What We’ve Seen Lately
In July, the Mariners have been scoring runs. Maybe you’ve noticed this directly, by observing them score runs and taking down notes. Maybe you’ve noticed this indirectly, by looking back and realizing that lately watching the Mariners hasn’t been a godawful chore. People are actually enjoying the Mariners. They’re actually looking forward to the Mariners. The Mariners, at least for a little while, have featured a real offense, and the real offense has driven real wins, and the Mariners just swept the Angels who I refuse to believe are as bad as their record. The Mariners aren’t going anywhere in 2013, at least not anywhere with playoff bedsheets, but with recent roster turnover and with recent performance, I think the general fan mood is unusually positive.
It’s a consequence of having such a young roster. It becomes easy to believe. And the good mood might come to an abrupt halt on the other side of the break, I don’t know. The month is only halfway over, but if you allow me to use OPS, regular OPS, non-park-adjusted OPS, I’ll inform you that, in July, the Mariners have posted an .853 OPS. That’s as a team. Kyle Seager has an .846 OPS. Said OPS, so far, ranks first in the American League in the month. In July, the Mariners have had the AL’s best team offense.
To look at this differently: the Mariners have played 13 July games. In all but one, they’ve scored at least four runs. In that one, they scored three, and beat the Reds, in a National League ballpark. Back in 2010, between August 27 and September 6, the Mariners played 11 games, and never reached as many as four runs once. We’re unaccustomed to seeing the Mariners put out this kind of offensive productivity, and maybe an image will help drive that point home, as if it actually needs to be driven.
Below, a chart. We’re going month by month, from 2008 to the present day, and we’re looking at the Mariners’ OPS rank in the AL. It’s telling. Over the course of things, at least we know we probably built character. But I could stand to have a little less character, and a little more positive association with my favorite baseball team. If ifs and buts…
This month isn’t over — it’s only half over! — but right now, the Mariners have the month’s best OPS in the league. Last month, they were 12th. The month before, ninth. The month before that, 13th. That covers 2013. I don’t want to cover the years before. I already lived them once, and once is once too much.
It’s not just that the Mariners hadn’t had a league-leading offense for a month since the start of 2008. That’s covering 33 months. It’s that they hadn’t even ranked in the top five. In June 2009, they were sixth, and that’s the previous high. Next-best? Three months, tied at ninth. I know this is just OPS, and Safeco makes the Mariners look worse than they are, but this isn’t a time when we need to be perfectly scientific. The point gets across, no matter if you use OPS or wRC+. The Mariners have sucked at scoring, consistently.
The last time the Mariners ranked in the top five was August 2007. The last time they had the AL’s best OPS for a month was June 2006. I’m just going to guess that, this month, they won’t be able to hold off the Tigers, but the difference between the Mariners’ July OPS and the sixth-place July OPS is 103 points, so we could be well on our way to a top-five finish. This is the first time in a very, very long time that we’ve gotten to feel like the Mariners have a legitimate offensive attack. There’ve been flashes before, but this has been sustained, even if it won’t sustain much longer.
What’s helped? This month, the Mariners have led the AL in dingers. Kyle Seager and Raul Ibanez have slugged in the .700s. Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales have slugged in the .600s. Michael Saunders has almost joined them, and then Brad Miller has held his own. Others, like Nick Franklin, Mike Zunino, and Dustin Ackley have struggled, but maybe they’ll get better and somewhat offset the other guys getting worse. With a young team, everyone’s got promise. Every success feels like a potential indicator; every failure can be written off as a growing pain. A young team lets you lie to yourself, convincingly, and that’s kind of one of the keys to enduring sports-fan happiness. Happiness when you’re not on the verge of a title.
What I’m not saying is that the Mariners have one of the league’s best offensive units. What I am saying is that the Mariners have recently had one of the league’s best offensive units, and we just haven’t seen that from them in god-damned forever. So it’s a different feeling, a new feeling, a fresh feeling, where we get to watch these Mariners and separate them from the Mariners of months and seasons past. It’s re-energizing, because we’ve been able to feel like we’re fans of a whole different ballclub.
No idea what happens now. Maybe the Mariners revert to themselves and this positivity deteriorates in a week. There’s no such thing as a feeling that lasts, not in the realm of fandom. But maybe they keep hitting and scoring. Maybe they keep providing entertainment. Maybe they keep feeling worthwhile, which I can tell you hasn’t been like them. There are things about this team to grip onto, things that aren’t just Felix Hernandez. If nothing else, the Mariners are capable of making us feel the way that we’ve felt. It’s been nice.