Are the Mariners a better team than you think?

Aug 1, 2012, 12:30 PM | Updated: 12:53 pm

By Gary Hill

The win over the Toronto Blue Jays last night saw the Seattle Mariners reach an important milestone. Yes, the M’s won their 6th game in a row which is the second longest current streak in baseball to the Atlanta Braves. Yes, they are 7-2 during this homestand. Yes, the Mariners are now 13-6 since the All-Star break. However, the milestone in question involves run differential. After the game last night the Seattle Mariners have now scored more runs this year than they have given up (423 to 422). When you look at the standings today and scan to the far right you will see a +1 in the M’s column. Run Differential is a good general indicator of what a team’s record should be. Reality does not always follow, see the Baltimore Orioles (55-49) -51 run differential or the St. Louis Cardinals (55-48) +99 run differential. The Pythagorean Record is a formula for turning run differential into a projection of what win/loss record should be. According to this formula the M’s would be expected to have a .500 record right now 53-53. To put the extra 4 wins in perspective the M’s would be hanging out about 4.5 games out of the wildcard.

Another factor to consider is the division the M’s play in. If the season ended today the Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels would be in the playoffs. Is it even necessary to mention that this would be the first time in baseball history three teams from one division would make the playoffs? Is it also necessary to point out, given an unbalanced schedule, that playing in the AL West have made things particularly difficult on the M’s? This year the Mariners have played well against the AL West:

Oakland- 7-6

Texas- 6-7

LA Angels- 2-5

Here is how the games break-down per division with record attached:

AL West: 33 (15-18)

AL Central: 28 (16-12)

AL East: 27 (10-17)

NL West: 18 (8-10)

Consider next year the Houston Astros will join the AL West. This year the Astros are 35-70 with a -126 run differential. It would be reasonable to expect that if the Astros were in the division this year all the other teams in the AL West would benefit. This year the AL West is the only division in baseball without a team with a negative run differential.

AL East

Baltimore -51 (55-40)

AL Central

Cleveland -71 (50-53)

Minnesota -84 (44-59)

Kansas City -61 (42-60)

AL West

None

NL West

San Diego -56 (44-61)

Colorado -98 (37-64)

NL Central

Milwaukee -8 (47-56)

Chicago Cubs -67 (43-59)

Houston -126 (35-70)

NL East

NY Mets -12 (50-54)

Miami -91 (47-56)

Philadelphia -29 (46-57)

Baltimore is an outlier because they have a winning record to go along with their poor run differential so the AL East is essentially in the same situation as the AL West. In a world of unbalanced schedules it matters that the AL West does not have any struggling teams to pick-on. The Red and Pirates have helped build their playoff runs on the bottom feeders in the NL Central. The Reds are 17-6 against the Cubs, Brewers and Astros while the Pirates are 17-8. Meanwhile, the White Sox are 19-10 against the 3 teams with minus run differential in the AL Central. In the NL East the Nationals are 17-11 versus the 3 minus teams.

This will be a good subject to revisit two weeks from now when the M’s will have finished a roadtrip to the New York Yankees (1st AL East), Baltimore Orioles (2nd AL East), LA Angels (2nd AL West) and at home against the Tampa Bay Rays (3rd AL East).

NOTES:

– Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas were 8-0 with a 1.83 ERA in July.

-Hernandez and Vargas are 2nd and 3rd in IP this year in all of MLB. Hernandez 155 IP and Vargas 153 IP.

-Vargas was 4-7 5.42 ERA in 2011 and 3-8 4.66 ERA the last two seasons after the All-Star break. This year he is 4-0 2.00 ERA.

-Vargas is 4-3 with a 2.63 ERA at Safeco this year.

– After giving up homers in 12 games in a row, Vargas has not given one up in his last 3 starts. Phil Hughes has now tied him for the most given up in MLB with 25.

-The M’s pitching staff was 15-11 with a 2.82 ERA in July. Opponents hit .226 against them.

-Brendan Ryan is now hitting .205 on the season after hitting .279 over his last 36 games.

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