Can The Seattle Mariners Go Deep Into The Playoffs?
The Seattle Mariners started the day Wednesday on the outside looking in. The 2-1 loss on Tuesday dropped them a half game behind the Detroit Tigers for the 2nd AL Wild-Card spot.
Now, there are still 18 games left in the season for Seattle and anything can happen. If they go 9-9 over the last 18 games, they would finish at 88-74, probably miss the playoffs and most people would be happy with the progress that was made.
Judging by the size of the crowd at Safeco these past few nights, people may have already given up hope for a playoff berth. Which is just ridiculous.
But, can this team that has struggled to score runs at times this season, make a run if they get in the playoffs?
We know they have the pitching to handle it. Hitting is at a premium once October arrives. But let’s take a look at some of the possible matchups and see if the Mariners have what it takes to make a deep run.
Assuming the Mariners get one of the wild-card spots without needing a tiebreaker game, the M’s will most likely face the Oakland Athletics in the one-game winner-take-all.
This would probably pit Felix Hernandez against Jon Lester.
Lester has allowed just under two earned runs per start this year (1.93) and about two and a half total runs allowed per start (2.414). Felix has allowed 1.67 earned runs per start this season and only 1.93 total runs per start.
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So needless to say, this game is going to be low-scoring and close.
The Athletics have four players in the Top-50 in the American League for runs created: (Josh Donaldson– 13th, Brandon Moss– 31st, Coco Crisp– 46th, Adam Dunn– 47th). The Mariners have three: (Robinson Cano– 8th, Kyle Seager– 16th, Austin Jackson– 43rd).
Those three Mariners combine for 1.67 runs created per game. For the sake of comparison, I’ll only use the top three for Oakland. In fact, I’m only using the top three for all teams, seeing that in October, there is usually a dip in offensive statistics. One player will generally rise out of obscurity, but at least one solid contributor will disappear completely. The others, all kind of balance out.
So, the top three should provide a fairly decent snapshot. In this example, the A’s combine for a total of 1.51 runs created per game.
This game definitely leans in the M’s favor. And if history is on their side – Felix and the M’s beat Lester 2-1 on September 3rd in Oakland – this should be a win for Seattle.
American League Division Series
So, let’s say the M’s make it to the ALDS. They would face the team with the best record in the American League. That is likely going to be the Los Angeles Angels. Assuming a pitching rotation of Felix, Hisashi Iwakuma, Chris Young and James Paxton, here is how they would match up against the Angels.
Jared Weaver (3.58 ERA, 2.55 RA/G)* vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (2.97 ERA, 2.21 RA/G)
C.J. Wilson (4.64 ERA, 3.15 RA/G) vs. Chris Young (3.35 ERA, 2.18 RA/G)
Matt Shoemaker (3.25 ERA, 1.88 RA/G) vs. James Paxton (1.87 ERA, 1.22 RA/G)
You can a pretty sizable edge to ‘Kuma in the first one. The second game could be close and the third game is a toss up as well.
Keeping in mind that hitting tends to fall off a bit in October, let’s take a look at the Angels Top-3 in runs created vs the M’s.
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Trout leads the American League in runs created at 115.5. Add in Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick and these three create an average of 1.91 runs per game. But that’s just the top three guys.
The Angels have two more in the Top-50, a total of 10 in the Top-100. The Mariners add only Dustin Ackley to their side in the Top-100.
So it will be a classic battle of good pitching versus good hitting.
If pitching prevails, the Mariners could – theoretically with a large COULD – be in line for a three-game sweep, saving Felix for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series (a preferable situation to be sure).
But if hitting prevails in one or two games, then the M’s have Felix for Game 4 and ‘Kuma again for Game 5. I actually like the M’s chances in this series.
American League Championship Series
Given the fact that most Mariners fans couldn’t have even dreamed of an ALCS appearance this season, if the Mariners go this far in year one in the Robinson Cano era, they would probably be happy.
But let’s look at the numbers anyways to see if they have a chance at making it to their first World Series.
In this example, I am assuming that the Mariners would face the Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers and Kansas City Royals are still in the hunt and one of those teams could be pitted against the M’s in any round. But for this, I am using the O’s.
Assuming the four-man rotations reset in time for the series to start, here are the matchups.
Chris Tillman (3.36 ERA, 2.45 RA/G) vs. Felix Hernandez (2.12 ERA, 1.93 RA/G)
Bud Norris (3.92, 2.60 RA/G) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (2.97 ERA, 2.21 RA/G)
Miguel Gonzalez (3.22 ERA, 2.29 RA/G) vs. Chris Young (3.35 ERA, 2.18 RA/G)
Wei-Yin Chen (3.69 ERA, 2.48 RA/G) vs. James Paxton (1.87 ERA, 1.22 RA/G)
As you can see, the Mariners hold the edge in three of the four matchups, with the Gonzalez/Young game being a tossup. Let’s look at the top three run creators for Baltimore.
Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are all in the Top-50 for the Orioles. In fact, they are all in the Top-25. They have four more in the 51-100 range, giving them seven players in the Top-100 to Seattle’s four.
The top three average roughly 1.77 runs created per game. That number is not as high as the Angels’ top three but it’s still significantly higher than Seattle’s.
Once again though, I emphasize that good pitching, especially in October, beats good hitting. We have seen multiple examples of it throughout playoff history. Whether the Mariners can get enough timely hitting in the playoffs is the question.
I honestly think that if the Mariners were to make it to the playoffs, they don’t get to the World Series, despite the pitching numbers being in their favor. And it would almost be fitting to fall to the Orioles, the team that has the players that shouldn’t have been traded away (Adam Jones and Chris Tillman) and the power right-handed bat the M’s refused to get this past offseason (Nelson Cruz).
But then again, we are statistically due for a city to have both the Super Bowl champ AND the World Series champ in the same season. Perhaps they will find a way after all.
*All stats are through 9/9/2014