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Pro Sports Wrap - Sports Personality of the Day:Seth Smith

6/2 Game Preview: Rays and Mariners

June 2nd 2011 15:26
The Mariners are hanging around in the AL West race thanks to some great starting pitching that has overcome the league's worst offense. The M's simply can't hit. They bring out their ace to face James Shields. Yours truly predicted a huge bounce-back season for Shields after he had a poor 2010. So far, Shields has been lights out, and Felix Hernandez is also pretty good. He only won the Cy Young Award last season.

Among starting pitchers, Felix has the 5th best WAR and Shields the 7th best WAR mark in the Majors, but there are quite a bit of ties. Although Shields has an ERA of 2.15 and King Felix a 3.19 ERA, Hernandez's FIP is 2.78 and Shields' 2.96. This game is in Safeco, which is obviously one of the three best parks in the game for pitchers. This is a pitching matchup through and through. The numbers above show that Shields has been luckier than Hernandez, and Hernandez's numbers will rise while there will be a slight fall in Shields' overall production.

Hernandez does benefit from the ballpark though, because he has a very low home run rate with an average groundball rate. Both pitchers will reap Safeco's rewards today. Shields is better at limiting his walks and has been slightly better at striking out batters. Hernandez is better at getting hitters to chase out of the zone and is among the best in the league at doing so. However, Shields throw less "bad" pitches inside the zone. In other words, Shields is more consistent.

I am really only focusing on the pitching matchup, because we know the Rays are the better hitting team. Shields and Hernandez have two of the best curveballs in baseball, but Shields' curve has been more effective this year. I mean, it's been terrific. Hernandez's power curve is also dangerous. Shields' changeup has fooled hitters throughout the season. It has been nothing short of unhittable. The thing is, Hernandez has the best changeup in baseball. His change is incredible and is a wonder to behold.

This game is going to be all about pitching with two of the best aces in the game duking it out. My money's on the Rays because they have a much better offense.
Facing King Felix

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