Alternate title: Those Marinersing Mariners Are Marinersing Themselves Right Out Of The Playoffs Again #Mariners’d
Remember that thing I wrote last week about how the Mariners keep ripping off these tremendous winning streaks, followed immediately by these soul-crushing losing streaks? Well, these old dogs are up to their same old tricks, as an epic 9-1 run (including an 8-game winning streak) has been immediately followed by a 1-4 stretch against direct competition. This has pushed us back to 3 games out of the second wild card, behind both Detroit and Houston, with the Yankees right on our tails. We can salvage a non-sweep this afternoon with King Felix on the mound; hopefully he’s able to rebound from a tough outing last Friday. Otherwise, it might be curtains.
I suppose I could write about how infuriating it is to see Safeco Field overwhelmed by Canadian Blue Jays fans, migrating down from British Columbia by the thousands for likely their only chance to see their favorite team in person, but why would I be angry about that? Canada has 1 baseball team, Canada is a huge fucking country, and these people are doing nothing wrong. Will there be instances of them mouthing off? Of course, but that’s sports. That comes with any and every fanbase. So, stop clutching your pearls and pretending to be offended when that sort of stuff happens literally everywhere. Just be glad it’s not a bunch of San Francisco fans. Say what you will about Canadians, but they probably won’t literally stab you.
Instead, I want to look at the Mariners, and how they’ve fared against the best teams. There’s this perception that the Mariners are feasting upon the dregs of society, and as soon as they play teams halfway competent, they completely fall apart. So, these streaks that I keep writing about just happen to coincide with the schedule either loosening or tightening based on the level of competition. The most notorious example (aside from this past week, where we went 8-0 – with 6 of those games against the A’s & Angels – and have taken a huge dump against contenders Houston and Toronto) came back in June. We had just finished the month of May with a 17-11 record and were nearing a season-defining stretch of baseball that saw us play 6 games against the Rangers and 4 games against the Indians, both now division leaders by a pretty wide margin. The Mariners went 3-7 in those 10 games, and the June Swoon was in full effect.
So, are the Mariners particularly inept against the good teams? Let’s take a look.
A quick glance at Baseball Reference gives us the records against teams in contention for the playoffs (let’s make the cutoff the Kansas City Royals for the American League, and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League). To wit, through 151 games:
- 6-1 against Baltimore
- 3-4 against Boston
- 1-2 against the Cubs
- 4-3 against Cleveland
- 3-4 against Detroit
- 6-10 against Houston (with 3 more games next week)
- 4-3 against Kansas City
- 3-3 against the Yankees
- 2-2 against Pittsburgh
- 2-1 against St. Louis
- 7-12 against Texas
- 2-3 against Toronto (with 1 more game today)
Add it up and you have: 43-48. For shits and giggles, if you take out divisional rivals, our record against the best teams is 30-26. I don’t know how either of those records compare to other teams in baseball, but I would assume the very best teams probably have better records against the contenders. However, among wild card contenders, I’d bet our record is somewhat on par. We’re not ABSOLUTE SHIT against the best teams; we’re pretty close to even with them. We just happen to match up SUPER SHITTY against the likes of Texas and Houston. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we play these teams 19 times per year, while we play the rest of the A.L. 6-7 times per year, and we play a small sample of N.L. teams 3-4 times per year. When you play a team so much, you learn their ins and outs. It just so happens, from a strict talent perspective, Houston and Texas are better than us. If we were in the Central or East, we might be singing a different tune. If the schedules were more balanced like they used to be, I think we’d DEFINITELY be singing a different tune.
For every series like we’ve had this past week – 2 losses to Houston, 2 losses to Toronto (and counting) – there have been some huge wins for us. Sweeping Detroit in 3 games in August, beating Toronto 2 of 3 in Canada back in July, sweeping the Orioles for 4 games at Safeco in the middle of just the worst stretch of baseball for us in June/July.
We’re streaky! And it doesn’t really matter who we play. Take a look at that 43-48 record against the good teams again. That means we’re currently 36-24 against teams with losing records. Which, again, is probably something you’d expect from a team in our position. But, it’s not like the Mariners are absolutely FEASTING on the worst of the worst. I mean, we were swept at home by both the Twins and Angels back in May, the White Sox took 3 of 4 from us in August, and the Angels again took 2 of 3 from us earlier this month.
In short, it’s baseball, and the Mariners aren’t a particularly great baseball team. They’re good enough to tantalize, and keep us talking about them late into September … some people say that’s all you can hope for, but I’m not so sure that’s true. You COULD hope for us to be in the position Cleveland is in, or Texas, or the Cubs. But, this is Seattle, and these are the Mariners, so I guess this is as good as it ever gets.