Don’t get too excited yet: the Mariners and the numbers

With their recent success between the lines, there’s a lot of excitement about Mariners.  When I say excitement, it means people remember there is still a team in Seattle and folks are talking about them-the first step on the long road to excitement.  Not to be the turd in the punch bowl here, I would simply draw attention to some of the teams they’ve been beating.  They are teams with bad pitching.

This little roll the M’s are on began with the Anaheim Angels We usually don’t think of the Angels as being a poor pitching team, but this year they are.  If we consult  the Angels’ baseballreference.com page, we can see how bad they are.  As a team they’re in the bottom third of the league in most important measures.  They are 13th in ERA, 14th in hits allowed, 15th in walks allowed, and 12th in strikeouts.  Combine these impressive numbers with 13th in home runs allowed with all those baserunners, and you’re looking at a disastrous season in the making. The team has an ERA+ of 82.  An average team has a rating of 100.   I don’t care how many Josh Hamiltons, Mike Trouts and Albert Pujols a team has, they can’t score enough runs fast enough to match the number of enemy runners circling the bases.  Jered Weaver’s injury, the inability of the Angels to sign Zach Greinke and the subsequent reliance on a staff of lesser lights will make it much more difficult for the Angels to remain in the division race.

The Orioles’s staff ranks in the middle of the pack in the American League.  If the O’s make a return to the playoffs it will because they are young and athletic, with an excellent bullpen.  It will be in spite of their mediocre starting rotation not because of them.  By the numbers, they rank 7th in ERA, 8th in hits allowed, 11th in walks allowed, and 9th in home runs.  Not terrible numbers.  Baltimore’s ERA+ is 110, so a bit above league average.  The Orioles have some decent starters, not including Zach Britton, who the M’s tortured, burned alive and tore into tiny pieces before his early exit.  But even Wei-Yin Chen (ERA+ 144) became fodder for the resurgent Mariners. The Orioles lack an ace, though their starters are certainly serviceable.

Today the M’s had their last game against the Blue Jays today. Joe Saunders did his magic road disappearing act, as in his stuff disappeared.  Brandon Morrow pitched like the guy we know he can be instead of the guy he’s been all year.   The Jays seemed so smart in the off-season.  They seemed to make all the right moves.  They made the trade with the Marlins for Jose Reyes, and pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.  They traded with Mets for Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.  They were poised to build on last year’s success, and were the sexy pick to win the American League East.  Ha! (Cue thunder, lighting, plagues of grasshoppers) Nothing has turned out the way they hope.  Their moves are making the trade of the entire Mariners farm system for Eric Bedard in 2008 only terrible instead of disastrous.  The hitters ain’t hittin’ and the pitching is bad. By the numbers, Toronto is 14th in ERA, 12th in hits allowed, 13th in walks allowed, and 14th in home runs allowed.  Not surprisingly, given the numbers of home runs combined with baserunners, they are also 14th in runs allowed.  Their OPS+ is a deceiving 91.  Deceiving because their bullpen is pretty good.  In their rotation only the J.A. Happ has an ERA+ of 107, or slightly better than league average.  The rest: Dickey 79; Morrow 81; Buehrle 66; Johnson 98.  Those are phenomenally bad numbers for guys who are supposed to carry two thirds of the pitching load.

I share this information simply as a cautionary note. The Mariners are winning games against teams that lack good pitching.  That’s important in a positive way because in past years the boys from Sea-town have had difficulty scoring against any pitching, as in if a pitcher showed up for the other team, the M’s were in trouble. You laugh?  You think I jest?  Philip Humber is my case in point.  It’s important the M’s beat teams they should beat, and they should have their way with poor pitching teams.

This month the M’s will face some really good pitching teams, like the Yankees and Rangers, and some pretty horrible ones like the San Diego Padres.  It will be interesting to see if the M’s can continue to beat up on the teams they should, and if they will continue to struggle mightily with the good teams.  Probably the greatest tragedy of the year so far is the Mariners inability to dominate the Houston Astros in their six games with them.  Everybody else has.

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