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Will the Second Half Be Any Different for the Seattle Mariners?

Monday, July 20, 2015

 

Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners

With the Home Run Derby and the All Star Game clearly in the rear view mirror and the mythical “half way” point of the MLB season passed – the real half way point happened about two weeks ago – the Seattle Mariners find themselves at 41-48, just barely out of the cellar in the AL West, and 7.5 games behind the Los Angeles Angels. Even though there are 73 games left to play, the Mariners may have already dug themselves a hole too deep to climb out of. 

Second Half Projections

FanGraphs offers two sets of projections going forward. One is based on the team’s current pace, while the second is based on the pre-season projections. In other words, how will a team finish if they continue on their pace so far, or how will a team finish if they were to play the rest of the way in the fashion expected before the season started. Neither outcome is particularly rosy for the Mariners. 

If the M’s were to continue on their current pace, they would finish the season 73-89 and most likely own the worst record in the American League.  If, however, they were to bounce back and play the way everyone expected coming into the season for the remainder of the schedule, a record of 80-82 is about all the Mariners could expect. It’s going to take a herculean effort to make the playoffs. 

With most of the projections indicating that 86 wins or so is going to be the threshold for entering the big dance in October, the Mariners would need to post a record around 45-29 after the All Star game.  That’s .608 baseball for 73 games, or a 99 win full-season pace. Only the St. Louis Cardinals have played that well this year. 

Winning Streaks

In order to put together anything resembling the type of record required to make the playoffs at this point, the Mariners need to have a few lengthy winning streaks, a characteristic glaringly missing from their resume this season. Seattle hasn’t won consecutive games since June 30th and July 1st against the San Diego Padres, and you have to go all the way back to May 26th to May 28th to find a three game winning streak against the Toronto Blue Jays. Their longest winning streak of the season is four games in a stretch in early May against the Oakland A’s and the San Diego Padres. 

Compare that to the Cardinals, with the best record in baseball, who boast an eight game winning streak in early May and six winning streaks of four or more games, to see how good teams play .600 baseball. An eight game winning streak for the M’s seems as unlikely, given the anemic offense, below average defense, and spotty pitching, as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders facing off in the 2016 presidential election. It could happen, but are you betting the house on it?

More Offense?

About the only bright spot of the first half has been off-season acquisition Nelson Cruz. But, after hitting .335 with 18 HR and 38 RBI through May, Cruz has hit .276 with three HR and 15 RBI since. ZIPS is projecting Cruz to hit about 50 points lower, get on base about 50 points lower, and slug about 50 points lower than his first half numbers going forward, or more like Nelson Cruz than Babe Ruth. 

While Cruz’s offense in the first half was far more than could have been expected, the necessity to play him every day in the outfield has resulted in -12.9 runs, dropping his WAR into the “everyday player” category (ZIPS projects him to finish at 3.6). 

Robinson Cano has shown some signs of late of breaking out of his season long funk. After hitting .212 with two HR and eight RBI for all of June. In twelve games in July, he’s hit .327 with two HR and six RBI, to boost his first half totals to .251/.290/.370, six HR, 30 RBI, and 38 runs. Going forward, ZIPS has Cano with a slash line of .285/.342/.428. The average should go up, but the power he once displayed in the Bronx may be a thing of past. 

Also, given that Cano has generated zero WAR so far this season and only projects to generate 1.7 for the season, the Mariners are essentially paying $24 million this year for a below replacement level player with eight years remaining on his contract. 

This doesn’t bode well for either the reminder of this season or going forward. It was already intimated that the budget had been tapped for the season when Mark Trumbo was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks.     

Out of the Gate

Perhaps if Seattle can post, say, a 9-2 record to kick off the second half, which would get them back to .500 at 50-50, then winning 36 or 37 of their last 62 won’t seem so daunting. It’s going to be an uphill climb, but maybe in a weak AL it can be done. Mariners’ fans will know soon enough, as their M’s face off tonight against AL East leader New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium.  

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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