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Series Preview: Cleveland Indians at Seattle Mariners

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...ugh

Seattle Mariners v Chicago White Sox Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Well that was downright atrocious. The Indians went to Kauffman Stadium to face the Royals (who had lost ten in a row) and completely face planted. Yes it was only three games, but getting swept by a team as bad as the Royals is downright embarrassing. Add in the recent news about Brad Miller and you’ve got the makings of a team in disarray. And now, they have to head out west to face a very hot, very good Seattle Mariners team. Joy.

Here’s how the Mariners have fared so far in 2019.

Team in a box

2019 Seattle Mariners

Record 13-5
Record 13-5
Runs Scored 126
Runs Allowed 91
Run Differential +35
Streak L3
AVG .277
OBP .346
SLG .526
OPS .872
wRC+ 139
K/9 7.69
BB/9 3.05

The Mariners are the best team that the Indians have faced this season and it’s really not close. They’re mashing enough at the plate to cover up for their mediocre pitching (kind of the opposite of the blueprint that the Indians are running with), and so far it’s worked. They, like the Indians, just got swept in a 3-game series. However, they were facing the Houston Astros, a team that is also supposed to be good. And in the series before that, the Mariners swept the Royals and outscored Kansas City 32-19. See? That’s how you’re supposed to play against the Royals.

Projected starters

Monday, April 15 10:10 p.m. ET: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (v. Trevor Bauer)

Yusei Kikuchi signed a 4-year deal with the Mariners this season out of Japan, a move that surprised a lot of fans (mostly Seattle fans online). He looks to be part of Seattle’s long term plans, and he’s getting his first taste of the majors this season. So far, he’s looked alright but not the ace that maybe the Mariners were hoping for. In his 21.2 innings so far this year, Kikuchi has allowed 10 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 15 (ERA+ 100). He’s got a fourseam (93 mph) that he relies on fairly frequently, and he pairs it with a loopy curveball (79 mph) and a hard slider (87 mph). He’s fantastic at keeping the bases clear (1.062 WHIP), but he can struggle to keep the ball in the yard (1.7 HR/9). His most recent start came on April 10 against the Royals; in that game, Kikuchi went 6.0 innings and allowed 3 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 1 and striking out 3.

Tuesday, April 16 10:10 p.m. ET: RHP Mike Leake (v. Shane Bieber)

2019 marks Mike Leake’s second full season with the Mariners after coming over from St. Louis in 2017. He struggled a bit last year, but he seems to be doing okay so far in 2019. This year, in 17.1 innings, Leake has allowed just 8 earned runs while walking 4 and striking out 17 (ERA+ 100). Unlike Kikuchi, Leake is allowing far too many people on base (1.442 WHIP) and he has an even worse home run problem (2.6 HR/9). He gets by with a molasses-like sinker (88 mph) that doesn’t fool hitters, a cutter (86 mph) that can sink a bit and can get flyballs, a groundball-inducing change (84 mph), and a slider (79 mph) that can move across the zone both vertically and horizontally. Toss in a fastball (87 mph) and a curve (79 mph), and Leake has plenty of options to try and keep hitters off balance. His most recent start came on April 11 against the Royals; in that game, Leake went 5.0 innings and allowed 4 earned runs on 5 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4.

Wednesday, April 17 6:40 p.m. ET: RHP Erik Swanson (v. Carlos Carrasco)

Erik Swanson was one of the Mariners’ top prospects coming into 2019 (#9 per MLB) and he’s finally made it to the show. Drafted by the Rangers in the 8th round of the 2014 draft, he was eventually sent to the New York Yankees in the Carlos Beltran trade back in 2016. Two years later, Swanson was part of a package that sent him, Dom Thompson-Williams, and LGFT Justus Sheffield to the Mariners in exchange for James Paxton. He’s only pitched in one game this year and he didn’t fare too well; Swanson came in in relief on April 11 against the Royals. In that game, Swanson allowed 2 earned runs in as many innings on 3 hits while walking 2 and striking out 4. This Wednesday will mark his first MLB start, and he couldn’t have picked a better team to do it against.

Lineup highlights

  • 1B/DH Daniel Vogelbach: I’m not sure where Daniel Vogelbach uncovered this newfound power, but if he could share his secrets with everyone/anyone on the Cleveland Indians, I would very much appreciate it. Seriously, the man has never hit the ball this hard. Across 46 plate appearances so far in 2019, Vogelbach is slashing .378/.478/.973 (no, I didn’t forget his slugging and substitute his OPS instead. His slugging percentage is almost a thousand) (wRC+ 276). He has 14 hits this year, and 10 of them have been either doubles (4) or home runs (6). That explains the video game slugging, and I have no doubt that his stats will normalize over the course of the season (his BABIP is .421, up from a career mark of .287). That being said, Vogelbach has never been a full time player, so it is possible that he’s made some permanent adjustments. For now, it may be best to just pitch around him.
  • SS Tim Beckham: Every time a shortstop appears in this section of the preview, it just makes my heart yearn for Francisco Lindor that much more. Beckham is also smacking the ball extremely hard lately, carrying a .339/.409/.644 slash so far across 66 plate appearances in 2019 (wRC+ 190). And he’s not just hitting the ball hard, his entire approach at the plate looks better than it ever has. He’s walking more (10.6%, up from a career 6.5%), he’s striking out less (22.7%, down from a career 28.1%), and while his BABIP is elevated (.400 compared to his normal .329), it looks as if Beckham has made some key adjustments to become a more effective hitter.
  • LF Domingo Santana: Oh look, another Seattle player who is knocking the absolute cover off the ball as of late. Across 85 plate appearances this year, Santana is slashing .333/.405/.547 (wRC+ 166) with 4 doubles and 4 home runs of his own. His strikeouts are way down (23.5%, down from a career 31.4%) while his walks (10.6%) have stayed about the same. In short, he’s swinging at fewer bad pitches and he’s being rewarded with hits on good pitches. He’s the “worst” of the three hitters featured in this section and he’s still a better hitter than practically everyone on the Indians not named Carlos Santana.

Storylines

The Mariners and their home run streak

The Mariners are hitting the ball hard. A lot. They have currently homered in 18 straight games to start the season, a record which had previously been held by the Cleveland Indians (the 2002 squad started the season with 14 straight dinger-filled games). This is thanks in large part to Mitch Haniger, who has homered now in three straight games.

The Indians in the post-Brad Miller era

The Indians have been struggling to find offense all season, so the logical move was to DFA one of the top three hitters on the team. Sure, Brad Miller was slashing a pedestrian .250/.325/.417 (wRC+ 99), but when that’s the third best hitter on your team, you probably want to keep him around. We’ll see how the Tribe can navigate this brave new world without Brad Miller.

Redemption time for Cleveland pitching

Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco both struggled in recent starts. With Mike Clevinger out for who knows how long and Corey Kluber having struggles of his own, it would go a long way for Bauer and Carrasco to be, well, Bauer and Carrasco. Especially since the pitching has such a thin margin of error thanks in large part to the circumstances laid out in the storyline just above this one. You know, the one where the offense is awful.

Seattle Mariners roster

FanGraphs

Poll

How many games will the Indians win against the Mariners?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    3
    (10 votes)
  • 20%
    2
    (30 votes)
  • 45%
    1
    (67 votes)
  • 27%
    0
    (40 votes)
147 votes total Vote Now