So You Want To Celebrate The Mariners, Responsibly
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.