The Los Angeles Angels found themselves in a very advantageous spot on Friday night and blew a 3-0 lead to lose 7-3. We’ll see what happens on Saturday in a game that is lined around pick ‘em against the Seattle Mariners. These two AL West teams were forecasted to be flipped in the standings, but that could end up being the case by the end of the weekend.
Seattle will send Chris Flexen to the mound and the Angels will counter with left-hander Patrick Sandoval in this Saturday night showdown with a late first pitch for East Coasters and a standard start time out west of 7:10 p.m. PT local time. The line has fluctuated around -110 to -115 either way at BetUS Sportsbook with a total of 8.5.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have been a great offense for most of the season, but they’ve really been great when it matters the most. Los Angeles goes into this game as the best offense in baseball with runners in scoring position. Entering play on Friday, the Angels had a .356 wOBA with RISP and a 127 wRC+, narrowly edging out the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros in those two departments, respectively.
The Angels have had to be that good offensive because they are that bad defensively. The Angels rank in the bottom five in starting pitcher ERA, despite being around the middle of the pack in starting pitcher FIP. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching and, well, the “Fielding” part carries a lot of weight with the Angels because their defense stinks to high heaven.
As a result, they’ve needed a lot of those runs to win games and to be keep their heads above water this season. Mike Trout will return after the All-Star Break and maybe Anthony Rendon will return to form to give this offense another dimension and something that allows the Angels to make a run.
It would help if Patrick Sandoval could keep pitching the way that he has as well. Sandoval has a 3.86 ERA with a 4.60 FIP on the season. An elevated walk rate and a high home run rate have hurt in the FIP department, but he’s been one of the few Angels pitchers to have some measure of batted ball luck this season. He also has 53 strikeouts in 49 innings of work.
The left-handed Sandoval follows in the footsteps of Friday’s starter, Alex Cobb, who brought an extreme ground ball rate to the table against a fly ball-happy offense. Seattle tries to elevate a lot, but guys like Sandoval with high ground ball numbers should match up well against that kind of offense. Cobb pitched well, but the Angels bullpen did not.
Seattle’s offense does not measure up with Los Angeles’s offense in many ways. One way it does is success with men in scoring position. For as terrible as the Mariners offense has been this season, the M’s are a top-five offense with men in scoring position. They’ve been able to overcome the second-highest K% with RISP to be highly potent and productive in that split thanks to a ton of batted ball luck.
Seattle entered play on Friday with a .347 wOBA with RISP and a .341 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). That wOBA ranked fourth and that BABIP ranked first. With the bases empty, Seattle was the worst offense in the league by a large margin. Their .271 wOBA was 13 points lower than anybody else in baseball going into Friday’s game.
This concept, known as Cluster Luck, can make a bad team look a lot better than it is and that is precisely what has happened with the Mariners this season. They rank in the bottom five in plate appearances with a runner in scoring position, but entered Friday’s action 15th in RBI with RISP. This is a team that could be in for a rude awakening in the second half.
Chris Flexen’s return to North America has been a good one. After an outstanding 2020 season in the KBO, Flexen came back to MLB and has posted a 3.80 ERA with a 3.69 FIP in his 85.1 innings of work. Flexen’s K% still leaves something to be desired, but he isn’t walking guys, he’s kept the ball in the park, and has really thrived at home.
The pitcher-friendly conditions of T-Mobile Park have been great for Flexen, who has a 1.99 ERA in his 54.1 innings at home with a .254 wOBA against. Compare that to a 6.97 ERA with a .400 wOBA against in 31 innings on the road. Flexen certainly has a shot at success here because of those home numbers.
Angels vs. Mariners Free Pick
This is a really interesting handicap. Sandoval should be able to have success against the Mariners because his ground ball style does not jive with the Seattle offensive philosophy. The Angels may not do well on offense because Flexen has excellent home splits and seems very comfortable pitching at T-Mobile Park. Both of these offenses overachieve with RISP. Perhaps that lends itself well to the under in this one.