Of all of the storylines to observe as Main League Baseball begins the second half of the 2018 season, probably the most fascinating is perhaps whether or not the Seattle Mariners can maintain on to their current position in the standings — and, within the course of, finish the longest active postseason drought in main skilled sports activities. (The Mariners earned this doubtful honor when the Buffalo Payments grabbed an AFC wild card final season.)
It’s been a magical begin to the summer time up to now in Seattle. Picked preseason to complete round .500, the Mariners as an alternative sit practically 20 video games over that benchmark. Surprisingly, they spent a lot of the primary half difficult the defending champion Houston Astros for the highest spot within the American League West; they’ve additionally constructed for themselves a three-game cushion over the division-rival Oakland A’s within the race for the AL’s second wild card. (They usually’ve completed it even after dropping star second baseman Robinson Cano, who was putting up great numbers earlier than getting busted for steroids in mid-Could.) If the common season ended right now, the M’s would lastly be again within the playoffs.
That might be a significant accomplishment for a Seattle membership that hasn’t tasted postseason baseball since its disappointing five-game exit from the American League Championship Collection 17 years in the past. When my former colleague Rob Arthur wrote concerning the Mariners’ streak a few seasons back, he discovered that no group in baseball had made the playoffs fewer instances relative to expectation (primarily based on their regular-season data) since 1998 than Seattle. It’s simple that, with just a bit higher luck, the Mariners would have sneaked into the playoffs not less than a few instances over the span of their drought. In that regard, they’re lengthy overdue to catch a break.
In 2018, nevertheless, Seattle is perhaps amassing the entire further success it’s owed directly. In accordance with The Baseball Gauge, no first-half group exceeded its expected record extra by luck in close games or favorable “sequencing”1 than the Mariners. As an illustration, should you merely checked out Seattle’s runs scored (412) and allowed (414), you’d suppose it was exactly the .500-ish group that the preseason projections had referred to as for. As a substitute, the Mariners have gone 26-12 in one-run games, which — whereas not precisely in 2016 Texas Rangers territory — suggests they could possibly be due for a severe second-half downturn.
The truth is, Seattle’s mixture of win-loss file and adverse run differential is so uncommon that it’s powerful to seek out comparable historic groups. Since 1950, the Mariners are the one group to be 19 video games over .500 by an analogous stage of the season2 whereas additionally having a run differential under zero. But when we simply restrict ourselves to the 13 groups that had been not less than 10 wins above .500 and had outscored opponents by 10 runs or fewer by 97 video games, these golf equipment received solely 51 p.c of their video games over the remainder of the season (an 83-win tempo per 162). So the Mariners most likely shouldn’t anticipate to maintain cruising alongside at a clip remotely near their present .598 successful proportion.
Certainly, if the wheels do fall off for Seattle, naysayers might level to the group’s poor play simply earlier than the All-Star break — eight losses in its final 11 video games — as an indication of when issues began to go fallacious. However ace pitcher James Paxton can be again from the disabled listing quickly, and Cano is eligible to return Aug. 14. In the meantime, the day without work ought to profit the slumping quintet of Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, Dee Gordon, Ryon Healy and Nelson Cruz, every of whom appeared to be operating out of fuel heading into the break.
Within the greater image, there’s additionally one thing to be mentioned for the group’s general steadiness as an antidote to the notion of an impending collapse. The Mariners are one in all solely six groups in baseball to rank among the many prime 10 in wins above replacement3 from each its pure hitting and its pitching, becoming a member of the Astros, Purple Sox, Yankees, Indians and Dodgers — fairly good firm! After all, that brushes apart Mariner weaknesses comparable to baserunning (they rank 24th) and fielding (20th), nevertheless it additionally underscores that regardless of Seattle’s uninspiring run differential, the basics of the group aren’t essentially unsound.
With a purpose to keep heading in the right direction for the playoffs, Seattle might want to preserve getting sudden performances like those they’ve loved from first-time All-Star Mitch Haniger and journeyman-turned-10-game winner Marco Gonzales. Nearer Edwin Diaz (who leads baseball with 36 saves) must preserve slamming the door shut within the ninth inning, and the lineup might want to proceed hitting well in big moments. None of that can be straightforward, particularly not with Oakland zooming up in the rearview mirror. However after practically twenty years of the items by no means falling into place for a postseason push, it’s excessive time the Mariners had the breaks go their approach.
Take a look at our newest MLB predictions.