BY Steve Rudman 08:27AM 07/17/2014

Mariners odd among potential playoff teams

The Mariners have a winning record against teams with records above .500, but a losing mark against teams that have played below .500.

Manager Lloyd McClendon is presiding over the most interesting Seattle Mariners team in a decade. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Among the first-half oddities for the Mariners: They fared far better against winning teams than losing ones. In compiling a record of 51-44, the Mariners went 25-14 (.641) against teams with a .500-or-better record (at the time they played) and 26-30 (.464) vs. clubs with a record below .500. To put finer point on it, the Mariners went 11-7 against first-place teams but 11-13 against last-place clubs.

That count omits the five losses the Mariners sustained during their season series with the lowly, but rising, Houston Astros, a team that recently moved into fourth place in the AL West due to the once-formidable Texas Rangers dropping eight in a row and 14 of 15.

Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik, who has roughly two weeks to make a deal or deals prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, is likely attempting to puzzle out exactly what kind of team he presides over, and whether it is in the franchise’s best interests to mess around this year with the team he’s built.

Zduriencik has to be encouraged that the Mariners hang with better teams, but flummoxed that they give away games to losing clubs. The Mariners are the only one of the five American League teams holding a playoff position that has a negative record against losing teams. None of the five National League teams in a playoff spot sport losing records against losing clubs.

To make Zduriencik’s decision to add a starting pitcher or a right-handed bat more complicated, the Mariners are 15-10 against AL clubs that would make the playoffs if they started today, including 7-6 vs. AL West-leading Oakland, 6-3 vs. the L.A. Angels and 2-1 vs. Central-leading Detroit (the Mariners have yet to play AL East leader Baltimore).

Add Seattle’s 2-0 interleague mark against NL East leader Atlanta, and the Mariners are 17-10 against teams occupying playoff spots. Their .629 winning percentage, in fact, ranks second among clubs that would be playoff teams if the season ended today. The 10 current playoff teams vs. each other:

Team Division Overall vs. AL vs. NL Total Pct.
Detroit Tigers AL Central 53-38 13-6 3-1 16-7 .695
Seattle Mariners AL West 51-44 15-10 2-0 17-10 .629
San Francisco Giants NL Central 52-43 1-3 13-7 14-10 .583
Oakland Athletics AL West 59-36 16-16 6-1 22-17 .564
Atlanta Braves NL East 52-43 2-3 13-10 15-13 .535
Washington Nationals NL East 51-42 2-7 10-10 12-17 .413
Milwaukee Brewers NL Central 53-43 2-1 3-7 5-8 .384
Los Angeles Angels AL West 57-37 7-14 3-3 10-17 .370
Baltimore Orioles AL East 52-42 2-7 3-3 5-10 .333
Los Angeles Dodgers NL West 54-43 1-3 4-9 5-12 .294

Post All-Star break, the Mariners play 31 games against clubs that occupy playoff positions and 36 vs. clubs that don’t. Ten of the 31 are against the Angels with seven against the Athletics.

Leaps and bounds

Seattle’s 51-44 record represents an eight-game improvement over its standing at the halfway point of 2013 (43-52) and a 15-game upswing from 2012 (36-51). Behind the upswing:

  • The Mariners went 27-18 on the road (.600), the No. 2 mark in the AL behind Detroit’s 28-16 (.636).
  • Since April 23, when the Mariners snapped an eight-game losing streak with Kyle Seager’s three-run, walk-off homer against Houston, the Mariners are 44-31, the third-best winning percentage (.587) in the majors behind the Angels’ .635 and Oakland’s .613.
  • The Mariners rank second in the AL with a 3.16 team ERA. That’s the lowest pre-All-Star break ERA in franchise history, eclipsing the mark of 3.25 in 2011.
  • The Mariners have the lowest bullpen ERA in the majors at 2.39 and the lowest opponent batting average in the AL at .211.
  • The Mariners bat .256 with runners in scoring position, a huge increase from their feeble .228 a year ago.

But . . . 

While the Mariners are 33-14 when they hit a home run, they are 18-30 when they don’t.

  • The Mariners are 44-9 when they out-hit an opponent, but 6-32 when they are out-hit.
  • While the Mariners have a winning record on the road (27-18), they are the only team among the 10 current playoff contenders  with a losing mark at home (24-26).
  • The Mariners have 22 come-from-behind wins (sixth-most in the AL), but they also have 17 blown losses, including nine in an opponent’s final at-bat, making their margin for error virtually nil.
  • The Mariners rank 11th in the AL in runs (378), 14th in hits (784), 14th in walks (229), 14th in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage, 12th in slugging and 15th in OPS. This is not the batting profile of a team destined to reach the postseason, regardless of how good its pitching is. Since 1995, when the current playoff format was adopted, no team earned a wild card berth with an OPS of less than .773. Seattle sits at .677.

The following are American League wild card teams since 1995 with the lowest OPS numbers, and their league ranks. The Mariners are included for comparison purposes:

Year Team Manager BA / Rnk OBP / Rnk SLG / Rnk OPS / Rnk
2002 Angels Mike Scioscia .282 / 1 .341 / 4 .433 / 6 .773 / 5
2006 Tigers Jim Leyland .274 / 8 .329 / 12 .449 / 5 .777 / 7
1995 Yankees B. Showalter .276 / 6 .357 / 2 .420 / 7 .778 / 6
2001 Athletics Art Howe .264 / 9 .345 / 3 .439 / 5 .784 / 5
2010 Yankees Joe Girardi .267 / 7 .350 / 1 .436 / 3 .786 / 2
1997 Yankees Joe Torre .287 / 2 .262 / 1 .436 / 5 .698 / 4
1999 Red Sox Jimy Williams .278 / 7 .350 / 7 .448 / 6 .798 / 7
2014 Mariners Lloyd McClendon .245 / 14 .300 / 15 .377 / 12 .677 / 15

Add it up: As the second half starts, the Mariners are a bubble playoff team with intriguing possibilities if they reach the postseason. But if Zduriencik doesn’t made a deal for a starting pitcher, or a right-handed bat, or both, the Mariners will probably waste what is shaping up as their most interesting club in a decade.


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YourThoughts

  • Kirkland

    Simply put, they play to the level of their opposition, as evidenced by last week’s Twins and A’s series. What they need is to be absolutely ruthless against the bad teams, like in that Houston sweep a month ago, while keeping up with the big boys.

    That and getting a right-handed bat, of course …

  • jafabian

    This is why I hesitate supporting any big trades to support a playoff push. The signs aren’t there to show any sort of decent run. At least with the ’95 team there were several players with playoff experience or had shown that they were hungry for it. The current team seems like it’s still feeling it’s way.

    • Kirkland

      True. That said, the ’95 team *had* to make the playoffs because of the deteriorating Kingdome and the stadium vote, so the brass felt obligated to make moves. Whether that playoff run would’ve still happened without Benes, Coleman and Belcher is debatable, but they certainly helped get the M’s there; and without that playoff run, Safeco Field probably never gets built and we’re now watching the Tampa Bay Mariners.

      Barstool debate time: If the future of the team wasn’t an issue in 1995, do the Mariners make those trades or stand pat, given the Angels’ huge lead? Or if today’s roster was in a playoffs-or-bust situation like then, are moves imperative?

      • SeaRaays

        Good question! The Benes trade did not help very much. I was only 19 at the time and but did skip many days during school in the early 90s to catch day games to enjoy Randy pitch and our homeruns in the Kingdome. No matter win or loss it was always entertaining with those teams.
        You bring up a point that once the Ms got their carrot and after 2004 they have just glided to a low turn out. Being a seller or nothing at all at trade deadlines since 95…receiving very little in actual help.