This whole crappy season comes down to this: a 3-game series against the Oakland Athletics. This isn’t quite as dire as 2008, when we swept the A’s in the final 3-game series and lost out on the chance to draft Stephen Strasburg #1 overall (settling for Dustin Ackley), but it’s close.
If the season ended today, the Mariners would draft 11th. What does that matter? Well, if the Mariners can figure out a way to get into the Top 10, that draft pick would be protected in the event that the Mariners try to go out and sign a bigtime free agent this offseason – which I have to think they’d want to do.
So, who stands in our way (besides ourselves, of course)? Well, the top 7 draft picks are pretty well secure. We can get as high as the 8th draft pick, or as low as the 16th (I think). I’ll admit I’m not really up on tiebreakers for this sort of thing.
Here’s what I know: the Mariners are 75-84 with three games to go. The White Sox are 74-84, with four games to go. They host the division-winning Royals tonight, then they host the Tigers for three this weekend. The Tigers, as chance would have it, are 73-85, with three games to go (I believe one of their games was rained out and won’t be made up, because the Tigers are out of the race). If the Tigers go 2-1, they would have a winning percentage of .465; if the Mariners go 0-3, we would have a winning percentage of .463. If the Tigers go 3-0, they’d be .472; if the Mariners go 1-2, we’d be .469. If the Mariners go 2-1 or 3-0, there’s no way the Tigers will end up with a higher winning percentage, so that can’t happen.
Getting back to the White Sox. Let’s say they finish 2-2. If they do that, they’ll be 76-86. Now, if this article is still accurate (see published date of 2009, but I can’t find anything more recent), for draft order purposes, if two teams have the same record, they look at the previous year’s record to determine who gets the higher draft pick. The White Sox had a losing record in 2014; the Mariners had a winning record in 2014. As such, if we tie the White Sox in record this year, they will draft ahead of us. So, if the White Sox finish 2-2, the Mariners would have to go 0-3. If the White Sox finish worse than 2-2, they’re guaranteed to draft ahead of us. If the White Sox finish 3-1, the Mariners could finish 1-2 and come out ahead; if the White Sox finish 4-0, the Mariners could finish 2-1.
The only other team with a worse record than the Mariners right now – who we could theoretically overcome – is the San Diego Padres. They are currently 73-85, with 4 games to go. The Padres also had a losing record in 2014, so if we end up with the same record as them, they too will draft ahead of us. The Padres play their home finale tonight against a hapless Milwaukee Brewers team. Then, the Padres go to Los Angeles to play three games against the division champion Dodgers. The Dodgers still theoretically have something to play for, I guess, as they could overtake the Mets for 2nd-best record in the NL among division winners, but I don’t know what that would get them. I don’t feel like these games would be a huge priority for them, but what do I know? If the Padres finish the season 2-2 or worse, they will draft ahead of the Mariners. We need them to go 3-1 (while we go 0-3), or we need them to go 4-0 (while we go 1-2) for us to pass them for the higher draft pick.
In short, these are the scenarios for the Mariners to hop into the Top 10 (remember, the Tigers play the White Sox in the weekend series):
- Tigers finish 2-1, Mariners finish 0-3
- Tigers finish 3-0, Mariners finish 1-2 or 0-3
- White Sox finish 2-2, Mariners finish 0-3
- White Sox finish 3-1, Mariners finish 1-2 or 0-3
- White Sox finish 4-0, Mariners finish 2-1, 1-2, or 0-3
- Padres finish 3-1, Mariners finish 0-3
- Padres finish 4-0, Mariners finish 1-2 or 0-3
The only way the Mariners can win 2 games and still get into the Top 10 is if the White Sox finish 4-0. If the Mariners win all three games this weekend, we will be guaranteed to draft outside of the Top 10.
Let’s hear it for tanking! For our part, we’ve shut down Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, and Taijuan Walker for the season. There have been rumblings this week that Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano would both sit out the weekend series due to nagging injuries. So, you know, the organization is TRYING to tank, which you have to appreciate. The starters this series are Iwakuma on Friday, Elias on Saturday, and Nuno on Sunday. On the flipside, the A’s are trying to stay in the Top 4 – or maybe climb into the Top 3 – in draft order, and they’ve got two no-name pitchers starting Friday & Saturday, with TBD going on Sunday.
It’s a bucket ride to Hell over the weekend. Let’s hope we’ve got what it takes to lose like champions.