The Seattle Mariners are trying to be a team of destiny. Yet another one-run win on Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels pushed the M’s to 49 wins on the season, more than nine other teams in the American League. It also pushed the Angels down to .500. Seattle’s profile does not fit that of a contending team, yet the Mariners keep winning.
We’ll see if the Mariner Magic is on display again on Saturday with the middle game of this weekend set against the Angels. Yusei Kikuchi gets the call for Seattle and Alex Cobb will go for the Angels as the betting market views the home team as a short favorite. Los Angels is -125 at BetUS Sportsbook with a total of 8.5.
It is laughable at this point. The Seattle Mariners are 49-43. They have been outscored on the season by 49 runs. Their Pythagorean Win-Loss record is 41-51, so they are eight games better than they should be by that metric. Their BaseRuns record is also 41-51. BaseRuns is a context-neutral standings environment in which all individual outcomes are considered with no context and then a run differential is created. Pythagorean Win-Loss is then used to spit out a record.
Removing context from the equation would absolutely make the Mariners look worse. That is because this offense is 30th in wOBA with the bases empty and bordering on the top five with runners in scoring position. Even the shoddy defense last night couldn’t hurt Seattle, as three unearned runs off of Kendall Graveman in the ninth inning still weren’t enough to put the game in the loss column.
Who knows how long Seattle can keep this up, but with a 20-8 record in one-run games now, this is a team that lives dangerously and seems to thrive in that environment.
Yusei Kikuchi has not pitched since July 7. He was placed on the COVID-19 IL after having symptoms of the illness, but was cleared in time to be in Denver for the All-Star Game and partake in the festivities. He did not pitch in the game. Kikuchi’s last start was an ugly one with five runs allowed against the Yankees.
From April 29 to July 1, Kikuchi had a 2.33 ERA with a 3.89 FIP in 11 starts over 69.2 innings, so he was most definitely a deserving All-Star. Kikuchi did not allow more than three runs in any start during that stretch. He only allowed three runs over his last four starts in that span prior to the Yankees blow-up.
Los Angeles Angels
Yet again, the Los Angeles Angels are squandering one of the best players in baseball. Mike Trout remains sidelined with his leg injury, but MVP favorite Shohei Ohtani hasn’t even been enough to get the Angels markedly above .500. They sit at 45-45 now and have virtually no shot at the playoffs, trailing by 10 games in the division and 6.5 games in the Wild Card race.
The Angels have been a good offensive team throughout the season. It is relevant tonight that they rank second in wOBA against left-handed pitching with a mark of .336, trailing only the Astros. They are seventh overall in wOBA this season.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, they’ve given all of those runs back and then some. The Angels have scored 440 runs this season, but have allowed 467. It doesn’t all fall on the pitchers. This is one of the worst defensive teams in baseball and it has shown in a big way. As a pitching staff, the Angels rank 19th in FIP, but 26th in ERA. Their 68.5% LOB% is one of the lowest in the league.
Looking just at starters, the Angels have a 5.10 ERA from the rotation, but a 4.20 FIP. That .9-run gap is the biggest in baseball. Individually, Alex Cobb has one of the biggest in baseball. He has a 4.23 ERA with a 2.61 FIP in his 66 innings of work across 13 starts. He’s struck out 74 and walked 21. He has only allowed three home runs. But, he has a .324 BABIP against and a putrid 58.9% LOB%.
That isn’t all on the defense, as Cobb needs to find ways to get out of innings. He has a .215 wOBA against with the bases empty and a .396 wOBA against with men on base. There are some clear BABIP shenanigans in play with a .257 with nobody on and a .413 with men on, but his K% also drops from 32% from the windup to 18.5% from the stretch.
Mariners vs. Angels Free Pick
This is a tricky handicap tonight. Kikuchi has been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball this season, but his Mariners are the biggest overachiever in the league. Cobb has had no fortunes on batted balls, but also hasn’t made enough of his own breaks. The Angels lineup grades out a lot better here, so they’re the pick for the game, but this is definitely a play at your own risk kind of matchup.