'Dustin Ackley' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Dustin Ackley (Photo: Keith Allison)

After getting swept in yet another series, the Boston Red Sox (62-73, 15 games back in the AL East) finish up a terrible West Coast swing with three games against the Seattle Mariners (65-70, 15 games back in the AL West). Yes, you read that right: the Mariners are three games better than the Red Sox. The Mariners won their last game, while the Red Sox have dropped their last six games in a row.

STARTING PITCHERS: Jason Vargas, Blake Beavan and Kevin Millwood

Jason Vargas (versus Clay Buchholz in Monday afternoon’s opener), in some ways, is pitching slightly better than he usually does, and in some ways he is much worse. Vargas’s ERA of 3.90 is near a career low, and his xFIP (4.38), batting average against (.244), BB/9 (2.29) and WHIP (1.18) are at career lows, along with his GB% of 40.7% which is a career high for him. So far, so good. But now the bad news – Vargas has surrendered 31 homers in 184.2 innings pitched, which is second worst in the majors behind Phil Hughes and Ervin Santana. Ouch!

Blake Beavan (facing Jon Lester) is not missing many bats this year. Beavan doesn’t walk many batters (1.43 per 9 innings) but doesn’t strike out many either (4.50 per 9). Where Beavan gets in trouble is his batting average against, which is 13th worst for all pitchers with 120 or more innings pitched. All of this has garnered Beavan a 4.95 ERA/4.76 FIP/4.87 xFIP. At least he’s consistent.

Kevin Millwood (against Aaron Cook) has been an average pitcher for the Mariners this year, belying his 4-12 record. His pitching triple slash line is 4.38 ERA/3.90 FIP/4.40 xFIP. I’ve seen worse. Millwood has also only given up 12 homers this season in 150 innings pitched. That’s good. Millwood’s problem this season have been hits and walks – his batting average against is 2.74 and his walks per 9 is at 3.12, leading to a 1.43 WHIP. And with a LOB percentage of 66.9%, if you get on base against Millwood you’ll score about 1/3 of the time. That’s not good.

EXPECTED LINEUP

1. Dustin Ackley, 2B
2. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
3. Kyle Seager, 3B
4. John Jaso, C
5. Jesus Montero, DH
6. Justin Smoak, 1B
7. Trayvon Robinson, LF
8. Carlos Peguero, RF
9. Brendan Ryan, SS

WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT

The Mariners don’t have many good hitters. In the last two weeks, only Franklin Gutierrez (.286/.400/.381, .362 wOBA, 133 wRC+) and Trayvon Robinson (.286/.348/.452, .346 wOBA, 122 wRC+) are hitting well. Meanwhile, the cold list for the Mariners’ regulars in the last two weeks consists of Brendan Ryan (.135/.200/.189, .180 wOBA, 9 wRC+), Justin Smoak (.167/.271/.190, .222 wOBA, 37 wRC+), John Jaso (.171/.293/.200, .227 wOBA, 41 wRC+) and Dustin Ackley (.235/.278/.314, .262 wOBA, 65 wRC+).

In the bullpen, the Mariners are surprisingly strong. When they get to him, closer Tom Wilhelmsen (2.66 ERA/2.97 FIP/3.60 xFIP) usually gets the job done, racking up 22 saves against only 3 blown saves. Charlie Furbush (2.30 2.66 2.89) is also pitching very well out of the bullpen. And then there’s Oliver Perez (1.71 ERA/2.01 FIP/3.83 xFIP). With a .265 batting average against, 3 walks per 9 (leading to a 1.38 WHIP) and only a 33.3% GB rate, you’d think Perez would be failing. However, Perez has an astounding 86.2% left on base rate.

INJURIES

LHP George Sherrill (recovery from May 2012 Tommy John surgery) is out for the season. LF Mike Carp (strained left groin muscle) is on the 15-day DL. CF Michael Saunders (groin) is day-to-day.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?

Roget’s has run out of synonyms for bad to describe the Red Sox.

In the past fortnight, Dustin Pedroia (.370/.424/.593, .430 wOBA, 171 wRC+) is tearing the cover off the ball. Also hitting well for the Red Sox have been Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.267/.324/.567, .370 wOBA, 131 wRC+) – it’s about time, Mauro Gomez (.308/.387/.462, .365 wOBA, 127 wRC+), Jacoby Ellsbury (.321/.333/.434, .346 wOBA, 113 wRC+) and Cody Ross (.292/.346/.417, .334 wOBA, 105 wRC+). The black holes in the Boston batting order continue to be Jose Iglesias (.000/.125/.000, .088 wOBA, -63 wRC+) and Ryan Lavarnway (.229/.300/.286, .263 wOBA, 57 wRC+).

Do I have to talk about the pitching? Ok. Jon Lester has definitely taken a step backward, posting a 4.80 ERA/4.31 FIP/4.62 xFIP. But that puts him at the top of the Delta pledge class Red Sox starters. Felix Doubront (10.13 ERA/4.61 FIP/2.46 xFIP) has definitely been unlucky but a freakin’ over 10 ERA? Really? And the old Daisuke Matsuzaka (5.06 ERA/5.36 FIP/5.40 xFIP) is back.

In the pen, Rich Hill (0.00 ERA/1.61 FIP/1.61 xFIP) gets the Blutarsky ERA Award on a technicality, as he only pitched 0.2 innings. Junichi Tazawa (1.80 ERA/1.31 FIP/2.04 xFIP) continues to impress, while Andrew Bailey‘s (2.08 ERA/2.87 FIP/5.59 xFIP) low strikeout rate could end up burning him. And Bobby V’s new whipping boy Alfredo Aceves (9.31 ERA/ 8.28 FIP/6.38 xFIP) is being used in more roles than De Niro.

SUMMARY

The Mariners need better hitter and better starters. At least their bullpen is good.

Categories: Aaron Cook Alfredo Aceves Andrew Bailey Blake Beavan Bobby Valentine Boston Red Sox Carlos Peguero Charlie Furbush Clay Buchholz Cody Ross Daisuke Matsuzaka Dustin Ackley Dustin Pedroia Felix Doubront Franklin Gutierrez George Sherrill Jacoby Ellsbury Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jason Vargas Jesus Montero John Jaso Jon Lester Jose Iglesias Junichi Tazawa Justin Smoak Kevin Millwood Kyle Seager Mauro Gomez Michael Saunders Mike Carp Oliver Perez Rich Hill Ryan Lavarnway Seattle Mariners Tom Wilhelmsen Trayvon Robinson

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

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