The way I see it, there are a couple of different ways this season can go for the Mariners. I’d say, barring a total avalanche of injuries to key players, the Mariners won’t be truly terrible. So, let’s take that option right off the table. If you bet the UNDER on Mariners wins this season, you’re probably looking at a loser.
The Mariners also aren’t going to be super great either. They’re just not on the same playing field as the best teams in the American League. Houston WILL win the division. I’d expect the Red Sox will bounce back, and I’m sure the Yankees will rip off some huge winning streaks when they start to get healthy. So, go ahead and take that option off the table. There won’t be an improbable World Series appearance for this team.
That leaves, really, two options that are really both sort of the same. At this moment, the Mariners are 16-9 with a +32 run differential that’s good for second in the A.L. But, there are enough cracks in this facade – especially on the pitching side of things – where it wouldn’t shock me if this team, at some point, loses a bunch of games and ultimately lands right around the .500 mark on the season. Maybe a game or two under, but pretty close to middle-of-the-road in all aspects, including run differential. That would be a disappointing result out of a team we never really had high expectations for (when, really, you’d hope the Mariners would tank for the higher draft pick).
The other option, however, is a little more interesting. Maybe, instead of falling apart, the Mariners play .500 ball from this point forward. Instead of ultimately landing around .500 or a little worse, maybe the M’s finish around 85-77 or 86-76. Why would that be interesting? Because at that range, the Mariners would likely be contenders for at least the second Wild Card.
Let’s face it, there just isn’t a lot of parity in the American League. The Orioles, White Sox, and Royals all look like real bottom-feeders in contention for the top overall draft pick in 2020. The Mariners have already won 5 of 6 against the Angels, who look pretty mediocre. I don’t think anyone’s buying the Rangers and their 12-8 start. I also don’t think the A’s are destined to repeat their fantastic 2018. The Tigers and Blue Jays look pretty mediocre so far. The Red Sox don’t look like the champions they were a year ago. If injuries continue to mount for the Yankees, that could open the door for the Rays to win the East. The Indians already ran us through the wringer, but they otherwise are pretty lacking on the offensive side of the ball. I haven’t seen much of the Twins yet, but they seem beatable.
The point is, there aren’t many teams considerably better than the Mariners. The Astros should own us, as they do, but as for most everyone else, I see them as on equal footing as the M’s. Which opens the door for results like we’ve had against the Angels: a seemingly-unlikely 3-1 series win down in Anaheim. Keep beating up on the teams we’re supposed to beat, win enough of the 50/50 games to keep our heads above water, and while a title is certainly out of the question, remaining in contention for a possible playoff berth is still within the realm of possibilities.
In that sense, these Mariners are more closely affiliated with the last few years’ worth of Mariners teams: just good enough to break our hearts in September instead of May.