BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Mariners By the Numbers: A close look at surge toward playoffs

Oct 1, 2021, 8:33 AM | Updated: 9:00 am
Mariners...
Paul Sewald #37, J.P. Crawford #3, Kyle Seager #15 and Abraham Toro #13 of the Seattle Mariners celebrate. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There are just three games left in the 2021 regular season and the Mariners are on the cusp of ending the longest current playoff drought in North American major professional sports.

Believe it — Mariners just moved into a tie for AL’s second wild card

The Mariners have really come alive of late to not only stay in contention, but to be knocking on the door to the playoffs. Now, they have three games remaining with the Los Angeles Angels and control their own destiny as they enter Friday tied with the Boston Red Sox for the second American League wild card spot.

So how did the Mariners, who were still seen as a young and rebuilding club entering the 2021 season, get to this point? There are a few numbers and stats that are important to tell the story. Yes, we all know that the team ranks first in fun differential by a wide, wide, wide margin, but let’s look closer at some other numbers that really stand out and tell the tale of this ballclub.

Beating winners

You know how you know you’re a good team in any sport? When you beat other good teams.

Well, the Mariners have done that this year in a big way.

Of the four American League wild card contenders, the Mariners have the best winning percentage against teams with a record over .500, going 44-34 in those contests, good for a .564 clip. Of the other three wild card hopefuls, the New York Yankees are next up at .534 (47-41), followed by the Toronto Blue Jays .522 (48-44), with the Red Sox .490 (46-48) rounding out the list.

That .564 mark that the Mariners are posting is even more impressive when you consider it’s second-best in the American League, trailing only the Houston Astros, who are .581 (43-31) against winning clubs.

And just for fun, let’s look at the other two division leaders.

The Tampa Bay Rays have a .529 percentage (46-41) against winning clubs while the Chicago White Sox are .482 (27-29).

Winning the close ones

The Mariners’ bullpen has been dominant and electric this season, which has paved the way for the team to be extremely difficult to beat in close games.

The Mariners are 33-18 (.647) in games decided by one run, and they lead MLB with those 33 one-run victories.

Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and Casey Sadler all are big reasons why that’s the case.

Getting it done vs familiar foes

Not only are the Mariners beating many of the best teams in baseball, but they’re taking care of things against the teams they face off with the most.

After wrapping up another sweep of the Oakland A’s on Wednesday, the Mariners enter Friday 47-27 in division games.

Here’s the Mariners’ record against each divisional foe:

• Houston: 8-11
• Oakland: 15-4
• Los Angeles: 10-6 (note, three-game series starts Friday evening)
• Texas: 13-6

The magic number? 4

No, four is not the Mariners’ magic number to secure a playoff spot, but it is critical when telling this team’s story.

The Mariners, to date, have won 89 games so far. Of those 89, they’ve scored four or more runs in 73 of them.

In fact, the team is an incredible 73-25 (.745) when scoring four or more runs compared to just 16-45 (.262) when scoring three or less.

Run differential nerds, this is for you

Yes, we know the Mariners will end 2021 with a negative run differential despite needing just one win to reach 90 victories this year. They currently sit at -48.

Want to know why? Well, the team went 13-15 in May and was outscored 96-139 (-43). That was the only month Seattle failed to score 100 runs.

So yeah, take out May and the Mariners are only -5. Additionally, they’re +9 in September to go along with an 18-8 record, and are just -1 since the start of July. Their record during that span? 47-31.

Again, helps to be good in close games, folks.

Keep winning series

If you win the majority of series in an MLB season, chances are that come late-September you’ll be sitting in pretty good spot.

That’s been the case for the Mariners, who are 28-19-5 in all their series this season, including going 20-9-2 in their last 31 series dating back to June 14.

WAR’s on

When you go to ESPN.com and look at the top players in all of baseball when it comes to wins above replacement (WAR), you won’t find any Mariners on the first page, which has 50 players.

That’s because first baseman Ty France, with a 4.1 WAR, sits 57th in baseball.

The Mariners do fare a little better when it comes to more specific WAR numbers, though.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford is tied for seventh in defensive WAR at 1.7, France is 32nd in offensive WAR at 4.1, and right-handed starter Chris Flexen is tied for 35th in pitching WAR at 3.3.

Rookies are coming on

The Mariners have gotten contributions all across the board this year, and three guys who are going to be part of the team’s future have done well during the month of September.

Logan Gilbert, who allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings against the A’s on Wednesday, went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 31 strikeouts to eight walks in six starts (33 1/3 innings) during September.

Outfielder Jarred Kelenic has turned things around at the plate, slashing .242/.321/.537 with seven home runs, 18 RBIs and 11 walks in 26 games.

Catcher Cal Raleigh didn’t play a ton in September (13 games, nine starts), but he’s been swinging it better of late, too, slashing .211/.211/421 with a home run, two RBIs and six extra-base hits.

Marco “Ace” Gonzales

Opening day starter Marco Gonzales, who gets the start on Friday against the Angels, struggled early in the season, but he’s been very impressive and key for the Mariners as they make their final playoff push.

For the year, Gonzales is 10-5, 4.00 ERA in 24 starts (137 1/3 innings), with 103 strikeouts to 40 walks and a 1.180 WHIP. Those numbers are pretty on par with Gonzales’ 2018 and 2019 campaigns, but his second-half performance is what got him to those good numbers.

In the first half of the year, Gonzales battled a forearm injury and some inconsistency on the hill. He went 1-5 with a 5.88 ERA in 11 starts (56 2/3 innings), and had 49 strikeouts, 21 walks and a 1.465 WHIP.

He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half, though, going 9-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 13 starts (80 2/3 innings) with 54 strikeouts, 19 walks and a 0.979 ERA.

That’ll work.

The real numbers to know

Look, all the numbers above are great and everything, but here are a few numbers to know: 58, 36, 22, 6 and 13.

What are those numbers?

Well, the Mariners are 58-36 (22 games over .500) since June (the sixth month of the year) 13.

Why is June 13 important? That’s the day I brought Maverick, my golden retriever puppy, home.

Clearly, he’s been the good luck charm this team needs. The numbers prove it.

(Note, picture posted after Tuesday’s 4-2 win)

Keep doing your thing, Rally Pup. Very good boy.

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See you next season

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