Are you believing in the Mariners yet?
So I just got back from vacation, and while I was away the Seattle Mariners continued their unexpected torrid run.
This season was supposed to be one of stepping back for the Mariners. Seattle sold off several of its core veteran players during the offseason, exchanging them for prospects who the team hopes can help the team win in the future. General manager Jerry Dipoto even said he was targeting 2021 as the season when Seattle truly returns to contention. This is supposed to be the season where the Mariners suffer through the rebuilding growing pains.
But there have been few pains so far. Seattle is 13-5 through Sunday’s games, which gives the Mariners the second-best record in all of Major League Baseball, just one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Seattle is leading the league with 126 runs, an average of 7.0 runs per game, a rate not seen at the start of a season in nearly a century. The Mariners have homered in all 18 of their games and lead the league with 39 total dingers. Dan Vogelbach has gone from annual disappointment to Babe Ruth. Domingo Santana is making the swap for Ben Gamel look like grand theft.
Who saw this coming?
But as fun as Seattle’s start has been, the real question is whether it’s sustainable.
Mariners fans have seen this before, as recently as a year ago. Last season Seattle was one of the league’s surprise teams early in the season. When the Mariners lost star second baseman Robinson Cano to a PED suspension, the team actually performed better during his absence. By the All-Star break is was all but assured Seattle’s 16-year playoff drought was over.
And then what happened? The Mariners went full Mariners. They collapsed down the stretch, saw Oakland blow past them in the standings, and missed the postseason for the 17th straight season, the longest playoff drought in major American sports.
So as fun as this ride has been, it’s understandable if Mariners fans are skeptical.
However, there is some evidence that this may not be a fluke. Last season, even when Seattle was flying high, the shadow of regression was always hanging over the Mariners like the sword of Damocles. While Seattle was winning games, the team’s run differential indicated it was winning more than it should. Was the team’s success a matter of knowing how to win close ones, or was it a matter of luck? It turns out the latter was at least part of it.
But the run numbers don’t suggest luck is at play at the moment. Through it’s first 18 games Seattle has a run differential of plus-35. That’s the second-best number in the league, trailing just the league-leading Rays. The Pythagorean calculation for Seattle’s expected record based on run scored and runs allowed is 12-6, so the Mariners essentially have the record they deserve.
The past weekend did throw a little cold water on the early-season proceedings, as Seattle was swept in its three-game home series against the Houston Astros. Was that the moment reality set in for the Mariners?
So how are you feeling about Seattle’s start? Are you a believer, or a skeptic? Let us know here: