Projecting The Seattle Mariners Playoff Chances

Even as the cultural significance of SportsCenter wanes in the presence of Snap Face – and other sources of instant “social” gratification – to borrow from the charmingly grumpy New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick – athletes from all over the globe still cherish seeing themselves highlighted on the Mother Ship in Bristol, Connecticut.

This week the Seattle Mariners had the dubious honor of serving as the backdrop to a Minnesota Twins highlight reel that led the opening segment of the west coast version of SportsCenter. If you watched the debacle in its entirety on Root Sports locally or on the highlights of ESPN, you’ll know that the Twins avenged a 14-3 home loss to the Mariners on June 12th with a 20-7 annihilation of the M’s on June 13th. ESPN was kind enough to show all 28 of the Twins hits and all 20 of their runs. I can still faintly hear Dave Simms exclaiming “good grief” in between other apologetic homerismis.

Injury Plagued Season

The Mariners have flirted with .500 for most of the season, usually claiming the mediocre record only to immediately slip back a few games to a more pathetic position in the standings.  The team that many in the industry picked to make the playoffs as a wild card have wallowed in mediocrity on the backs of pitchers who were never supposed to even be in the big leagues this season, as four of the five projected starting pitchers have spent significant time on the DL.

Off season acquisition Jean Segura has also been on the shelf for long stretches, requiring the Mariners to plug in the likes of Taylor Motter at shortstop. Motter is late to the majors, average on defense, lacks a hit tool, and has almost no pop. A slash line of .201/.269/.358 is often overlooked on the hometown broadcast in favor of praising Motter’s long golden locks. At this point his -0.1 WAR can’t be ignored when every game counts. The lack of organizational depth from the previous administrations’ drafts is proving to be a liability for GM Jerry Dipoto. This team could afford no injuries and they’ve had quite a few.

Any opportunity the Mariners had pre-season to seize the AL West has all but disappeared. The Houston Astros are the best team in baseball. Sitting atop the AL West, FanGraphs projections give the Astros a 98.9% chance of winning the division, while the Mariners cling to a 0.6% chance. Miracles do happen in sports, like LeBron bringing the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors – oh wait a minute – but they are rare and special. Nothing currently seems special about this Mariners team.

Long Odds

It seems right now that either the New York Yankees of the Boston Red Sox will win the AL East, with the other taking the first wild card spot. The AL Central seems unlikely to produce a wild card team, with the currently second place Cleveland Indians still favored to win the division with an 84.4% probability. And with the Astros running away with the West, that leaves the second wild card for the Mariners and the rest of the league to shoot for.

In the five seasons of the second wild card team – yes, it’s only been five years – the average win total for the second team in the AL is 88.75. Let’s just round that up to 89. The most wins belong to the 2013 Cleveland Indians with 92, while the fewest wins belongs to the 2015 New York Yankees with 86. So, the 2017 Seattle Mariners probably need to win between 86 and 92 games, with 89 as a solid goal.

Currently the Mariners are hovering in the mid-thirties win total. Going forward, they will need to win around 55 more games. That’s a smidgen under .580 ball. Currently, only five teams in all of baseball are playing that well – the Yankees, the Astros, the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Colorado Rockies. There’s no doubt it’s a tough road to haul but it can be done. Accordingly, FanGraphs gives the Mariners a 17.7% chance of making the playoffs.

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About Brian Hight 107 Articles
Brian Hight lives in Seattle and writes primarily about MLB and the local Seattle Mariners, with a focus on advanced analytics. Occasionally, he delves into the NFL and the NBA, also with an emphasis on advanced statistics. He’s currently pursuing a Certificate in Data Analysis online from Microsoft, where he hopes to create a prediction model for baseball outcomes for his capstone project.