The Mariners have lost their fun differential
By Brandon Willman
Over the past two seasons, the Mariners had something that other teams had an incredibly hard time competing with. In August 2021, Ryan Divish, Seattle Times reporter on the Mariners, revealed that Scott Servais measured the success of the team by their “fun differential.”
They continued their fun dominance in 2022, conjuring up a post-win dance circle that won over the hearts of fans of the team across the nation and made those same fans fall in love with the players of the team even more.
Players such as Eugenio Suárez and Julio Rodríguez led the charge of their “fun differential,” especially Suárez, who brought ‘good vibes only’ to the team to take the stress away from the game for the team.
"He is always happy, always laughing, and always having a good time"- Ty France
Despite the vibes of the team being incredibly positive and the team having a track record of having the right attitude and mindset for the game, it has not translated to the new season. Despite that, the things that they were elite at in the past two seasons have gone out the window in 2023.
In 2021, they had perhaps one of the luckiest seasons in MLB history. They won 90 games despite getting outscored by a significant 51 runs. Their “fun differential” that Servais talked about clocked in at +90.
One of the biggest reasons for that was their uncanny ability to win in close games. They went 33-19 in games decided by one run, the most win in the league that year. Due to their significant negative run differential, they finished with Pythagorean luck of +14, meaning they won 14 more games than the Pythagorean win-loss expectancy had them winning.
That luck of 14 was by far the most in the league, tallying eight more than the next closest team. Their clutchness continued when fans got free baseball, as they finished the year 14-7 in extra-innings games.
All three of those categories continued to be strengths for the team in 2022, as they finished the year 34-22 in one-run games, once again the most wins in the league and a major factor in their first postseason berth since 2001. They also finished 11-5 in extra-innings games and benefited from Pythagorean luck of +1.
Despite having a similarly constructed roster to the ones, they have had over those years, having retained 11 of the 12 WAR leaders on the team from 2022. Seattle has seemingly lost their mojo. To start the year, they are 4-11 in one-run games, 2-5 in extra-innings games and hold a Pythagorean luck of -3.
Even with getting better production every year since 2021 from the pitching staff, their offense has regressed to even worse than it was in the first season of this three-year stretch.
2021 - 4.30 ERA, 1.278 WHIP, 8.3 SO/9, 97 ERA+
2022 - 3.59 ERA, 1.191 WHIP, 8.7 SO/9, 105 ERA+
2023 - 3.62 ERA, 1.193 WHIP, 8.8 SO/9, 115 ERA+
2021 - 93 OPS+, 1.23 HR/game, .689 OPS
2022 - 105 OPS+, 1.22 HR/game, .704 OPS
2023 - 94 OPS+, 1.02 HR/game, .684 OPS,
Several notable members of the lineup have had surprisingly bad seasons thus far, key addition Teoscar Hernández (98 OPS+), good vibes merchant Eugenio Suárez (88 OPS+), 2022 offensive breakout Julio Rodríguez (87 OPS+) and fellow offseason addition Kolton Wong (36 OPS+) have been unable to find their groove.
With Jarred Kelenic (143 OPS+) finding his potential and then some, if those four notable slumps are broken, the offense will play up to the level the pitching is putting up. All four have the potential to break their slumps, especially given that Hernández, Suárez, and Rodríguez have all made All-Star teams in the past. A series with Oakland could do just that.