Coming off a 6-2 road stint that saw the Seattle Mariners sweep three in Arlington, TX against the lowly Texas Rangers, lose two but salvage the final game in Houston, TX against the Houston Astros, and then take both games in Oakland against the Oakland A’s, the Mariners record stands at 69-58, 5.5 games out of first place in the AL West and 3 games out of the second wild card spot in the AL. And yet, the Mariners playoff odds, according to Fangraphs, stand at just 5.3%. Why is that? The projection system at Fangraphs is taking into account several factors.
First, what “should” the Mariners record be. Currently, the Mariners have a -56-run differential on the season. Their Pythagorean projected record right now is 58-69 or 11 games worse than their actual win tally. BaseRuns, which not only takes into account plus/minus runs scored but factors in the situations in which they were or weren’t scored, is slightly more pessimistic about what record the mariners “should” have. BaseRuns places the Mariners record at 57-70 or 12 games under their current win total.
A few other “fun facts,” The Mariners have 10 walk-off wins and just 5 walk-off losses. They are 26-14 in one-run games, a .650% that is ridiculous and hardly sustainable. However, it should be acknowledged that regression to the mean doesn’t necessarily have to happen in the same season. Keep that in mind in future seasons when the Mariners are losing one-run games at a maddening pace.
Second, the model continues to weigh the pre-season projections. Before the season, the Mariners were projected to go 78-84. Over the course of the season, the pre-season projections become less and less of the equation, but they are still being weighed in, if not to a lesser degree.
Third, the model considers how many teams the Mariners have to pass to make the playoffs. Currently, for the first wild card spot, they are 5.5 games behind the red-hot New York Yankees, who are on an 11-game winning streak as of Wednesday. They trail the slumping Boston Red Sox by 3 games for the second wild card spot. And they need to leap over the A’s, who, following their two losses to the M’s Monday and Tuesday, remain one game out of reach.
The upcoming schedule is obviously a factor in projecting the final standings. For the Mariners, this is a mixed bag. Starting today, the Mariners open a four-game homestand against the Kansas City Royals, who are 56-69 to date. But then the first-place Astros come to town for three. In the last series in Houston, the Astros outscored the Mariners 30-10, and if not for their inability to punch a run across in the 10th with the bases loaded and nobody out in the final game, they would have swept.
The road trip that follows the six-game homestand is equally unbalanced. Another three games against the Astros follow three games in Arizona against the 42-85 Diamondbacks before heading to Fenway to face the Red Sox for three. The remainder of the schedule is equally schizophrenic, with nine games against the sub .500 Royals and LA Angels and eight games against the team they need to pass – the Oakland A’s.
The bottom line is that the Mariners need to make hay against the Royals, Diamondbacks, and Angels, and they need to hold their own with the Astros and A’s. Coupled with some luck coming from the Bronx and Bean Town, the Mariners just might sneak into the playoffs. The odds are stacked, though – 94.7% against. But that’s why they play the games.