Mariners crush AL wildcard rankings: Seattle has worst drought in MLB
Posted On September 30, 2021
They arrive as the 11th unwanted player in a pickup game: shaggy hair, ill-fitting shorts, old-fashioned headband, not necessarily knowing how they got there.
Sadly, the Seattle Mariners crushed the American League wildcard race, and as the game came to a close – no need to win by two – they refused to leave the field.
So, you might as well get to know these intruders.
Just half a game behind the Boston Red Sox for AL’s second-place wild card enteri Thursday, the Mariners, at 89-70, are closest to the playoffs in the past 20 years since their last appearance – the longest drought in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they got there and why they’re the strangest bunch in this fight:
It’s somewhat ironic that virtually every measurement suggests the Mariners have nothing to do with this playoff race. After all, the Mariners have earned a reputation as one of the coolest franchises in the game. Their year got off to an infamous start when club president Kevin Mather told a local Rotary club that the The team intended to take the duty time off their top prospects, viewed respected veteran Kyle Seager’s final year of contract as an important albatross, and provided several more. indirect club dissent.
GM Jerry Dipoto never met a player he wouldn’t trade for, even for the most incremental payoff, though a few of his stranded assets (Freddy Peralta, Mike Zunino, Chris Taylor) have transformed. in All-Stars elsewhere. And Dipoto inspired a near mutiny in the clubhouse when he moved closer to Kendall Graveman in Houston on the trade deadline, ostensibly jeopardizing their surprise.
But Dipoto pivoted for a replacement (Diego Castillo of the Rays) and cooler heads prevailed. While Mather resigned after his embarrassing comments, Dipoto ultimately secured a three-year contract extension and promotion to president of baseball operations as the Mariners continued to win.
Even when all the measurements suggest they shouldn’t.
Opponents beat the Mariners 735-687, and their minus-48 point differential gives them an “expected record” of 75-84. They are second to last to the AL in the OPS team (.688), 11th in points scored and have not been touched twice. Their 4.30 ERA ranks ninth in the AL and they are 12th in strikeouts by nine innings (8.28), putting a lot of pressure on a thankfully solid defense led by shortstop JP Crawford, which has a Gold Glove caliber year.
But the numbers don’t lie. So enter “fun differential”.
It’s a phrase manager Scott Servais coined in August to explain that his team is hitting way above their weight. No one knows exactly what the Mariners are up to behind closed doors, but there couldn’t be a better metric for this team.
It is, after all, immeasurable.
The Mariners last had a winning record in 2018 when they won 89 games. It was also the season when Mitch Haniger was an All-Star and finished 11th in the MVP vote, before a series of unfortunate events limited him to 63 games in 2019 and none in 2020.
It is surely no coincidence that the Mariners’ resurgence is linked to that of Haniger.
Haniger has clocked a career-high 38 home runs, many of which are very timely and can make a difference for a team as, um, algorithmically challenged as the Mariners. He has four multi-homer games and leads the major leagues with 43 RBIs in the seventh inning or later.
It’s a wonderful comeback story and could also serve as a sort of coda for his time in Seattle. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis and top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are set to hold the outfield for years to come, and Dipoto’s trigger never itches.
Haniger being eligible for free agent status after 2022, he is likely at the end of his stint with the Mariners. A taste of playoff baseball would be a fair reward.
Like Haniger, 2020 was totally forgettable for Paul Sewald. At times overwhelming but often erratic with the New York Mets, he rebounded between the big club and the alternative training site last year before the club abandoned him.
He was a whole different pitcher in Seattle.
Sewald, 31, hits 14 batters per nine innings and wears a WHIP of 1.01 in 62 very high leverage innings for the Mariners. His left-on-base percentage is 83%, ranking 17th in baseball and not far behind closest Drew Steckenrider (86%), who ranks ninth. (Did we mention this team can walk a tightrope?
Meanwhile, set-up man Casey Sadler hasn’t given up a run in two months, pitching 25 scoreless innings since July 27.
Relief is volatile; There are few guarantees that this group will repeat their exploits in 2022. But this convergence of career years has allowed the Mariners to exert significant end-of-round magic.
Seattle’s last playoff team, the 116-game winning team in 2001, won 93 games each of the following seasons before the franchise turned into a cycle of last seven places in nine years. It wasn’t until 2014, 2016 and 2018 that they even generated lukewarm playoff hopes. The 2014 squad was tied for a wild card spot after 153 games, but lost five in a row and the 16 and 18 teams were, like this one, outmaneuvered on paper.
But with four games to go, there was no September fade for these Mariners. Moreover, they will finish with an Angels squad which is below 0.500 and which is expected to wrap around Shohei Ohtani’s right arm this weekend.
Admittedly, TV and league executives are salivating over a wild Red Sox-Yankees card game that would result in an audience boon and ensure one of those popular teams goes deeper into October. But with no more than one game to catch up at the start of the weekend, the Mariners could ruin this scenario.
They have proven difficult to eradicate, although the numbers indicate that they should be long gone.