So You Want To Celebrate The Mariners, Responsibly

Jeff Sullivan · April 3, 2014 at 12:14 am · Filed Under Mariners 

First of all, why? Go nuts. One doesn’t get to feel this feeling very often, so why not choose to believe in the Mariners for as long as you can? Don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. The Mariners have already embarrassed you enough times before. Appreciate what there is to be appreciated. Last year’s team won its first two games, and then it won just 69 of its remaining games. If you made a point of staying responsible early, did it really make the season any better? You don’t win points for staying grounded as a sports fan, and if you don’t have fun when fun is being handed to you, you’re going to hate this, because shit’s probably a’brewin’. Things are going to get worse.

But, all right, I’ll grant that it’s possible to go too far, even with early good feelings. You might consider that, while the Mariners are undefeated and have looked great, the Astros, too, are undefeated. The White Sox are undefeated. The calendar’s going to turn as I’m writing this, but right now in the corner of my monitor it says 11:54 PM, 4/2/2014, which means it’s April 2 and the season lasts after April for kind of a long time. There is so, so much unpredictable baseball coming our way, and odds are at some point the Mariners will even lose a game.

What just happened was that the Mariners finished off a dominant three-game sweep on the road against a division rival. A division rival who might have been projected as the best team in the AL West as recently as the weekend. The Mariners were firing on just about every cylinder, while the Angels’ cylinders, I don’t know, exploded, I don’t know very much about cylinders. The Mariners both walked and hit the crap out of the ball. They struck out Angels hitters and they didn’t walk them much. Not many ways that series could’ve gone better, as it’s a special kind of something to make the other team’s fans boo their own favorites. Angels fans are hating baseball right now, and the Angels have only played the Mariners.

Here’s how I’m choosing to be both excited and reasonable. It’s all about the playoff odds. Even this early, it’s all about the playoff odds. That’s kind of the point, right? I mean, in reality it isn’t — the point is the journey — but we have to lie to ourselves and believe the playoffs are the point. The Mariners, now, are 3-0, and those games can’t be taken away. The Angels are 0-3, and those games also can’t be taken away. Let’s pull some numbers out of thin air. If you thought the Angels were an 86-win team, now they’re an 84.4-win team. If you thought the Mariners were an 81-win team, now they’re an 82.5-win team. Whatever gap there was has been shrunk, and, hey, the A’s are 1-2. It’s never too early for the wins to start counting, and look right now at the FanGraphs playoff odds page.

The numbers aren’t perfect — they’ll never be perfect, until the playoff picture is clinched — but at the moment the Mariners have the sixth-best odds in the American League. They’re right between the A’s and the Indians, and I should note that the Rangers’ projection includes some mistakenly productive numbers for a couple starting pitchers who are transitioning from the bullpen. Of course, five teams make the playoffs, and one of those teams is done in a day, but before it didn’t look like the Mariners were the sixth-best team in the AL, so they’ve gained some ground. Their playoff odds are already up nearly ten percentage points. That is an incredible lift, even if they still aren’t at or over 50%.

43.9%. That’s what FanGraphs says right now. It’s going to change, and eventually that number’s going to be either 0% or 100%. But I’ll take my chances with that number tonight, because that number’s a lot higher than it recently was, and there’s no going backwards since the sweep in Anaheim is already in the books. 43.9%. You know Edgar Martinez’s career OBP? 41.8%. How good did you feel when Edgar would come up to the plate? He made a lot of outs. He reached base a lot too.

The Astros haven’t lost, and the 1985 Mariners were the first Mariners team to open 3-0. They actually opened 6-0. Shortly thereafter they were 7-12. They finished 74-88 and the team kept sucking for years. There are so many ways we know this could go wrong, and this could also go wrong in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine. If the Mariners have done anything, it’s explore the very frontiers of losing baseball. But it’s okay to feel good. It’s okay to feel even better than you did a few days ago. A few days ago, the Mariners were in considerably worse shape. They still had to face a good team in its own ballpark. Now that team’s been obliterated. By this team!

Felix was great, Erasmo Ramirez was great, James Paxton was great, and some of the hitters were great. Some good performances have been in line with expectations, and other good performances have suggested we might want to raise expectations. Everything is going to even out, but it was possible before to envision this Mariners team getting to October. It was clear what would have to happen. Those things have happened so far, and then some. The Mariners can make the playoffs without outscoring the opposition by six runs a game.

Let the Mariners make you feel good. You never know how long that’s going to last. Maybe this year it’ll last a long, long time. No reason not to believe that, yet.


27 Responses to “So You Want To Celebrate The Mariners, Responsibly”

  1. MrZDevotee on April 3rd, 2014 12:57 am

    It’s just fun to have guys on this team be in position to FALL DOWN to our expectations, instead of constantly praying they’ll scratch and claw their way up to our continually lowering expectations…

    Again, Justin Smoak didn’t have 7 RBI’s till May 18th last season.

    AND… We had exactly ONE sweep of a road team last season. At Houston. After the All-Star Break. Our only OTHER sweep was the series directly before it, at home against the Angels.

    These are small things, naturally. But they’re POSITIVE small things, instead of having to take the bad things and spin ourselves on the belief “they’re only small things”…

    For 3 days, there wasn’t a better team to root for as the season opened… That’s pretty cool. Now let’s go mess up the A’s…

    Happy Roenis Elias Day!

  2. dewey on April 3rd, 2014 12:57 am

    i was much more optimistic about the rotation this year, even with the injuries. The offense, however, particularly Smoak and the entire outfield, not so much. Love what I’ve seen so fare, and i love you Jeff!

  3. MrZDevotee on April 3rd, 2014 1:23 am

    Another fun stat just trotted out on ESPN about Smoak…

    > Already has two 3 RBI games in 2014…

    > Had two games with 3 RBI over the entire 2013 season.

  4. PackBob on April 3rd, 2014 1:52 am

    Nothing wrong with savoring the moment.

    A couple things that add to the feel good. Cano, while getting on base and getting a bunch of hits has not been THE man. The Mariners are getting it done without him carrying the team. It’s nice to have the feeling this early that the other guys can win games.

    Felix, Erasmo, and James are the three guys likely to stick when Hisashi and Taijaun return. Three well pitched games by the three counted on to go the season is a good thing, and should only get better when Iwakuma and Walker start pitching again.

    There was the in your face mauling of the Angels, and there is some good background stuff too. Hard to beat.

  5. maqman on April 3rd, 2014 2:43 am

    Whatever else happens this season we’ll have these three days to remember.

  6. Gormogon on April 3rd, 2014 7:07 am

    “…explore the frontiers of losing baseball”? That is GOLDEN, Jeff. Golden!!!

  7. djw on April 3rd, 2014 7:25 am

    other good performances have suggested we might want to raise expectations.

    Which players do you seriously think we have sufficient information to meaningfully revise our projections for compared to 72 hours ago?

    I know it’s fun to forget about SSS this time of year, but that doesn’t mean the core lesson goes away. Remember GB’s hilarious triumphalism about Morse this time last year? He had at least twice as much data as we’re working with here.

  8. kbarnhouse on April 3rd, 2014 7:34 am

    What’s weird is that we have a higher chance of winning every category than the Angels right now (Division, WC, divisional series, championship series), except for winning the world series. The Angels are .1 higher than the Mariners.

  9. Dennisss on April 3rd, 2014 7:40 am

    Getting too excited about the Mariners this early is like thinking you have a shot with the hottie in English class because she smiled at you: a) you are probably going to be disappointed, and it’s going to hurt, and b) the voice of reason is tugging at the back of your mind, telling you this is not realistic. But the fantasy is still irresistible.

    Let’s see how Oakland treats the back of the rotation.

  10. Westside guy on April 3rd, 2014 7:52 am

    3-0 is better than 0-3. That’s the only conclusion I’m drawing from the season’s start.

    Oh… except that it’s also unlikely the team will continue running anywhere near a .383 BABIP.

  11. Don Money on April 3rd, 2014 8:41 am

    I love those smiles! What if Romero turns out to be the RH bat we were going to trade Franklin for? I got to see him in Peoria for a few games and have to say the ball jumps off his bat.

  12. Jeff Sullivan on April 3rd, 2014 8:46 am

    djw —

    reasons to be a little more positive about Ramirez/Paxton than we might’ve been over the weekend

  13. Jeff Sullivan on April 3rd, 2014 8:46 am

    Westside guy —

    obviously there’s coming regression, but the M’s also outscored the Angels by 18 runs over three games so it’s not like they didn’t hit the shit out of the ball and throw the shit out of it too

  14. diderot on April 3rd, 2014 8:56 am

    “It’s just fun to have guys on this team be in position to FALL DOWN to our expectations, instead of constantly praying they’ll scratch and claw their way up to our continually lowering expectations…”

    That is beautifully stated. In fact, it’s Jeff-worthy.

  15. Gormogon on April 3rd, 2014 8:56 am

    In summary, the balls have no more shit in them. Thanks M’s!

  16. JasonJ on April 3rd, 2014 9:08 am

    I have watched roughly 80-90% of Mariners games for a while and that was one of the more satisfying series I can remember.

    For starters, Miller and Cano in the 2-3 slot is no joke. A lot of teams would kill to have that combination right now.

    I’ll forever remain skeptical of Smoak and Ackley but I will enjoy that they helped us win 3 games against the Angels and seeing them hit the ball hard three games in a row sure beats a stick in the eye. Smoak from years past would get a mistake fastball and foul it off. He punished every mistake he saw in that series.

    The bats will need to stay hot in Oakland if we want to win that series, but so far so good!

  17. TherzAlwaysHope on April 3rd, 2014 9:40 am

    RE Smoak. The guy looks different. His comment about his first homerun was instructive, in which he said last year he would not have been able to get the barrel of the bat on the ball. I think his time with Cano is huge.

    RE Ackley. He used to wait on the right pitch to try to hit a homerun. He said as much. Now. Different guy.

  18. Westside guy on April 3rd, 2014 10:44 am

    So it sounds like, from some of the comments here, small sample size warnings only apply if the sample isn’t supportive of ones’ biases. Got it.

    COME ON PEOPLE, it’s three games! Three fun games for sure, but – THREE. This is the same stuff people said at the start of last season. This is the same stuff people said after we took seven of eight from the Royals over the course of eleven games during a pretty recent summer. The Mariners can look great when they’re playing a team that looks awful – let’s see if they can continue to look great against teams that have their stuff together.

    It’s wonderful that the team is 3-0, but don’t start making your World Series plans with your besties quite yet.

    Enjoy the wins. Enjoy the present.

  19. Shoeless Jose on April 3rd, 2014 10:50 am

    The way I celebrated was to go to Halos Heaven, hold my nose, and skim for the schadenfreude.

  20. MrZDevotee on April 3rd, 2014 12:10 pm

    Are you suggesting we can’t keep hitting .450 with RISP? Or the the team batting average is gonna come down from .309? We can’t sustain a .389, best in the league, OBP? Or our team OPS will come down from .980…(also league best)?

    And we won’t continue to lead the league in homeruns, doubles, triples, runs scored and rbi? We’re 2nd in walks (dangit)…

    That’s rude.

    Oh wait, or are you following my “bitching about the M’s works this year” method? Aha! Irony…

    (I’m not sure it applies to bitching about the fans too, but I appreciate your efforts… And like I said before, at least it’s fun to have to “downtrend” the SSS instead of convince ourselves the crummy stats will regress towards something more uncringeworthy, if we’re lucky, maybe by June…)

  21. californiamariner on April 3rd, 2014 12:26 pm

    I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it for however long it lasts! Sports are supposed to be fun!
    Obviously there’s major regression to come, but hey they don’t have to win by 8 every night to be in the playoff race, just enjoy the good times!

  22. MrZDevotee on April 3rd, 2014 1:28 pm

    Hey, I feel a Cars’ song coming on…

    “Let the good times roll
    Let them knock you around
    Let the good times roll
    Let them make you a clown…

    Let them leave you up in the air
    Let them brush your rock and roll hair…

    Let the Good Times Roll…”

  23. FELIXisKING on April 3rd, 2014 1:57 pm

    I love reading your stuff, Jeff. I really enjoy your writing style. Couple that with a positive piece like this one, just a gread read. Thanks, man.

  24. Westside guy on April 3rd, 2014 2:05 pm

    MrZ, if you wonder why I’m so resistant to declaring this to be a Team of Destiny after a handful of games…

    I will, to my dying day, remember making this post regarding Justin Smoak.

  25. Eastside Suds on April 3rd, 2014 2:56 pm

    Westy, I missed that one. Yeah, that kind of smarts and I do understand your tepid positivity. But, just let me bask in the afterglow for awhile. It’s been a long while since we saw our M’s play like that in every category. Go M’s!!

  26. Dobbs on April 3rd, 2014 3:08 pm

    We’re #1!

  27. MrZDevotee on April 3rd, 2014 3:16 pm

    Ouch. Okay, I can understand your hesitancy… BUT, we’ll all say he sucks again too when it happens, until then– ignorance is bliss… And hey, for 3 games you were dead on with you declaration– enjoy it while it lasts! *laugh* He’ll morph into Bucky Jacobsen again soon enough.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.