Friday October 01, 2021
A week and a half ago I wrote a post about whether the Mariners, who were then a solid 80-69 but didn't seem postseason-bound, could at least win enough games to win their most games in, say, five years, 10 years. I was looking for a consolation prize to an impressive season. Except then I saw we won 89 games in 2018 so even that seemed off the table. I wrote:
Winning 90 would mean going 10-2 the rest of the way, with nothing rained out, and that's a tough ask. Hell, if we went 10-2 maybe we†would†make the postseason for the first time since 2001.
Well, so far, the Mariners have gone 8-1 and are now tied with the Boston Red Sox for the second wild-card spot with three games to play. We get the Angels here (they're 75-84), they get the Nationals in D.C. (65-94). The Blue Jays, after losing to the Yankees yesterday, are one game behind both of us, the Yankees two games ahead. Like us, the Yankees are on a win streak. The Blue Jays (4-6 since that post) and BoSox (3-5), not so much. That's where it stands.
I've been as excited about all of this as a jaded, germaphobic fan in the middle of a pandemic with zero TV access to the games can be. (Basically, to watch M's games, you have to have cable or cheat, and I'm not much of a cheater.) Which is to say, I'm still very, very excited.
That previous post mentioned our negative run differential, which, over a seasonóso the SABR argument goesówill play out. You run out of luck, show your true stripes, etc. Hasn't happened. What I forgot to mention, and what I'd harped on earlier in the year, is that we don't hit much. We're last in the AL in batting average, second to last in OBP, second to last in SLG. We're last in hits and third in strikeouts. Unless you have a pitching rotation of Randy, Pedro, Maddux, that shouldn't translate to a postseason opportunity. Yet here we are.
Fans keep bringing up the '95 season, as in, “Hey, I haven't felt like this since '95,” which I totally get, and which I also feel. But in a way this year is more impressive. The '95 team had three future Hall of Famers (Junior, Randy, Edgar), two on the first ballot, as well as an incredible supporting cast (Tino, Buhner, Nellie, Norm, Joey, A-Rod as a rookie). They should've been in the running from the get-go. But these guys? No-names and castoffs and second-chancers. We have nobody hitting over .300, no regular with an OBP above .375. We have two guys nearing 40 homers (Haniger, Seagar) but nobody slugging .500.
And yet they keep winning. They defy math.
The big blow Wednesday night came from rookie Jarred Kelenic, who has the sixth-most at bats on the team despite a hitting line of .177/.260/.349. And it's only that good because he's improved. He was called up in May and promptly hit .118 for the month (8 for 68), then hit .000 for June (0 for 15) and was sent back to Triple A. I think at that point he'd been hitless in his last 39 at bats? Whatever it was, he was nearing a Major League record for futility. But he returned in July and hit .154, then .196 for August. This month it's .242. And on Wednesday he came up with one out, two on (both via errors), and the M's down 1-0. And he rifled a shot to the right-field corner, a double plating both men, then pumped his fist and pumped his fist. Art Thiel said if he pumped it one more time he was worried he'd need Tommy John surgery. But I'm sure all the frustration of this season was finally getting out of him. He was supposed to be a top prospect, a phenom, and yet he was barely hanging on. He wasn't even hitting Mendoza. And yet look at him now.
How can you not be romantic about baseball?†