The Mariners vs. The AL West, 2011 Mid-Season Edition

I understand we’re nowhere near the middle of this season yet; 66 games, that’s nothin’.

Except, it’s not TOTALLY nothin’.  At this time last year, the Mariners were utterly and completely out of the playoff race and in the midst of a full-blown implosion.  This year?  We’re 1.5 games behind Texas and putting a tad bit of distance on the Angels & A’s to solidify second place.

It’s also far enough along in the season to note a hint of surprise at the fact that we’ve only played 15 total games against our AL West foes.  Which is a BIT odd because we always play 57 total games against the AL West in a given season; 19 apiece.

By far, we’ve played the Angels the least:  only 2 games.  They look to be a team that’s going nowhere in a bucket of concrete this season, so this could be a good thing.  We’ll play them 7 more times between now and the All Star Break; if we can strike while their iron is luke-warm, we’ll have a good chance to put them away for good.

The goal for any team is always the same:  win your division.  I don’t care if you’re the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Boston Red Sox, your goal is always the same (the only difference is how pie-eyed people think you are for having such a goal).  Best way to win a division?  Have the best team, DUH!  And also, you know, it’d probably be a good idea to BEAT the teams in your division when you play against them.  After all, with the unbalanced schedules, every team plays the other teams in their divisions the most. 

The AL West gets the added bonus of only having 4 teams; but that can also be a curse.  Most years, there’s just a lone team running away with things by September (most years, that team is the Angels, but the Rangers seem to have displaced them for the time being).  Occasionally – like in the glory days of the late 90s and early 00s – there are a couple of AL West teams vying for the division crown.  But, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 2 AL West teams in serious competition for the playoffs come September.

Like I said:  bad if you’re a bad team, because you just get murdered more often by the better AL West teams who get to face you more.  But, good if you’re one of the good one’s, because you get to pick on the weaklings.

I’m not ready to say the Seattle Mariners are one of the good one’s; I don’t think anybody is.  So far, we have a tenuous 8-7 record against the AL West; but we’ve only actually lost a single series in the five we’ve played!  Granted, that was a sweep down in Texas, but still.

What’s transpired so far isn’t so much that the Mariners are keeping the pressure on Texas; it’s that Texas isn’t as good as we thought they were.  Yeah, they were without their two best hitters for about a month; but those guys are back and have been back for a little while now.  In spite of that, here we are, 1.5 games back of the division lead.  With 42 games left to play against our division rivals.

That’s 42 out of a possible 96 games; a fraction under 44% of our remaining schedule.  In other words, a SHIT-TON of opportunity to either pull away, get buried, or stay right here in the thick of things.  Ultimately, our 2011 season will be defined by how we do in these games.  These oh-so-important divisional games where the standings fluctuate like stock market prices.

And it starts tonight.

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