The Weirdness Has Already Happened

Jeff Sullivan · June 25, 2014 at 12:59 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

On a podcast earlier this season, Matthew briefly lamented the fact that the Mariners seldom blow other teams out. It’s not much of a complaint, and it’s true because the Mariners haven’t been a great team*, but there is nothing quite like an easy, comfortable win. On consecutive nights now, the Mariners have dismantled the Red Sox. They’ve outscored the defending champions 20-5. The first of two starting lineups had Endy Chavez leading off, and Willie Bloomquist at DH. The second had Endy Chavez leading off, John Buck at DH, and Erasmo Ramirez on the mound. If you don’t understand, don’t worry, because nobody does.

* great teams blow other teams out

Go ahead and pick your favorite WTF statistic. There are a few to choose from. A selection:

  • The Mariners are 5-1 when Willie Bloomquist starts at first base or DH.
  • The Mariners are 12-5 when Endy Chavez starts.
  • The Mariners are 14-7 when Cole Gillespie starts.
  • Chris Young has allowed fewer runs per nine innings than Max Scherzer, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Jon Lester, among so many others.

What’s not a total shock is that the Mariners are in third place. What’s more of a shock is that they’re sitting on six more wins than losses, and they have a game lead on the Orioles for the second wild-card slot. They have baseball’s second-highest run differential, which seems absolutely insane, and according to the FanGraphs playoff odds, the Mariners are securely in fifth in the AL, where five teams get to play extra. The Mariners project to finish a little above average, and that’s all you need to be these days to live at least another nine innings.

A decade ago, that run-differential statistic would’ve been more exciting. These days, we know better; run differential matters, but it matters less than other things you can do. The Mariners haven’t actually played like baseball’s second-best team, and to get a little more advanced, you can look instead at wOBA differential, which is simply wOBA produced less wOBA allowed. By that metric, the Mariners come out fifth in the AL at present, behind the A’s, Angels, Tigers, and Blue Jays. That’s not unexpected. They’re still ahead of the Orioles, and Indians, and Royals, and Yankees. Actually, right behind the Mariners are the Rays, who have baseball’s very worst record. That’s the Rays’ misfortune, but the Rays’ misfortune isn’t our problem.

An important point to recognize: the Mariners’ record probably isn’t an accurate reflection of the Mariners’ performance. On paper, they should be a few games worse, which I don’t think many would disagree with.

An important point to recognize: that’s all in the books, though. The weirdness that’s taken place never has to be given back. The Mariners will forever have gone 12-5 in Endy Chavez’s first 17 starts. A lot of people are growing increasingly familiar with the concept of regression to the mean, but that doesn’t get to apply retroactively, so it’s not like you should go around expecting a team-wide slump to even everything out. That’s not reality, that’s the gambler’s fallacy, and so what matters most now is taking advantage of the win/loss foundation the team has already set.

This isn’t rocking any boats. This is all simple, obvious stuff, but while you’re free to await the other shoe dropping, understand what that would look like. There’s no reason to expect that to be a massive collapse. It would look a lot more like .500 baseball, and if the Mariners finish .500, they’ll finish 84-78. That’s close enough to be interesting into September, and now you look around and see reasons to think the team could play more sustainably well.

I mean, Brad Miller is showing signs, right? Erasmo Ramirez is a disaster either waiting to happen or in the process of happening, but Taijuan Walker just spun a shutout in triple-A. Michael Saunders is almost back to replace Endy Chavez, and Saunders doesn’t look like he’s missed a step. Logan Morrison has reduced the importance of getting back a normal Justin Smoak, and I don’t think Corey Hart is as bad as his early-season statistics. It’s possible to be both cynical about the organization and excited by the rest-of-season outlook. Apparently the Mariners are looking at making deadline additions. Even if 2014 is a save-the-job season for the front office, it’s not like we’re in position to choose the circumstances under which we get a decent Mariners team. What we all want is competitive baseball, and while we’d prefer competitive baseball under the sort of leadership we thought we had in 2009, the present situation is better than other, recent situations. The position the Mariners are in now is a position where they’re probably going to be some kind of compelling for at least most of the regular season.

The Mariners’ disadvantage is that they share a division with maybe the two best teams in the league. So they’re looking almost strictly wild card, and that means a potential one-and-done, and that feels less than totally satisfying. But a potential one-and-done, half the time, is also a one-and-on, and while you can say what you will about the true intentions behind wild-card expansion, again, it’s not like we don’t get to benefit. If the idea is to increase interest and drum up profits, they can drum up profits because they’re successfully increasing interest. It’s fun to give a shit, and right now we get to give all the shit we like.

It’s kind of weird that the Mariners have this many wins. They’re guaranteed to finish with at least that many wins. What’s done is done, and the future could have a lot less Bloomquist, Chavez, and Gillespie. The future’s only 84 games. You don’t have to understand why what’s happened has happened. Just recognize that it could be a hell of a lot worse.


19 Responses to “The Weirdness Has Already Happened”

  1. MrZDevotee on June 25th, 2014 1:39 pm

    You left out a WTF stat-

    The Mariners are 4-0 when John Buck is the DH

  2. Ichiroll on June 25th, 2014 2:00 pm

    1 game playoff with Felix on the mound? I like our chances.

  3. Alex on June 25th, 2014 3:15 pm

    Exactly. The Mariners have the best strategy for winning a Wild Card game: Felix.

    “The Mariners strategy”:
    1: Put together a roster than can manage to win 87 games or whatever to get into the 2nd wild card.
    2: Felix your way into the real playoffs.

  4. vb1138 on June 25th, 2014 3:22 pm

    And if we need Felix to win the last game to get to the wild card, we got Kuma. I still like our chances! 2001 Diamondbacks, here we come!

  5. BoomBoom on June 25th, 2014 3:23 pm

    Ignorance is bliss.

    I often can’t stay up late enough to know the final score. Which means I check it first thing in the morning. More often than not, I sit at my computer, smiling. My God…they won…again. With that lineup…they won…again.

    I’m as stunned as anyone that they’re running these guys out there and winning, but…I just don’t care anymore. I just want them to keep doing it. I like smiling.

  6. pgreyy on June 25th, 2014 3:27 pm

    Lincecum throws his 2nd no hitter.

    …luckily, Brandon Morrow is the anchor of the M’s starting roster!

  7. mark s on June 25th, 2014 3:50 pm

    “You don’t have to understand why what’s happened has happened. Just recognize that it could be a hell of a lot worse.”

    Statement on the Mariners OR toast by a best man at a wedding?

  8. kennyb on June 25th, 2014 3:57 pm

    I don’t want to start a fight, but I have a question about the whole regression idea.
    I understand the math, 42-36 record with 84 games to go, the team is, by most preseason accounts, about a .500 talent team so going 42-42 gets us to 84 wins.
    But why does the regression always start tomorrow?
    What if it actually started 6 games ago?
    The Mariners were 37-35 with 90 games to go. A .500 record the rest of the way gets us to 82 wins. Not a huge change I know but you can see my point.
    I’m not trying to be a wet blanket, I have just wondered about this for quite a while.
    It is my hope that the Mariners can play at a .750 clip the rest of the way – Won’t go so far as to bet it, but I can dream.

  9. MrZDevotee on June 25th, 2014 5:20 pm

    I said it yesterday and will push forth the notion for the rest of the season–

    Just because we realize this is happening with smoke & mirrors does NOT mean we have to stop using smoke & mirrors, or that we can no longer win with them.

    I just haven’t figured out which one is smoke and which one is mirrors, yet– meaning between Endy Chavez and Willie Boom Boom. I mean, we’ve all literally SEEN them win ballgames for us the past week with their bats. I don’t believe anyone has EVER written that sentence before, about either of them, in their entire careers.

    I’ve definitely been polishing up my Hell-colored ice skates. And I don’t even mind split infinitives at the moment.

  10. Paul B on June 25th, 2014 5:27 pm

    I don’t think Gillespie is bad. FWIW.

  11. PackBob on June 25th, 2014 5:38 pm

    While most things regress toward the mean, in either direction, there is no time table or rule that something has to regress within a certain time frame. Everything else being equal, the Boom Boom-Chavy express should slow down. But everything else is rarely equal, except in an exceptionally controlled experiment, which baseball is not. The Boom Boom-Chavy express could roll longer, even a season’s worth. Probably not, but it could.

    But Saunders could also return and be good, making Chavez go away, LoMo could replace Smoak and hit like Smoak was supposed to, Cory Hart might find his stroke. There is enough uncertainty, in either direction, that the team could even improve. Walker might shine and add a bunch of value over Ramirez/Maurer.

    The safest bet is along the projections, but those are only probabilities with big error bars, so why not enjoy the ride hoping the Mariners are driving the plus error bar car? It’s been a long, long time since we’ve even been close to be able to do that.

  12. MrZDevotee on June 25th, 2014 6:18 pm

    My favorite place for drinks– Happy Hour at the Error Bar!

  13. ctdawg on June 25th, 2014 7:25 pm

    I never cease to be amazed about the defeatist attitude this site seems to have about the Mariners. Like the post from the weekend telling us to go outside instead of watch the game. It is like you insulted me because I did decide to watch the game.

    This post points out all these positive numbers in favor of the Ms – but does it in such a negative way. The last year or two, this blog has just gotten more and more depressing. I don’t get the sense that anyone who runs this site actually likes the team and just feels burdened by having to write for it.

    Sure the offense sucks but whatever. The team is winning. I’m going to appreciate it while I can. I should probably just stop reading this site because it always bums me out.

  14. msfanmike on June 25th, 2014 7:35 pm

    Nice swing!

  15. msfanmike on June 25th, 2014 7:39 pm

    That pitch was spanked!!!

  16. msfanmike on June 25th, 2014 8:13 pm

    Hey Mike, this is not the game thread!


  17. bookbook on June 26th, 2014 8:05 pm

    kennyb, I think the answer is that the past has already happened. Thus, there’s a 100% probability that the team is 42-37 right now–disregarding alternate universes and the like.

    For the remaining games, currently in their Schrodinger’s cat-like state of uncertainty, the best bet we can make is to assume the projections are right. We’ll almost definitely be wrong, but that’s the assumption that makes us as likely to be wrong to the positive as to the negative.

  18. Phightin Phils on June 26th, 2014 11:14 pm

    Randomness shows up in clumps. No reason not to expect a clump of losses.

  19. MrZDevotee on June 27th, 2014 10:25 am

    Randomness shows up in clumps. No reason not to expect a clump of MORE wins either…

    Nobody knows how large the clumps are…

    Oh, and thanks for stopping by, ctdawg.

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