diego in a midseason trade last summer.
  5. Jake Fraley, LF (.263/.437/.505, 164 wRC+) — Big production in 126 plate appearances
  6. Jake Bauers, 1B (.222/.293/.300, 67 wRC+) — Has an 84 wRC+ since acquisition from Cleveland.
  7. Dylan Moore, 2B (.183/.271/.355, 77 wRC+) — Will run if he gets above, 13-of-15 in stolen base attempts.
  8. 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.
  9. Taylor Trammell, CF (.163/.260/.366, 77 wRC+) — Joined Mariners last summer in same trade as Ty France.

Bench

  • 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.

Pitching Matchups

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)

Sheffield.

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)

Kikuchi.

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.

Gilbert.

Bullpen status

PitcherMonday (off)SundaySaturdayFriday
Kendall Graveman1220
Paul Sewald17
Drew Steckenrider10
Anthony Misiewicz (L)20
Rafael Montero36
Keynan Middleton12
JT Chargois
Yohan Ramirez39
Will Vest
Héctor Santiago (L)19

Yesterday’s day off was a boon to Seattle’s bullpen, who worked fairly hard over the weekend.

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5 Comments

  1. MG309

    Who put the uniforms on tonight? Hitting the opposite way, tagging on a fly ball and a stolen base already, they look like a major league team for a change.

    And the Earl Weaver special by Stanton didn’t hurt at all

  2. MikeD

    I’m confident the Yankees can take 2 of 3 here. Ok, I’m not confident of that at all.

  3. chip56

    MTPS:
    Luke Voit to the Brewers
    Willy Adames to the Yankees

    Yankees get a real short stop, Gleyber goes to 2nd, DJ to 1b
    Brewers get a fix for 1b. Vogelbach is out and they just traded for Rowdy Tellez. FYI, neither Vogelbach or Tellez are nearly as good as Voit.

    • MikeD

      The problem is Gleyber isn’t a good defensive 2B’man either, and we’d be moving very good defender off 2B to accommodate a much weaker defender in Gleyber. I’m not sure DJLM has enough bat for 1B, unless he goes back to 2019-20 DJLM. Gleyber has to start hitting again, otherwise he’s going to be a significant problem for them. Not enough bat, not enough fielding.

  4. Esteddardban Florial

    I feel sorry for whoever has to stay up and watch these games, Derek. Probably Ana or Rohan, poor saps. We won’t be watching. I think the Mariners take 2/3. Justus, like Kaprelian, is another one Cash let get away. And for what, a broken James Paxton? Cash traded away two great young arms for broken back Paxton and deer in the headlights Sonny Gray. Sure would be nice to have those two in our rotation instead of Tallion, German and King. And Whitlock in the pen. So many bad decisions and no accountability. We won’t win the 2nd game either against he lefty. Only chance for a W is the 3rd game. Mariners are hot and a better club. Winning 1/3 in Seattle and getting swept in Houston should help push us over the edge towards selling. Problem is other than Aaron Judge we have nothing that anybody would wanna buy.

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