I know, it seems like a pipe dream at this point in the season. We are about a third of the way through the season so it doesn’t hurt to wonder, right?
I am an overly optimistic Mariners fan and have been my whole life. Why not be optimistic about a post season? While unlikely, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities.
Averaging out the playoff probabilities from the credible models, the Mariners have a 5.2% chance to reach the postseason according to Sports Betting Dime, even with the expanded eight-team field in each league. At 7-13, they are, surprisingly, only 2.5 games back of second in the AL West (as of Thursday), a spot that comes with a playoff berth.
How can the Mariners actually make it to the postseason? Better pitching all around. They rank dead last in the American League with an atrocious 5.66 ERA. Pitching has surrendered 85 walks, which is an MLB worst. They rank 12th in of baseball in strikeouts (163) and 14th overall in opposing average (.236). The problem is giving freebies to batters who end up taking a tour of the base path, resulting in a run.
On the offensive side, there has been a decline in productivity. They were a top-5 ranked offense through the first dozen games until lately, where they have since dropped to 22nd overall. The Mariners, partly due to their youth, are 2nd with 19 stolen bases only being caught three times. They are ranked 10th overall with 151 hits, 53 for extra bases. Productive runs are stagnant where only 78 have come with runners in scoring position. Another thing to note is that Mariners’ hitters have struck out 175 times, which is the 5th highest rate in all of baseball.
Here is the bottom line: First, Mariners pitching must stop giving free bases to batters. This leads to long innings and a spike in offensive productivity by the opposing team. Second, productive hitting needs to happen with runners in scoring position (or at least on base). Lastly, outs need to come by putting the ball in play versus striking out. When the team improves on its AL-worst run differential (at -32, they’re 15 runs clear of second-worst), it should be an indicator that they’ve improved on both sides of the ball.
I truly believe the Mariners are on the precipice of something great. They are a veteran starter and bullpen away from being a top-tier ball club.