The Seattle Mariners And Baseball Equilibrium

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As of this writing, the Seattle Mariners are 13 games into the season. Believe it or not, they have won eight of those games, and have yet to lose a series. They have faced five teams (Cleveland, San Francisco, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Oakland) and have only dropped one game to each. Their current record: 8-5.

Compare that to last year, where the M’s dropped the first series to the Astros (1-3), managed to get swept by the Angels (3-0), dropped yet another series to Houston (1-2), winning only their home opener, and then, as if compelled to maybe win some games, swept the Rangers (3-0). Their record at the time: 5-8.

Last year, the Mariners ranked 7th in the AL in almost every offensive category. They were the top of the bell curve as a team. Not amazing, but also not terrible. You could have called them one of two things; they were either the Best-Worst team in the AL, or they were the Worst-Best team, depending on your point of view. On paper, despite the injuries and turmoil, the Mariners were adequate.

It certainly feels, at least within these first 13 games, that the M’s are achieving a sort of balance. Like any team, they go up, and they come down. Win some, lose some. In these past five series, the Mariners have scored 62 runs, and have allowed 62 runs. Even Steven. Félix Hernández has had four starts. The Mariners have won two of those starts and lost two. With James Paxton on the mound, two losses and a win. With Marco Gonzales, two wins and a loss.

If we look at the big picture, and the small sample size, the stench of adequacy still permeates throughout the records of the Seattle baseball club. In the AL, Mariners’ pitching so far has allowed 22 home runs in 13 games, second to the Athletics who have allowed 25 (albeit in 16 games).

In order to bring harmony to the balance, there are positive standouts on the individual level. The Mariners have won every game that Mike Leake has started. He has an earned run average of 3.50, nearly a full two points less than Hernandez’s 5.48, though their WHIP manages to stay similar, with Leake posting at 1.33 and Hernandez at 1.27. Chasen Bradford has shown his ability to come into high leverage situations and get necessary outs, while Edwin Diaz has 13 strikeouts in six innings of relief in the closer role.

Also, as of this writing, the Mariners are the only team in the American League, save for the Yankees, who have two players posting top ten on-base percentages; Mitch Haniger with .423 and Robinson Canó with a league-leading .560. Canó also leads the AL with a 214 wRC+; all of this without having hit a home run as of yet.

It is this interesting equilibrium that the Mariners need to fix in order to really push for a playoff run. It’s too early to tell, but it’s possible. They may be above .500 in the standings but in order to make the push, their eyes need to be on their divisional opponents. They have yet to face the two teams in their own division who have been dominant in their season start; the Ohtani-wielding Angels and the World Series Champion Astros. The M’s don’t see the Angels until next month. The Astros come to Safeco this week for a four-game series.

If we compare their hitting as a whole, the Mariners have a team wRC+ of 115, which is not as outstanding as the Angels’ 133, but better than the Astros’ 108. But even when creating less runs, the Astros have won 10 of their first 16 games, which is a testament to their pitching. For the M’s, this series against Houston will be their toughest yet. But the way they’ve been playing, they just might more than a chance. The Astros’ pitching may be great, but who is to say that the Mariners’ offense can’t match and surpass it? Unstoppable force, immovable object; balance.

Maybe the Mariners continue their homeostatic way of play; maybe they’ll pull more wins than expected. Maybe they end the season with an even record 81-81. Maybe, after all these years of being on the losing end, these bizarre baseball scales finally tip in favor of the Mariners.

Therein lies the beauty of baseball. We can project all we want, use every stat and metric available, but as always, only until the pitches make their way across the plate do we know anything.

Two things are for sure: There’s a lot of competitive baseball left to play, and this team is ready to contend.

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Mario Martin del Campo

Mario Martin del Campo is a writer who focuses on all aspects of baseball, be they metric analytics or interesting narratives to consider. He writes with a particular emphasis on the Seattle Mariners. He hopes to entertain readers by combining his love of literature, statistics, and intricate baseball nuances. He can be found on twitter @Mario_Md

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