When doing predictions for 2018, certain divisions seemed all but foregone conclusions. The Nationals would win the National League East. The Dodgers would win the NL West. The Yankees and Red Sox would due it out in the AL East. The Astros would win the AL West, with the Angels potentially giving them a run for a while in the summer. The AL West is showing once again it is best when the west remains wild.
The Seattle Mariners are 43-24 and in first place in the American League West. Of course what makes this all the more confounding is that they are doing it without Robinson Cano after he was suspended for 80 games – though he had also just broken his hand which would likely have taken him out by itself for 4-6 weeks.
Yet…the team has persisted. Remember when they surprisingly signed Dee Gordon in the off-season to play center field – and critics were surprised? Perhaps GM Jerry DiPoto knew exactly what he was doing. Gordon slid right into second base which opened a spot for Mitch Haniger to play everyday in CF – and he has responded. He already has 15 home runs in 66 games with a .351 OBP. Ryon Healy who came over from Oakland has flashed his power and the bullpen has been outstanding – even adding former Rays closer Alex Colome to setup what many are calling the current best closer in baseball Edwin Diaz.
How have they cobbled together this offense? Jean Segura has been amazing – hitting .342 with 14 stolen bases to go along with that. Marco Gonzalez on the pitching side has emerged to a 7-3 record with a 3.28 ERA. Mike Leake has 7 wins. James Paxton threw a no-hitter and leads the team with 111 strikeouts on the year. King Felix is certainly nowhere near what he used to be – but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if sometime in September he pulls a gem out of his pocket.
The Astros dominate in every category like run differential and staff ERA have the decided edge over the Mariners…except for all that all important win column. The Angels are struggling to get it done and losing wonderkind Shohei Ohtani will not help matters, as he was an important to their rotation as anyone. On top of that
According to FanGraphs, the Mariners are far outperforming what their record “should be”, but at the same time…a win is a win. For the team with the longest playoff drought of anyone despite several good seasons, the Mariners have to feel like they deserve some good luck once in awhile, right?
The “secret” to their success this year has been those ubiquitous one run games. They are currently 21-9 in one run games and 7-2 in two run games! Meanwhile the Astros, whose bullpen issues that were duct-taped in the playoffs have continued in 2018 – find themselves 6-12 in one run games.
Jerry DiPoto manages the Mariners like a fantasy baseball team. Since he took over in October of 2015 the Mariners lead the majors in trades completed – over 50.
Great article here about GM’s using text messages to complete trades, including the one that brought Dee Gordon over to Seattle.
The luck may not last for long, but don’t neglect to notice that this team is full of younger players like Ben Gamel and Healy who are just getting better. If their development can outpace them running out of some extra good luck – they might finally make it back to the playoffs and create some surprises.